Some people just aren’t at their best in the morning. If you’re like me, you are absolutely feral for the first six hours after waking. It might be a struggle to get out of bed. Perhaps you can’t stomach any food first thing when you wake up. Maybe it takes a while before you ‘warm up’ and can be civilised around another human. All these things are true for me.
Add to this a childhood where breakfast was simply not eaten. Apart from the occasional cup of plain milk, a morning meal was not something us kids were taught to eat, much less chided for dodging.
Before you raise up in arms about it, it’s not like my parents didn’t care. It was just how things were. It was the culture. And none of us felt starved or malnourished. No one fainted mid-assembly or became light headed during the fifteen minute walk to school [a trip made twice a day because lucky us, we got to go home for hot-cooked lunch – that’s another story]. Our physiological development wasn’t stunted from this lack of morning feed. You’d get up, shower, put on your uniform and out you’d go with your school bag by 7.30am. Sometimes you’d carry a small metal tin with a few biscuits or fried snacks to munch on at the 10.30am ‘break time’.
It wasn’t, perhaps, until I was at university that breakfast [if you could call it that], crept onto the scene. Through peer influence or I suppose the need for more fuel for a working/academic day, I found myself eating cakes and biscuits. For breakfast. Washed down with a cup of tea or black coffee, of course.
Cereal was a foreign concept and far too expensive to be eaten daily. Believe it or not, the word for breakfast in my mother tongue [नाश्ता /nāśtā] is the same word for snack. No surprise indeed that my morning diet was the stuff that would make most parents recoil in horror and disbelief. Yet it was perfectly normal in our household. Mind you, I was never regular about eating that breakfast either.
By the time I moved to Australia, I had wisened up to the need for breakfast and that my usual fare was doing me more harm than good. So what did I do? I ate some muesli here and there, enjoyed the occasional piece of Vegemite toast or spaghetti on toast [totally delicious by the way] or indulged in a Danish pastry-masquerading-as-nutrition. Heck, I even went through a serious Pop-Tart phase. But it was all sporadic. And when I found out my body couldn’t deal with sulphites and sulphates or more than a small cup of milk, my real alimentary choices whittled down to bland porridge and toast.
I’m a fussy eater. And I’m time poor mainly because of my choice to sleep ten more minutes rather than kick start my metabolism with some food. Making porridge is tedious enough [yes, even the sugar-heavy 90-second microwave variety] but eating the warm gruel when I am running late makes it bottom of my list. I also come from a hot food culture. Growing up, if you didn’t cook what you ate, it would likely kill you. Yogurt and fruit occasionally appeals to me when it is summer and I am on holiday. I tried smoothies for a while and although I enjoyed them, I wasn’t consistent about making them. Yes, I am a deeply flawed human being. My breakfast needs to be – deep breath – nutritious, easy to prepare, easy to eat, preservative free, low sugar, low GI, low fat, high fibre, tasty and, preferably unprocessed, portable and cooked.
So, with the need for all the stars to align before morning morsels can be consumed, it has just been easier to not eat anything. What changed? I don’t really know. I mean, I’ve made some changes to my lifestyle and I suppose I’ve figured out a way to integrate breakfast into that. I’ve been deliberately waking up at the same time every day for several weeks now. This is new for me as I haven’t done it in more than a decade. But I’m developing a habit. The habit also includes eating after I wake. It is working really well so far.
What’s the formula? I remembered how my Norwegian housemates ate when I was in grad school. Bread slices topped with an assortment of sliced cucumber, capsicum, egg, cheese, lettuce, avocado, you name it. And they ate it as an open sandwich. I noted the same thing when I had travelled to Scandinavia some years ago. A little salt and pepper was that was ever needed. It was perfect, or close enough.
So when I was at IKEA a couple of months ago, I bought a packet of the thin flat bread [Bröd Tunnbröd]. I prepped all the toppings the night before and next morning, I made smørbrød [smørrebrød, smörgås or voileipä]. My approach was simple, try and use as many natural foods as possible. I started with steamed sweet potato, chives, baby asparagus, cucumber, tomato, Red Leicester cheese and sliced boiled egg – not all on the same smørbrød mind.
It was love at first bite [do forgive the pun] – super easy to make, delicious to eat, minimally processed and with a decent serve of vegetables first thing. I’ve even eaten it whilst driving to work.
Now you may say, what a total ninny, an open sandwich is hardly a revelation. But that’s exactly how it felt. I’ve found breakfast that I can eat and enjoy. Best bit, it keeps me full for a few solid hours after which time, a smoothie usually satiates me. Shock on me! I’ve been more alert and in a better mood in general since. I look forward to brekkie and I feel good about my body and what I’m putting in it. Will it last? I hope so but I don’t know. One thing I do know is that this is the most positive I have ever felt about brekkie. Hence this silly, effusive post.
Give the smørbrød a go if you’ve been a breakfast-faster like me, or if you’re simply looking for something different. You might surprise yourself as I did.
I will always have my reliable favourite on standby though.