I really didn’t contemplate this until I learned about Japanese culture, strangely enough. A word in Japanese describes a type of meal inspired by some sort of a western influence: Yooshoku. This word describe a whole range of food items from Italian cuisine, American friend chicken to English butter and toast. Which got ME thinking: when did “American-style” breakfast become a thing?
3 meals for labor, 2 for rest
How I Breakfast
My typical breakfast fluctuated up until this point in my life. I used to eat nothing but trademarked, brand-name cereal of all sorts, you name it: Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal, Reese’s Peanut-Butter puffs, cocoa puffs, Kix, Honey-nut Cheerios, Capt’n Crunch, and a bunch of other varieties. Every country has its own staple variety but these were most certainly my jam. I would only have the occasional mini stack of pancakes or the [not actually] French Toast if my mother had the willpower to make it. How about now?
Since I eventually grew up enough to manage my own chores and make my own food, I’ve practically forgotten about cereal. Now pretty much an active member of the workforce, so to speak, cereal like those that I used to eat regularly just seem so foreign to me. Anymore, I feel like most brand-named ones are glorified snacks. In fact, unless I have time at all or wake up early enough, I rarely have breakfast. When I do, it’s practically a full meal, including: a veggie of some sort, meat, a piece of fruit, tea, Greek yogurt and then a stack of what my little sister likes to call Cinnamon Toast. If I reach far enough into my family, I’ll find members who prefer cheese grits –which may sound unappealing to those who may not know what I’m talking about ^^;. Many Blacks would argue grits to be the real deal version of the “piss-poor” breakfast imitation Cream of Wheat. But I’ve no problem with either lol. Grits I feel is like oatmeal without the chunks of oats or wheat. It’s a smooth texture like a thick apple sauce in appearance and almost reminds me of Irish oatmeal in consistency. Turns out grits are of Native-American origin; of which continent or tribe, I don’t know. BUT! The word grits is of Germanic and Old-English origin while this dish itself (as I know it) traces its roots back to maize concoctions like those of Mexico. I can see that. Blacks in the States, like of my own family, can trace family trees which often lead them Southward in the U.S.
I never knew before that what I consider breakfast could literally be a menu item somewhere else on the globe. Grits I feel could be adopted by any country and called something else. But an American style? Heck, even a dubbed Americano, for example sounds weird. Not to say that in the States there aren’t restaurants that are geared toward what could be labeled a breakfast buffet. Most people in the U.S. aren’t strangers to gimmicky trends and niche markets wherever advertisers can swipe them.
Guess what else has trended in America over the past several; decades. You heard of bacon? Ads in the U.S. like to dub America’s pride and joy as this bit of crisp meat. THIS American says…nuh-uh. Europe used to be thee center of bacon. I’m not talking about the poor excuse of pork-rine chips that we call bacon here in the U.S. Nope. I’m talkin’ about the sirloin, slab of stake-sized pig meat of ALL KINDS of varieties and flavors. Europe used to be huge about bacon. There are probably still places serving by the original methods if one knows where to look. But back when pig pens and farm landlord-work was booming in Europe, this was the place to be for real bacon lovers.
I guess my thing is that I’ve just completely taken my style of breakfast for granted for a really long time. I never considered anything else to substitute what I eat at a given time of the day. For example a common historic staple in the Japanese breakfast diet today would include, soup, rice and fish to name a few things. Funnier still, historically my type of breakfast doesn’t even matter, as it turns out. Not surprising.
A History of Breaking Fasts
So where did my so-called All American Breakfast come from anyways? All thanks to introducing the work week in the 16th century. When people went from surviving off the land to working for a living basically. I realized that breakfast wasn’t really all the rage in the past. At BEST if you were a man, doing your service at your local neighborhood monastery AND knew you had a full day ahead of you…you made breakfast. I used to wonder why bread got to be so much of a must-have item in a morning meal. I did mention a monk. More often than not, monks in Europe of the Middle Ages would eat bread, cheese and wine. All three of those exactly—substitute the wine for beer depending on your household location. But that was essentially it. People often had 2 meals a day and only ate as they needed to. Rich folk often left big meals for conferences and business-related events. Breakfast wasn’t really a hot-button issue to emphasize status. Food was about the energy and preparation—but for labor specifically. Breakfast wasn’t much of a ritualistic thing to enjoy compared to today. A fine line, I know. Do people NOT have those same reasons anymore? Think of it this way: families at that time, often commoners and workers, gathered around their work; the world today, although this TOO is changing, families tend to gather around food. Different priorities maybe?
I’m starting to think a degree of fasting might’ve played a huge part in what I consider breakfast today. My research didn’t really come out and state it, but methinks…me. Thinks. I didn’t know there used to be designated days for eating meats and not so for others. Certain days of the week apparently allowed for eating beef and hardy choice meats. On other days, one could only eat butter, toast, fish and eggs –and of course a beverage of choice. Usually wine.
Dining habits and the workforce now. I often interchangeably use the words dinner and supper. I never knew there was not only a distinction between the two historically, but that they both had designated times. I can relate to the fact of how dining habits change along with daily ritual and lifestyle. All I have to do is look at my progression growing up. In elementary school, lunch used to be at 11 in the morning. School ended at 2 when I was little. Fast-forward to middle school; I have lunch at noon while school gets extended to three. When high-school rolls around, my lunch is being moved all over the place depending on my grade –what year I am- or age, fluctuating between the 11th hour and 1 in the afternoon. So far, up to this point, school is still letting students out at 3’clock, while [what we now call] “dinner” is roughly still 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening for me. Quite traditional.
Guessed happened to me in college? My whole program changed; which leads me to think that maybe the so-called “freshman fifteen” comes into play at this point. Stress, cravings (because my body needed certain nutrients I’m not getting), inaccessibility to proper food, work availability (or lack thereof in income), alternating sleep times, schedules and climate changes, etc. –the list goes on. But all the pressure of university life had a huge impact on me and my fellow peers. So my eating habits changed. If I ate regularly, I ate poorly and if I didn’t eat regularly I might skip meals altogether. I realize that my personal habits didn’t affect all college students. My experience is just an example of how changing lifestyles today dictate the overall wellbeing of each person. Post-graduation now, while my parents once stressed the importance of three meals a day, I only eat two…and a half. Maybe. That’s all I need. What’s interesting is now I see that in an age of convenience, technological advancement, you name it, the world is still somehow trying to go back to living off the land. A lot of people’s decisions to change their lifestyles is affecting the job market and forcing it to change. Pretty amazing actually.
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