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Memories of Eating Breakfast Out

When I was young, I loved to eat breakfast out. As a pre-baby boomer, I was of the generation called the Silent Generation—to be seen and not heard. Eating away from home was a luxury reserved for the fortunate few. About the only thing more luxurious was to dine in one of those railroad dining cars where a moveable feast could be enjoyed with excellent service in a well-appointed dining room, surrounded by attentive white-gloved waiters.

Those were the days I call the pre-bagel and post-English Muffin period of my life. There was nothing better than putting preserves on a biscuit or muffin when those preserves came out of a wonderful container such as a small, etched crystal jar that contained a silver spoon that slid through a hole in its sterling silver lid.

Of everyone who partook of this experience (it could be said) was bred, even if not born, with a silver spoon in her mouth.

In those days, there were not many fast food restaurants, but there were a few elegant hotels where breakfast was served with style. There were sterling silver coffee and tea pots and silver chargers that housed those infamous porcelain dinner plates with the hotel logo on them. The flatware had the same logo and the bread was blanketed by fine linen in a silver bread tray. There were no disposable items on the table in the pre-politically correct, environmentally conscious age. You always were served from the left, even those who were politically to the right. There was no green movement, and few folks green with envy.

In those days, people went out to breakfast on Sunday after church, just as they often do today. There was no hybrid product, such as brunch, in those days. There was only breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you looked around, you could observe an egg cup on the table next to you where patrons enjoyed soft boiled eggs with toast points. Sometimes cream for the oatmeal was heated. The thought of heated cream on cereal thrusts me into an indescribable comfort zone.

In the hotel lobbies, there were cigar stands and gentlemen were seated in large upholstered wing chairs, on Oriental rugs on marble floors. Paneled walls were everywhere, even in elevators. The ring that signaled the opening of the elevator door, when it reached the lobby, was distinct. By hearing it, just once, an auditory memory was imprinted for future euphoric recall. More than the crystal chandeliers and the Audubon prints and sconces that adorned the walls, that sound was music to my ears and it played on after my childhood left me. It was interwoven with the whole breakfast experience because it was such a distinct sound, different from the ring of a department store elevator door opening. It lingered on in my memory, summoning new images of those wonderful breakfasts.

The sights, smells, and sounds of those special occasion breakfasts in hotels prompted me to think of breakfast in a whole new way. Even today, at sixty-seven, after eating many breakfasts at home, I still love to eat breakfast away from home. Now that we live in a cholesterol-conscious world, people hardly ever eat eggs without worrying about how it affects their health. Artificial sweetener and sugar packets stuffed in plastic containers have replaced sugar cubes with those wonderful little sterling silver sugar tongs and silver sugar bowls. Aspartame is sweeter than sugar, but not as satisfying. Cream or half and half floats in small packaged plastic cups, which if you open them the wrong way, squirts all over the table. The butter, too, lives in little plastic containers with suspicious expiration dates. What ever happened to porcelain butter plates and silver butter knives?

Artificial sweetener has its challenges. You have a choice of pink, yellow, or blue packets of sweeteners in most eating establishments. They all have ingredients known to cause cancer of the bladder in rats, if eaten in enough quantity over a long enough period of time. You can rest assured that your average domestic rodent is not dumpster diving for the artificial sweetener, so our fate with respect to that hazard will continue to be researched and decided by lab rats.

Recently, a friend told me that when she and her husband married, they made a premarital contract that contained a clause that promised she never would have to cook breakfast for him. She informed me that the sights and smells and sounds of breakfast cooking nauseated her. The sight of colorful jams and Belgian Waffles full of powdered sugar or thick maple syrup sickened her. She could not look at runny egg yolks and the sound of bacon sizzling and crackling in a pan, along with the aroma of freshly perked coffee, sickened her. I could not believe what I was hearing, but more importantly, what she was missing!

Some of my fondest memories are of breakfasts spent with special people in my life, whether I was with them in a country restaurant where we ate grits instead of oatmeal or were served a sumptuous breakfast in an upscale restaurant in a large city. It is hard for me to imagine, much less understand, how my friend and her husband remain happily married today, largely because they eat only two meals a day together, and neither of them is breakfast.

Nowadays, I take a Statin drug for cholesterol and a proton pump inhibitor for heartburn, but I cheat every now and then and eat a sausage biscuit or have an extra cup of coffee, one for the road! I start my day by eating breakfast out and when I get too old to drive, I will walk to breakfast. I think that is why, when I bought my house, I moved into a neighborhood with plenty of places to eat breakfast.

Whether I eat breakfast at home or out, I say a quiet prayer to myself to give thanks for the fact that, for me, starting breakfast with a good cup of coffee makes all the difference in how the rest of my day goes. I am retired and have the luxury of time to devote to delving in to delicious breakfasts at many places. I must say, God must have a sense of humor in rewarding my attitude of gratitude because I now have three Starbucks within walking distance of my house.

There is something to be said for the times in which we are living. Eating breakfast out has evolved from being unavailable after 10:00 a.m. to being readily accessible all day. Nowadays, you can start your day with pancakes and bacon in the evening if you want. All of those pancake houses largely are responsible for initiating this favorable trend. I do not know how long the bagel period will last, but I'll be ready for whatever else comes along, because for me, giving up breakfast is not an option. It is my fuel for the day. I do not know for how long martini bars and cigar bars will be around, but I hope breakfast bars never lose their appeal.

So, when Thanksgiving comes this year, I shall put at the top of my list of things for which to be thankful, my thanks for being able to eat breakfast all day long at the time and place of my choosing. Unlike the Pilgrims, I neither have to kill hogs nor chase chickens for my bacon and eggs and I don't care which came first the chicken or the egg, as long as I get my eggs, sunny side up. Now that is something for which to be grateful!