I’ve given up trying to eat breakfast with the family. I only end up with indigestion and that seems an inauspicious way to start the day. So I sip a coffee or a ginger tea while assembling lunches and being ordered about by my mini-dictators, and once they’re deposited at school or summer scheme I break my fast in peace, and usually in one of my favourite coffee shops.
I blame my mother. I usually do, if you’re familiar with my blog, but the woman has a lot to answer for. Sure who could settle for a bowl of cornflakes after the the decadent breakfasts she used to put down to us when we were little. Not really a morning person, (how could she have been, neither my brother or I slept until 4am until we were about two,) she deliberately booked us into the later session of nursery so mornings could be a more relaxed affair. Being a child of the country, she was always keen on a good feed of a morning, and indeed she dished out a veritable smorgasbord. There was freshly squeezed orange juice, carefully checked for errant pips. Sometimes there was sliced pineapple or mango, but inevitably these were served up with deep sighs of disappointment, for back then the fruit didn’t seem to make the journey from the tropics unscathed and were inevitably deemed bereft of flavour “and at the price of them too.” Then she would fastidiously de-seed grapes, so we’d be spared the indignity of having to spit the seeds out ourselves. I remember being horrified when I saw a wee friend having to de-seed her own grapes because her mum didn’t get going with the paring knife. To me, that was tantamount to neglect.
After the fresh fruit course came soft-boiled eggs, with a knob of butter on top, for added cholesterol. “Soldiers or sailors?” she’d inquire as to what our morning preference was for the width of our dippers (sailors were wider, apparently). Then we’d plough in, my brother and I, digging out every last bit of yolk and white (“mind the shell now!”) and requesting more buttered toast to complete the task at hand. We’d finish by up-ending them and presenting them to our granddad (who lived with us) who’d pretend to tuck in to one, only to find its innards already gouged out. Oh, how we chuckled….
There may have been more toast, cut this time in triangles and liberally spread with homemade preserves, usually from strawberries picked by ourselves from the ‘pick-your-own’ fields in Ballywalter. Particular tableware was employed, because children can be fussy creatures and woe betide the thoughtless parent who serves up such dainty fare as boiled eggs in a displeasing receptacle. I recall the vivid primary shades of a plastic tablecloth, and the way the sunlight spliced diagonally through the dining room, illuminating our repast.
While Mum would be preparing this feast I’d be generally clobbering her round the legs with a book, or battering her with a doll that needed its dress put on. In these instances she’d shout “Take that away in to your granddad!” who seemed never to grow tired of reading my favourite story, “The Little Lamb” or wrestling some doll into the chosen attire for the day ahead. (You can deduce from this that I was a right royal pain in the arse).
As we got older the breakfasts were adapted to fit the time constraints of the school run. Sausages (shortened to sages in our house) and bacon were cooked the night before and popped into a buttered roll to ensure we’d time to ingest them. On many a night Mum would leap up from Coronation Street yelling ‘The SAGES!” to go and yank their cremated remains from the oven. My grandmother, who also lived with us, used to make a large saucepan of porridge of an evening in the winter, and I would be handed a small bowlful before bed. She used to wear a blue housecoat or overall, and I remember its rustle as she stood stirring for what seemed liked an age at the stove. The bowls would be covered by a side plate and stacked, one atop the other, to be reheated in the microwave the next morning. Something about a cold breakfast seemed to send shudders down the spine of my family. It was inconceivable, that one should wake up, and eat cereal with milk straight from the fridge, especially on a morning when there was ice on the ground and it would have ‘foundered you’. There were dark mutterings about some auld doll who fore-went her cup of tea one morning and was found collapsed at a bus stop somewhere near Kilrea.
I’ve never been able to replicate eggs or porridge like that made by my mum or my grandmother, and aside from a period of buggering about with over-night oats and compote I’ve more or less given up. So in the light of this, is it any wonder that when I got my bank statement this morning there was nothing only contactless payments to Established on Hill Street and Kaffe O? As I said, I blame my mother entirely.
Anyway, we’re off to Spain on Monday, where I’ll swap my eggs for croissants and cafe con leche and tell my children to serve their wee selves from the all-you-can-eat buffet and leave me in peace. I’m almost levitating with excitement.