After the Fact: Breakfast of champions

Oatmeal is still not high on my list of favorite breakfast foods, regardless how healthy if’s supposed to be. I can tolerate the instant packages “with strawberries.” Or blueberries.  Or cinnamon and apples. But not “with bananas.” And certainly not plain ol’ oatmeal which has all the flavor of a cardboard box. I’m not sure about porridge since I’ve never had any, but I can only wonder why anyone would want a second helping, “please.”

Let’s face it: “cold” cereal is a total waste of time and energy, but it’s quick to fix and, I suppose, better than having your child go out the door with an empty stomach. Did you know that, regardless of color, all Fruit Loops taste exactly the same?

In our household, waffles, pancakes or bacon and eggs were served only on weekends.  When you’re trying to get several children “ready for school,” brushing or braiding hair, reminding them to brush their teeth and looking for lost shoes, not much time is left for fixing elaborate breakfasts. I’d suspect my mom went back to bed after we’d all gone out the door but, when we got home at noon (we didn’t have cafeterias in our elementary schools “back then”), the dishes were done, the house clean and a hot lunch waited on the table. My favorite was tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.  Mom always put the burned-side down on the plate. It was just a treat to come home and not find a fire truck parked out in front of our house. But, to give credit, it wasn’t always mom’s fault that the truck was there: the firemen occasionally stopped by to check the fireplug in our front yard. In spring, they’d hook a hose up to our fireplug, stretch it across the street and up the hill at Urban Park to spray a bunch of elementary school kids out for a field day.

Nowadays, kids can eat breakfast at school. Since It’s touted as “the most important meal of the day,” and proven to benefit learning skills as well as creating a positive health habit, I figure it’s worth the extra taxes we pay and putting in our share by buying all those school supplies. I haven’t been to breakfast at Bill Metz Elementary with my great-granddaughter, Patience. I did go to lunch with Jacob (he’s now 14 and would die of embarrassment if I showed up at his school for any reason whatsoever) when he was 8 or 9. That was when the schools were first embarking on the then-new First Lady’s healthy menus. If that meal was indication of how the kids felt, I couldn’t say I was appalled by the amount of food that went into the trash. I’m pretty sure things have improved significantly or Patience, the original picky eater, would have been complaining a lot more. I still think “Farm to Table” is the best idea to ever come along and wonder why it’s so slow to catch on! Liza Marron should talk personally with the Secretary of Education about school meal programs. I’ll bet her son, Antonio, doesn’t get plain ol’ oatmeal for breakfast!

From the time I can first remember ‘til my own children were in school, our milk was delivered early in the morning. If the weather was really cold, by the time we went out to get the glass bottles, the cream had already risen over the top, a small tower with a jaunty cap leaning “like a drunken Irishman,” as my grandma used to say. There wasn’t the option of “2%” or “1%” milk. Milk was milk. It came from a cow. The only “improvement” was pasteurizing, but the milk was 100% milk. And we poured it on top of our oatmeal. Now, after years of making sure my kids had milk in some form for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’ve read that it doesn’t add calcium to their bones. And the schools serve “1%” milk that looks like chalky water and probably tastes the same. I’m not convinced kids in an inner-city school even know that milk – real milk – comes from a cow and isn’t just another flavor of Kool-Aid.