Often, when my children wander blearily into the kitchen, I feel an aura of disappointment around them as they look at the breakfast offerings in the pantry.
The food is tasty enough and certainly nutritious, but it’s never gong to be in anyone’s Instagram feed. The aim of my game is to get everyone out of the house fed, reasonably tidy and with minimal shouting.
At our place, everyone is on a different schedule (someone has music at 7am, someone else has volleyball at 7.30am, someone else has a bus to catch at 7.43am) so simplicity and efficiency are key. So is preparation and a bit of flexibility. Out of milk? Have a look towards the back of the fridge and there will probably be some yoghurt you can dollop on that cereal.
Our morning routine just works, mainly because no-one has to think about it. The day is full of decisions, so minimising choice seems to maximise efficiency for both me and them.
We’re at home, not a hotel – we don’t have all the time (or money) in the world to enjoy one of my greatest joys in life: the hotel buffet breakfast. Which admittedly, I may have shared that joy with the kids a little too soon.
When I was a kid, my family did not stay in hotels when we travelled. Our driving holidays were broken up by overnight stays in motels, which we thoroughly enjoyed (at least the five of us kids did!).
For breakfast, there would be a teeny-tiny box of cereal, a little carton of long-life milk, a glass of juice (tasting suspiciously like fruit-cup cordial) covered with a paper lid, and a cold slice of white toast in a paper packet. It was very different to the way we ate at home - and it was always enough after a few days.
But my kids were exposed to hotels early. And even a two or three-star breakfast buffet is magnificent to four-year-old eyes and six-year-old taste buds accustomed to porridge, boiled eggs and grainy toast with a scraping of Vegemite.
They’d be astonished by the sight of tables laden with eggs poached, scrambled and boiled. There would be bacon, sausages, hash-browns, pancakes and croissants. You could choose between at least three kinds of bread and make your own toast in an amazing conveyer-belt style toaster. There was certainly cereal, but what self-respecting eight-year-old is going to go for the Bircher muesli when it’s flanked by a vat of chocolatey flakes?
For a strictly limited time only, kids. Image: GIPHY
The buffet Genie was out of the bottle. When we arrived home, our breakfast offerings definitely seemed sub-par. No cinnamon scrolls at our place.
There’s generally two not-too-sugary cereals in the pantry. There’s always fresh milk, eggs, fruit loaf and English muffins in the freezer.
There’s always fruit of some description and if the bananas are past their prime, my kids are well able to use the blender to make a smoothie. See, it's not so bad, right?
Going straight to the blender! Image: GIPHY.
As the conductor of the family orchestra (and the gatekeeper of the always packed family whiteboard of activities - see above), I’ve been eating the same weekday breakfast for years – but it’s tasty, satisfying and takes me three minutes to prepare: quick-cook porridge with a handful of blueberries.
It’s my way of fitting my own oxygen mask first. An energy boost, if you will. Having something that's easy to make and healthy to eat enables me to assist (and be civil) to others.
Because in the morning, I’m not just thinking about breakfast. I’m also throwing together school lunches and trying to find that pack of chicken pieces I know is in the freezer somewhere. So, to my mind, breakfast is the one meal that can exist without too much variety - or fuss.
The thing to do is to think of breakfast as not the most important meal of the day, but as the most practical. It has a job to do. And that job that can be done just as well with a simply boiled egg as one coddled with pancetta and micro-herbs.
A holiday buffet feast is lovely, but a calm kitchen and a satisfying but simple breakfast is something we can enjoy every day.
Tell us - what do you have for breakfast? Is it good to be boring and have the same thing every day?
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