Why will men, including ones who don’t cook any other meal, cheerfully make breakfast?
Is it because if they make toast without burning it, it becomes “amazingly good toast”? Is it because when they add a “magic ingredient” (taco-sauce) to their eggs, they can then call them “my mean scrambled eggs” or refer to themselves in the third person as “The Omelet Master”?
You know that if a guy can explain — without looking at notes from an electronic device — what it means to coddle an egg, he firmly believes he should have his own show on the Food Network.
Yes, of course, I’m making sweeping gender-specific generalizations, but somebody’s got to do it.
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Besides, I really believe this one is true. Breakfast is The Man Meal.
My husband is one of the tribe: He makes scrambled eggs so good I believe they were a factor in my decision to marry to him.
What made me hesitate briefly in that decision, however, was my husband’s attempt to push his breakfast luck by going all out one morning and heating corned beef hash in a microwave. He plopped the grey mass straight from the can onto a plate, and then hit “reheat.”
He looked smugly pleased with himself until he took the plate out of the microwave. The mess on it looked, and smelled, like offal. Instead of running for the hills — we have low hills near us anyway so it wouldn’t have done much good — I saw it as a teachable moment. I cooked the food properly, pointing out that hash can only be enjoyed when the edges are fried just enough to be crunchy. That’s how my husband makes it now, because his “famous hash” is everybody’s favorite.
Many men have a technique that they regard as their signature. They consider this to be an exact science, as well a huge accomplishment, the kind of which is usually accompanied by the sounding of French horns. This is true even if his signature dish is a bowl of cereal. I once knew a man who boasted that he made a “killer” bowl of cereal. He used soy milk and put pieces of banana on top. I suspect the banana is what made it “killer.”
The pattern of men cooking breakfast on the weekends and getting a great deal of praise for it no doubt grew out of the McCall’s-sponsored traditional ideology that suggested mothers and wives were responsible for making every other meal. Husbands were expected to return home after a long day’s work and wives were expected, in exchange, to be waiting at the door with a cold martini (not one they’ve been drinking for an hour, either) with a perfect meal in the oven and with cheerful children — already in their pajamas, ready to fall asleep at the drop of Daddy’s hat.
Only on the weekends would the paterfamilias be able to exercise a measure of culinary creativity. One night he grilled and one morning he made breakfast.
He probably also encouraged everyone to gather ‘round and watch him make breakfast; for men, being in the kitchen is a kind of performance art, says my friend Kim-Marie, requiring an audience for the full effect.
Another pal, Daniela says her husband “stands at the stove the entire time, watching the food cook with his arms crossed over his chest till it’s time to flip something over or move it around while browning. That’s it, the entire time, he’s standing there with the timer going instead of multitasking while the food cooks by, let’s say, setting the table or making coffee.”
However it’s done, breakfast is worth doing.
Like love, breakfast is something people skip because they consider it more trouble than it’s worth. Some folks think breakfast, like love, will keep them in the house longer than they’d like and will turn them into somebody sleepy and fat instead of somebody alert and lean. But that’s not how it works. Both are fundamental: Breakfast and love will nourish you even when you’re busy doing other things; when they’re healthy, they'll make every day better.
And like love, breakfast is best when made at home.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a columnist for the Hartford Courant. She can be reached through her www.ginabarreca.com.
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