What a different world we live in from the one my mother and even I knew 75 years ago. I stood in the cereal aisle of the supermarket yesterday and scratched my head. Whatever happened to just cornflakes, shredded wheat and Quaker oats? There should be recliners in strategic places to sit and read the numerous boxes and study the many exciting trinkets hidden among the sugared stuff to entice the children.
Breakfast around 1933 was vastly different. Visualize this: It's daybreak on a blistering hot fall morning in Arkansas and a lot of noise and squawking jarred this 7-year-old from her slumber. I pulled back the curtain to see one of my pet chickens contorted and flopping on the ground, neck skillfully wrung by my mother.
This was my little buddy. I'd loved her since she was the downy puffball I'd rubbed under my chin. Now she was on her way to becoming the chicken and biscuit entree for our breakfast. I closed the curtain in horror, beat my pillow and vowed not one bite of Pearl would cross my lips. Never. Ever.
As upset as I was with my mother, I had to admire the 100 pounds of grit and grace that enabled her to do what she had to do. The heart of the Depression was no time for the fainthearted. Every woman's priority was feeding her family, whatever that required.
I'm sure our mothers never dreamed that one day we'd buy breakfast from a cereal jungle or a freezer case to nuke for five minutes. What a stark contrast from the almost full-time job of splitting wood, killing, cleaning and cooking your breakfast -- as well as the other two meals! Today's mom has it so much easier, doesn't she? Doesn't she? Let's look ....
The alarm goes off at daybreak. Mom rolls out of bed and into the shower for another day in the workplace. She puts the coffee on, packs children's lunches and stuffs backpacks. After she slaps a box of snap, crackle and pop and a jug of milk on the table she lays out clothes and wakes the kids for school and daycare. After this frenzied two hours she wakes dad and leaves for work, dropping off children like Gretel with her bread crumbs. She finally pulls into her parking place wondering if little Mary really was running a temp and wishing she'd had time for even one cup of coffee. It's the feeling of being a woodpecker in a petrified forest. So she plasters on a big smile, knowing that in eight hours she'll be doing the whole routine in reverse.
So I guess the question is, do we want to wring the chicken's neck or our own? Who says women have no choices? (The good news is, we actually do. We can always form a support group!)
Our 21st century lifestyle has almost abolished breakfasts, but we still really do have some choices in the matter. If you like some of the traditional breakfast foods, you can work around the imbalance between time, energy, budget and nutrition. Try keeping a variety of these things available on those crazy mornings.You can offer the needed protein in some jars of cheese or ham spread, peanut butter or a stick of summer sausage. Have some good toasting bread, bagels or crackers along with some fresh fruit -- bananas are a powerhouse -- and dried or canned fruits.
There are some healthy cereals and breakfast bars, yogurt and granola are good. A few boiled eggs might come in handy. None of this needs much help from mom. Variety is the key.
Another option is to have a breakfast meal for supper. A good egg-based dish with meat, some hearty toast or biscuits and fruit can be very tasty and satisfying. This is a recipe I used almost every morning when I cooked at church camp. It can be mixed the night before and baked while you set the table.
Lake Louise Egg Bake
2&1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. salt
1 stick melted oleo
1&1/2 c. shredded cheese, optional
Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with baking spray.
Beat eggs in large mixing bowl; add milk, salt and pepper. Stir in melted oleo if cooking right away; if holding for morning, stir oleo in just before you bake. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, then sprinkle with cheese and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Cut into 15 squares. Serves 10-12.
You can cook bacon or link sausage at the same time on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Turn meat every 10 minutes until done to your taste, usually 15 to 25 minutes. The more you cook, the longer it takes. One pound of each should feed 10 to 12 people.
Parting shot: There's always something beautiful in sight, sometimes just a wild daisy in a jelly glass.
Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached via the Record-Eagle at 120 W. Front, Traverse City, Mi 49685; or by sending e-mail to: email@example.com.