The sixth installment of our breakfast advice column
Are you in a breakfast conundrum? Do you have deep-seated, unresolved feelings for brunch? Are you at a loss in front of the smorgasbord of life? Because so often breakfast is about feelings, and relationships teeter on the edge of the morning meal table, Extra Crispy editors Kat Kinsman (Bis-kat) and Margaret Eby (Bisc-gret) are here with the fifth installment of Emergency Biscuits, our breakfast advice column, to dole out hopefully not half-baked counsel and recipes for life. Got a question for the Biscuits? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first thing you should know is there is nothing broken here. Food ruts stem from routines, and routines stem from trying to manage your life in a way that allows you room for other priorities. Routines are anchors—they can keep you from blowing away in stormy weather. When the skies clear up you can feel trapped, lugging that weight around. It’s particularly difficult if that weight is bound up in shifting dietary limitations because of health concerns. That’s a real heaviness.
But when I read your letter, I wasn’t shaking my head at how boring your breakfast rut is, so much as impressed at the way that, in the face of unnamed wonky, evolving health challenges, you kept finding new solutions. A modified PB&J for breakfast sounds pretty delicious, actually. And even more so when it’s helping you not just get up and get fed in the morning, but maintain your health in the face of other difficulties.
In general, I think we put too much pressure on ourselves when it comes to food, because food, it will come as no surprise to you, is deeply tied to our identities. Your food choices mean something not just as a way to get adequate nutrition, but as a way to express yourself, to explore the world. When you have hard limitations on what you can eat, because of your health or for another reason, that puts a “monkey in the wrench,” as John McClane would say.
Why is your rut bothering you? Is it because you want to eat something other than your go-to breakfast? Or is it because you sense that there is some failure in it, to not have an ever-evolving breakfast menu of adventurousness and variety? Adventurousness and variety are great, but so is having something that you know works. There is no failure in your breakfast. Having one small safe space in the world of constant change and chaos can be relief, can be succor. If you eat the same breakfast over and over contently, so be it. Anyone who looks askance at that is not being very generous with themselves.
If the rut is bothering you, then perhaps there are variations on what you know you like that you can use. A different kind of fruit preserve, say, or pistachio butter instead of almond butter. Maybe the next time you’re picking up groceries, you can reach for a different kind of bread or almond butter-bearing substance, whatever your health will allow. There is plenty of wiggle room in the realm of bread, jam, and butter to allow for that. But more than any of that, be easy on yourself. You have carved out a small safe space in your life, which is not a small accomplishment. You can always redecorate.
First of all, I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with these challenges, but it sounds as if you are doing so with grace. I hear and read so many columnists and pundits railing and kvetching about society’s preoccupation with food—but my gut is that these people still have a full complement of foodstuffs available for their potential consumption, without having to worry that they’ll trigger a migraine, gastric distress, anaphylactic shock, and the like. When deprivation is on the table, it’s completely understandable that the thought of food would be all, uh, consuming. And frustrating as well.
Try this: Close your eyes, spin a globe or step up to a map, and rest your finger. Unless it lands in the middle of a sea, desert, or plain, there’s a good chance that there are people there who wake up and eat every morning. And what they feed themselves each morning may or may not contain the foodstuffs that trigger your sensitivities—ideally not. But it’ll call for some culinary homework (which is in and of itself an intellectual treat), plus a potential jaunt to an international market (yay field trip!) or blissfully wasted hours tracking down supplies online. Suddenly, you have a whole project on your hands!
As an adult, it can be tough to find new pursuits, remain engaged in the world, or meet new people. It’s easy to watch the same shows over and over (I may in fact be in the throes of a Buffy re-watch for the third or fourth time), wear out the virtual grooves in your music collection, let the books flop open to the parts you could recite in your sleep. And that’s fine. There’s a reason you loved these things in the first place. But if you give yourself a chance to branch out and explore—and maybe even get a little tired of your new favorites—you just might develop a new appreciation for the oldie-goodies in your morning meal playlist.
And if nothing else, even if you don’t feel like full-on mastering, say, congee or jook or tamagoyaki, you can go H.A.M. on the non-triggering condiments of the world. Dress up those grits all jet-setter-like each day for a month. Think globally, breakfast locally. And be deliciously healthy, my friend.