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Most Important Meal of the Day

by John Raven

Breakfast is generally recognized as the most important meal of the day. At breakfast time, it's been a while since you have put some calories in the body and you are preparing to start the most active part of your day. (If you work at night and sleep in the day, then supper is the most important meal of the day.) You need something in your stomach to nourish your activities.

It's very easy to get into a breakfast rut. I confess that every morning for about eighteen years, I had a bowl of oatmeal, two slices of buttered toast and a glass of milk for breakfast. Nothing really wrong with that, but we all know that variety is the spice of life. In my later years, I've come to look forward to breakfast as my favorite meal. I try to vary the menu and keep things interesting.

I pity the folks who start their day with a bottle of Pepsi or a bowl of crunchy flakes and skim milk. That ain't no way to start your day. The most pitiful breakfast of all is the ubiquitous "Breakfast Taco" of the Southwest. It seems that every retail outlet in the Southwest has a hand lettered placard advertising the "BT". These insipid little things are more akin to a burrito than a taco. No matter what flavor advertised, they contain an awful mixture of eggs and potatoes and maybe beans. They are wrapped in an ancient flour tortilla and then wrapped again in foil. The only flavor is from the "Hotamild" sauce you apply from a small plastic envelope. "Hotamild"? "Hotamild"? "Oh, Hot or Mild". Stay away from these things. I'd a whole lot rather see you spend your money on a Snickers Bar.

Weekends are the best time for really great breakfasts. You have time to come fully awake, have a cup of coffee or two and work up a good breakfast appetite. Sundays work for me. Saturday might be best for you.

The most important item in any breakfast menu is coffee. Hot and aromatic. Nothing smells better on a Sunday morning than coffee brewing. For the younger crowd, some cold, fresh milk is in order. Avoid giving the kids hot chocolate or chocolate-flavored milk for breakfast. They will just fill up on sugar calories, when it's protein they need.

Eggs are good. Despite all the bad press eggs have gotten in past years, it's now okay to have a few eggs in your weekly diet. Eggs can be fried, poached, boiled or scrambled for variety.

Breakfast meat is traditionally bacon, ham or breakfast sausage. That's fine, but if you live anywhere near a German community, you want to try some of their "pan sausage". That is pork sausage that is not in a casing; it's sold like hamburger. Pork chops or beef steak go fine for breakfast, too. You don't have to fry these meats. You can broil them or, if you are really serious, get out and crank up the grill.

You have to have a bread with breakfast. Toast is traditional. Homemade bread makes the best toast. Pancakes also compliment any breakfast and can be served alone if you wish. Toasted English muffins go well, too. You will need butter and jelly or syrup for the bread. Let the butter sit out overnight so it will be soft enough to spread.

Corn, oats or wheat is on the breakfast menu for the cereal eaters. Corn comes to the table as flakes, grits or meal.

Flakes you know about. They come in a box and are overpriced. You put them in a bowl and add milk, sugar if needed and fresh fruit if you have it. They have their place at the breakfast table. Grits are a Southern invention made from hominy. Hominy is dried corn that is treated with lime to remove the husk. Grits are cooked according to package instructions and can be served Yankee style with sugar, butter and milk or Southern style like polenta. Cornmeal can be made into corn mush, which doesn't sound very good, but is delicious and very nourishing. Simply cook cornmeal in boiling water for a few minutes and serve with butter, sugar and milk. The Germans have "scrapple" which is a cornmeal loaf with meat in it. It is sliced and fried for breakfast.

Oats come as oatmeal or oat flakes or oat bran. Oatmeal needs to be a type that you actually cook. Avoid those "oatmeals" that you just pour hot water on. Cooking oatmeal doesn't take more than five or six minutes and the end product is so much better. Just add a little butter, sugar and milk or cream. The oat flakes you treat like corn flakes, and just follow the instructions on the oat bran, which is usually used as a supplement to other cereals.

Wheat is best known as flakes. That "Breakfast of Champions" thing. There is also cream of wheat, which you probably know about. You may not have tried cracked wheat. You can get it at the health food store or as Ralston brand in the cereal section. This is simply whole wheat berries that have been cracked. They are cooked and served as a hot cereal. Very good and full of fiber. Wheat bran is the husk of the wheat berry. It's the brown part. It's also very good for you. That's why you are encouraged to eat whole wheat products.

Make sure that any jam or jelly you serve with breakfast is the highest quality and you can actually taste the fruit and not just the sugar. The new pseudo jellies that contain more fruit than sugar are very good.

Don't forget to serve fresh fruit in season with your breakfast.

Now you are all primed for a big breakfast. Go for it.

In the coming months we will discuss the noon meal which is either "dinner" or "lunch," depending on where you come from and "supper," which may be "dinner," also depending on where you come from.

May your ingestion of nourishment be most pleasant.

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