Breakfasts of the past, gone with the wind

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It’s been said we are what we eat.

If that’s so, I’m in trouble.

Although I have been trying recently, albeit not always successfully, to eat just half of a chicken instead of the whole bird, at times the issue has been more not the amount of the meal but its content.

For instance, as a child one of my favorite meals was a bologna, peanut butter, cheese and ketchup sandwich consumed with a cold bellywasher. I’d even have one or two as a snack after getting off the school bus, sort of a warm-up before supper, which is what we uninformed country folks called the third meal of the day. Today, refined folks refer to that meal as “dinner,” which at my house is meal number two, especially when prepared by my other half and her mom and mine long ago.

Most everyone I mention that sandwich to these days usually says something like “Ugh!” I’m not sure if that comment is a reflection of the food or they don’t want to wind up with a figure like mine, created in part by the consumption of a significant number of those sandwiches.

While it’s been awhile since I’ve had one — or two — of those delightful creations, there are some other combinations no one else in my family seems to like as much as I do. For instance, mixing scrambled eggs, grits, cheese, bacon or sausage and toast in a bowl, topped with ketchup, comes to mind as one. I’m beginning to think it may be the love of ketchup that other folks don’t have that drives them away. But our friends in Washington say ketchup is a vegetable so I’m sure I’m getting my recommended daily allowance of something.

Anyway, I ran across a story in the Sunday paper a little while back that said one of my childhood favorites was in the fight of its business life. Cereal, the story said, was in a pitched battle for its life on two fronts: competition from granola bars and yogurt and juice on one and behavior habits — not everyone gets up in time for a “good breakfast” — on the other.

More and more folks, especially the Millennials — those folks between the ages of 14 and 32 — are giving up on Cap’n Crunch and having a bowl of dirt or rocks or whatever is the Fad of the Day, if they eat breakfast at all. If not that, they’re having a homemade glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice from organic carrots grown in Lower Slobovia by a group of left-handed bald Philistine monks or driving through their local Fast Food for whatever is on the Dollar Menu.

Many of them are not eating at all or waiting until 11 a.m. for something called “brunch.” So sitting down with Snap, Crackle and Pop around the breakfast table with Mom and Dad and Billy and Sally and don’t forget Rover — like they did in “Father Knows Best” — isn’t the highlight of the day for them.

Granted, there are a few boxes on the cereal aisle that should be named “Tons O’Sugar” or something similar. And I can appreciate the need to avoid so much of that stuff as my body, which is now older than my mind, tries to maintain a measure of stability. And, I must confess, I find it hard to pay $8 for a 12-ounce box of crumbs that settled during shipping.

To combat the urge to skip breakfast or eat at the drive-thru, cereal companies are beginning to tout that it’s cheaper to eat at home. But until that $8 box starts going for $4.50 that may be a hard sale.

The reality is this: things — taste, cost, tradition — change. If I could still down half a pound of bacon with a setting of eggs, a pan of biscuits and a pot of grits, there’s no doubt what my breakfast habits would be. Forget the cost. It’s just that my doctor won’t let me. But so far, ketchup is not on the endangered list.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.


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