Breaking-Fast with the Past

Seeking the truth, in a box of cereal, 1955.
Seeking the truth, in a box of cereal, 1955.

My grandmother used cornflakes as condiments. My grandmother used cornflakes as garnish. On ice cream, instant pudding, tuna casserole. She was a terrible cook. A bookkeeper, a career woman way ahead of her time, she was a terrible cook. Somehow she believed a crunchy topping of corn flakes made all her food taste better. A breakfast cereal that she also served for breakfast.

She was good at breakfast. Sunday breakfast was her very best. Scrambled eggs, bacon, English muffins, and of course corn flakes. But there would be no breaking of the fast until after Mass. Before we could have a good breakfast, our little souls had to be in a state of grace. No food could pass our lips until the communion wafer had melted on our tongues. So not to faint, early Mass was best. The earliest even better.

Hurry up, Jesus! Come on corn flakes! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

So thank you, John Harvey Kellogg, for inventing corn flakes. A 19th century doctor and Seventh-Day Adventist, he ran a holisitic health spa at Battle Creek. He preached a healthy diet, taught cooking classes, and encouraged exercise. He was also a prudish stickler for “sexual hygiene” and was fixated on enemas for fixing whatever ailed you. But when it came to breakfast, he got things right — biologically and theologically.

In 1878, Kellogg gave “an able address on the harmony of science and the Bible” – a bit unorthodox.

“Take the sunflower…it looks straight at the sun. It watches and follows the sun all day long, looking straight at it all the time, and as the sun dips below the horizon, you see that sunflower still looking at it, and as the sun turns around and comes up in the morning, the flower is looking toward the sun rising. It is God in the sunflower that makes it do this…”.

Manic flower power, of the glorious sunflower, I know just how you feel. Radiant and glowing, eager for the morning light, wondering just where the sun has gone all night, shaking off sleep, and ravenous for the morning meal. Breakfast.

I love breakfast. The “ritual of the Donut” at Dunkin’ Donuts. The sacrament of the table at Table Talk. Communing over coffee at Starbucks. Homemade hash browns on Christmas morning.

And like my grandmother, I am good at breakfast and yes — cornflakes are my specialty. Breakfast cereal anyway. Right now on top of my refrigerator, there are six boxes of the stuff: Flax Raisin Bran Crunch; Organic Fruit and Nut Granola; Maple Pecan Clusters & Flakes; Rip’s Big Bowl Banana Walnut; Swiss Muesli (Original Recipe); and last but not least, the organic equivalent of Honey Nut Cheerios.

I have a refrigerator full of Greek yogurt, cage free brown eggs, orange juice, and almond milk. I am all stocked up on clementines, apples, and bananas. My freezer is stacked with bags of blueberries, mango and pineapple.

I know how to scramble eggs with a few vegetables and a little cheese. I know how to whiz up a fruit smoothie in the blender.

And of course, coffee! Whole bean, fair trade coffee. My not so singular vice.

I am good at breakfast.

I practically live on breakfast.

Which is a break from my past.

As a kid, I was “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” – which my mother seldom bought. As a grownup who should know better — I’d order that extra hash brown with my “extra-value” meal. Or stop at Krispy Kreme for that still warm half dozen original glazed.  Sugar induced mania. Fried-food malaise. Caffeine craziness. Carbohydrate coma.

We are what we eat. All food is brain food. If you eat crap you will feel like crap. (Yes, you can quote me on this:))

“Not just a theory,” says Dr. Pamela Peeke, a Pew Scholar in nutrition and mental health. “I work directly with those with mood disorders and have seen firsthand the benefits of choosing the apple over the doughnut, meditating rather than obsessing and ruminating over a life stress, and going for a walk instead of sitting for hours watching mindless TV.”

Not just a theory, I have seen it for my own  manic-depressive self.

Clinically it makes all the difference: “With each healthy choice that is made, you’re influencing the proteins that switch genes on and off and affecting the messages that are delivered throughout the body. Consistently good choices translate into a better reading of your genetic script. You’re also carving neural highways that lay down a foundation for new lifestyle habits.” (HuffPost, July 27, 2014)

In other words, a better breakfast, a better brain.

So the Seventh-Day Adventists got this one right. Not just Dr. Kellogg, but my marvelous, Adventist friend, Mical. Faithful and funny and incredibly fit, Mical unknowingly has been my coach. A hiker, a vegetarian, an organic cook, liberal in her politics and loving in her outlook, she also makes me laugh. She also makes me think. Good for my brain, good for my body, and good for my soul. Thank you, Mical.

I think I’ll take her out to breakfast. It is after all — the most important meal of the day!



  1. Just shared this post with longtime friend, organic gardener, poet, mystery writer, blogger, founder of Carolina Wren Press,etc. your blogs are as great as your sermons, Joanie!


    1. Wow! Thank you! I am honored you read it and somehow found my little blog! And your work is so important and dead on! Please share my blog with folks you think it might speak to!


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