Whilst commuting back home with my sleepy three year old I thought it wise to entertain myself with the latest newsletter release of a site I greatly enjoy reading i.e. flavourfirst.org. There was a high risk we were going to find ourselves in the end stop as I was also pretty depleted myself after a hard days work. But, this issue did bring my mind into a state of excitement. The advantage of well-built websites is that they lead you on reading things from the past and related to the topic. I eventually thought the bus ride was too short as I didn’t manage to finish the second article, which was again ever so interesting.
The subject-matter here is breakfast. The first article I enjoyed very much; “A Meditation on Breakfast”. This is because I am a very keen follower of the seasonal diet and the writer, Matthew Fort, vividly describes his predilections of cooking an egg depending on seasons and what to decorate your toast with from spring, summer, autumn and winter. Thoroughly enjoyable reading, until the last sentence. Obviously, I will elaborate on this.
The second article, called “Breakfast of Champions” by Anthony Leyton is again very interesting reading as it hits my funny nerve and I decide I need to comment on both.
May I first meditate on the importance of breakfast, especially of a large sumptuous breakfast? The first article refers nostalgically to a past of madly large and very much lunch like meals in the morning and even considers the habit of modern breakfast “on the go” the start of the end of our civilisation and gastronomic barbarism. I agree to a certain degree.
The second article is a lode to English Breakfast. And yes, you have guessed, I am not a fan of this particular meal in size, in combination nor in visual or olfactory experience it provides. But, it is something else I feel I need to make people understand that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. That would be lunch. The balance of your meals should be: light breakfast, hefty lunch and light dinner. The English Breakfast is a pretty hefty meal. It should be consumed between 12-1 when our digestive power peaks.
When we wake up in the morning our bodies are naturally slow, we feel colder and heavier. Our digestive systems feel the same. It takes some time to get our blood running and our gut moving (varying from individual to individual). The morning time is a moment when we need to stimulate our bodies and minds with light to digest items and preferably with a session of relatively vigorous exercise. To feed our digestive tract with a heavy load of hard to digest items is like starting the car on third gear.
Obviously the size of the breakfast should reflect the activities we do. If you will be plowing fields or carrying water from the well to the house all day then yes, by all means have a heftier breakfast. Nowadays, behind computers we don’t come even near to what we used to consume before. Times change, we change and so should I diets. According to seasons and according to our activities. And as for barbarism I think here is the root of the matter. We haven’t changed our eating habits according to the times and our activities. On the contrary we have more choice and availability for food than ever and it can be bought with very cheap price. Especially the barbaric items.
I am worried like Mr Fort about the changes of our eating habits and know that we already are in an era of nutritional confusion and gastronomic barbarism. The English Breakfast is an example of this. It is eaten at the wrong time, in wrong combination and in far too much quantity. Often accompanied by tea or coffee and orange juice which really can create a gastric mixture from hell. Even if you create this mixture with the best of ingredients it doesn’t make it much healthier especially if you consume it with voracious hunger and in hangover. (The greasier and acidic your food the longer your hangover.)
The lavish breakfasts of the past were a privilege of the few, as Mr Leyton states. But the few weren’t necessarily doing the right thing. A simple light breakfast that most of the population consumed is something that has agreed with us by nature. To emulate rich and heavy to digest breakfast of the few well off in the past is a step towards lifestyle related diseases of obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.
But never mind an occasional full English. If your body is strong and healthy there is no reason you should deny yourself this curious culinary pleasure occasionally, if that make you happy or, if that’s the only breakfast you’re offered. A strong digestive system will be able to deal with a heavier load of unseasonal food every once in a while. If most of the times you do the right thing you’ll be safe. And, I’d like to repeat: light breakfast, hefty lunch and light dinner of seasonal and organic food.