Breakfast (As We Know It) Is a Lie!

Turkish breakfast

Why are we eating cardboard-like cereal and bland yogurt when we could be having a sensational meal?

It is time for a breakfast revolution. Enough of the soggy cereals, bland porridge, dry toast, doughy pancakes. It's time we introduced some real flavor into the first meal of the day and made it something we actually want to get out of bed to eat. (Or maybe I'm the only one who feels this way?)

I've long been a fan of savoury breakfasts, opting for leftovers whenever possible over traditional breakfast foods, and I've never understood everyone else's (read: my family's) reluctance to do so. I felt alone in wanting to reheat last night's perogies, munch on fennel slices, or eat crispy eggs and scallions with kimchi over noodles. But then I went to Turkey and discovered a breakfast paradise.

The Turks take breakfast very seriously and consider it to be the most important meal of the day. It features platters of diverse salty cheeses, olives, chewy breads, eggs, and lots of delicious tomatoes and cucumbers (pictured above). It's the kind of meal most North Americans would probably view as lunch, but over there is the normal thing to eat upon waking up.

It turns out that we unfortunate North Americans have been conditioned to believe that breakfast has to be a certain way – the result of clever marketing on the part of companies producing the cereals they want us to buy. As Amanda Mull writes for the Atlantic, the shift away from hearty, savory foods like bacon and eggs (and all the other delicious things that accompany them) was triggered by the introduction of Corn Flakes by the Kellogg brothers in the late 1800s. Corn Flakes were marketed as a way to keep sexual thoughts at bay and to keep one's bowel movements on schedule, but other factors contributed to their rise in popularity too:

"Corn Flakes might not have been so pivotal without a few other results of industrialization: the proliferation of advertising, and the rapidly expanding accessibility of refrigeration (for milk) and cheap sweeteners (to make anti-masturbation Corn Flakes marketable to children)."

Packaged breakfast food was driven as well by the standardization of the labor market in America, with more people starting work at the same times, having longer commutes, and more women working after World War II.

"Industrially produced breakfast products, like cold cereal, yogurt, and instant oatmeal, dramatically reduced the time and effort required of working women to feed their family, and the skyrocketing sugar content and colorful mascots made them an easy sell to most kids (and, therefore, most harried moms)."

But buying into convenience has cost us flavor and nutrition – an inexcusable loss – and has become so ingrained in our brains that the idea of eating vegetables for breakfast, let alone last night's spicy lentil dal and rice, is seen as shocking, rather than logical.

BBQ breakfast

© K Martinko – My breakfast, cooked on a barbecue because the power was out

The time has come to fight back against this. I don't buy the 'lack of time' argument because it takes mere seconds to reheat leftovers. I'd even argue that eating a full meal at breakfast saves time later in the day because it's more nourishing and you're less likely to need a mid-morning snack.

Mull, however, doesn't sound too hopeful about impending change:

"Even though the average American conception of breakfast is unnecessarily stringent, it’s unlikely to loosen anytime soon. Breakfast’s hasty preparation and Americans’ muddled understanding of confusing nutritional news make the meal resistant to change."

Nevertheless, I will persist. If you ever come by for breakfast, you'll be served Turkish-style, with vegetables and olives... nary a box of cereal in sight. And I bet you'll like it.