I love breakfast, or rather: the idea of it. Breakfast is the ideal meal where my happy childhood memories reside (along with my father’s spaghetti al ragù, which is what I wanted for my sixteenth birthday along with the Go-go’s Vacation album.) The perfume of coffee is a much better way to wake up instead of the cruel shrill cry of the alarm clock. And even though I love its scent, I have never been able to deal with it; I suppose that my experience with coffee is what happens on a bad drug trip: paranoia, the shakes, cold sweats, and headaches that last for days. Just say “no thanks” to the dreaded coffee hangover kids.
I rarely eat breakfast: only on weekends, always at a restaurant, and always on my own but in the company of excellent books. My friends are the laziest clowns who act like getting up early merits a Nobel Prize: I’m not joking. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, step aside. Every once in a while I am inspired to cook it at home, but I have never truly mastered its art. I can do it, but I know that it could be so much better.
Part of the problem is that I enjoy sitting at the table, leisurely eating my breakfast, and most people aren’t willing to put in the time. As a victim/beneficiary of insomnia I don’t have any issues in investing the necessary time in making and appreciating a good breakfast (or any meal). Normally I am eager to begin my day around four or five in the morning -I am at my most productive and creative between four and six a.m. People think that I am joking when I tell them not to ask me any questions or to make any decisions after two p.m. (that’s how I ended up with a new car on Christmas Eve or maybe it was because I lost touch with my mechanic..?)
My ex suffered from the opposite malady: for almost eight years I saw him get up just in time to get ready and run out the door with his belt in hand, untied shoes, and shaving cream on his neck (it was cute for two months.) In the beginning I did my best to impress him with my ability to serve a beautiful breakfast first thing in the morning, but inevitably it was me who was impressed by his ability to blow me off so lovingly. The honeymoon was over.
I attempted to show him how earnest I was so I purchased the dumbest book ever: “a thousand things to do with your eggs!” or something like that, I think it even had an exclamation point. After many unimpressive culinary attempts of the breakfast seduction type, I let him know how important it was for me that we spend quality time together at the morning table. He explained to me how important it was for him to sleep for as long as possible, and that breakfast wasn’t “his thing.”
With little resignation and a lot of rebelliousness I realized that my childhood fantasy of breakfast quality time only existed in the crazy town where I was mayor (where I also had many other fantasy projects: like preserving the Spanish program at the college where I teach … I need a new career.)
But why be upset? We had dinner together every night, he read books to me aloud while I cooked, he watched me prepare meals to learn how I did things, and did all the cleaning. He even said that he no longer enjoyed eating out as much because I was such a good cook (a habit acquired from his mother’s bland cooking.)
I didn’t get over the breakfast thing but I desisted, instead I began to have breakfast with my students in class. That’s how I ended up at the 7-11 around the corner that morning; looking for disposable utensils. I normally took a different route to work, and I got the surprise of my life.
I parked next to my beloved, sat in my car, and watched him while he chatted and laughed amiably with the employees inside. The look on his face as he came out and saw me was priceless. I still don’t know who was more in shock. There he was, the love of my life with a coffee in his right hand and a donut, yes: a 7-11 donut in his left hand. That looked like breakfast to me.
Are you kidding me? I thought you didn’t like eating in the morning. I thought you didn’t drink coffee. How much had the French press cost? What about the Italian gourmet coffee? (Where in Italy do they grow coffee?) No explanations were needed, it was obvious and unforgivable: oh, the betrayal. That was his last 7-11 breakfast, and how we started to have breakfast together… but only while we were in México.
México became the enchanted place where we had long, relaxed breakfasts together, so I made sure that we went as often as possible. During those breakfasts we planned our day, pored over our photos, and retraced our adventures. During our eight years together “breakfast” became a magic word and he never said no while we were in México because my other magic word was “7-11.”
Some of my favorite memories during our travels are related to these breakfasts (and breakfasts in general: a meal I only share with my closest (non-lazy) friends, and yes, I consider spaghetti at 3 a.m. breakfast.) We shared an awesome plate of huevos rancheros in mole poblano sauce in Puebla, molletes in Guanajuato, and gorditas de nata in Toluca (that helped me get over high altitude sickness). In Oaxaca we had simple meals of pan dulce and atole, and also elegant ones. In Chiapas beans with the best tortillas I’ve ever had, along with hot chocolate on a cold and rainy mountain morning. In Yucatán we enjoyed panuchos in Uxmal, kibis in Cancún, and of course: coffee in Coatepec, Veracruz … I almost drove all the way back to San Diego on that half a cup.
For one of my birthdays we flew to México City and the first thing we did when we arrived at six a.m. that November morning was have breakfast at a hotel in the Zócalo. I was craving their fantastic nopal juice that I had tasted for the first time that summer, but unfortunately they didn’t have any nopales. When the waiter found out that it was my birthday, he sent someone out and in fifteen minutes we had a pitcher full of nopal juice –a pitcher full of nopal juice: and we had to drink the entire thing.
This year I didn’t make my usual Christmas fare and I felt like making something exotic for my breakfast at home: pancakes. The first time I remember eating pancakes I was in a horrible accident where I almost lost my right arm. I still have string from the stitches in my arm -that accident was in 1972. I made my pancakes with what I had available: amaranth flour, and homemade horchata water. I cooked them on my all-purpose cheap comal (my favorite cooking utensil) and for being the second time that I ever made pancakes they came out AWESOME!
The only thing I had to buy was orange juice at the 7-11, yes, the same one. And where ironically I met my last and former suitor, who worked as a mechanic across the 7-11 and told me with a straight face that making mole poblano was easy: all you have to do is open the jar. At least he didn’t drink coffee.