In Love with Breakfast
What the Judges Say
In Love with Breakfast by Eagranie Yuh is a witty reflection on a breakfast obsession. When it comes to personal stories, it’s all about the writing for me, and I loved her style, which is confident, lean, and a little kooky.
I love that the author took her affinity for cereal and humor through to the end and isn't a breakfast snob, that from Cheerios to savory pancakes to yogurt and granola, breakfast can be whatever you want. I've already made a batch of the granola and she was right, I should have made a double batch!
I am not a morning person. Some people can turn off the alarm and jump out of bed, ready to take on the day. I, on the other hand, burrow under the covers, roll over, and play a game of call- and-answer with the snooze button. After an inordinate amount of time investigating alarm clocks—including one called Clocky, which runs away if you hit the snooze button too many times—I’ve settled on a minimalist white disc. It glows like a sunrise then chirps like a bird, much to the confusion of the sparrows that congregate outside my bedroom window in the morning.
Inevitably, there is one thing that gets me out of bed: hunger, and the promise of breakfast. And this state of affairs is the result of a decades-long negotiation between me and the most important meal of the day.
As a kid, I was lured by the promise of milk sweetened by the dregs of cereal. I wasn’t allowed overly sugary cereals, and I refused to eat the cardboardy things my parents tried to feed me (Grape-Nuts, I’m looking at you). We compromised with Honeycombs and over the years I became enamoured by the cartoon man on the box, who seemed equally enthusiastic in both of our nation’s official languages. Like most kids growing up in BC, I practised my school French not by speaking it but by reading the backs of cereal boxes.
Years later, when I moved to Ontario for grad school, I found myself in front of the cereal buffet in the cafeteria. I promptly filled my bowl with forbidden loot: Lucky Charms, Froot Loops, and Frosted Flakes, but as I ate my breakfast I felt a growing sense of alarm. The marshmallows in Lucky Charms tasted like has-been fairies, Froot Loopy fluorescence was more than a little unsettling, and Frosted Flakes made my teeth hurt.
That morning cured me of my sugary cereal fantasies. I did, however, become infatuated with Honey Nut Cheerios, to the point where I ate them at all hours of the day and could think of nothing bolder than to have a bowl for dinner. Such is the depth of my rebellion.
I felt liberated by the realization that I could have breakfast for dinner. And when I moved into my first real apartment with its real kitchen, I kicked off my affair with savoury pancakes, eaten for dinner. It started so innocently. What if I left out the sugar and added some herbs? What if I poked knobs of cream cheese into pancakes as they cooked? What if I added bacon? Before I knew it, I was eating golden pancakes swollen with cream cheese and herbs, a stack of them quivering under finely frizzled bacon.
That kind of rapture is hard to sustain, and soon my passion for savoury pancakes waned. But my nocturnal cereal habit persisted, reaching its climax when I started working as a pastry chef. I’d come home from a day of plying pastries and coaxing chocolate, and eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Mostly cereal, a touch of milk, eaten quickly before it turned to mush.
Maybe my love of breakfast isn’t so peculiar. There’s ample research to back up the adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That first meal doesn’t just feed your stomach: it kick-starts your metabolism and fuels your brain. Serious, peer-reviewed science has linked breakfast with a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
To be sure, we’re not talking about a chocolate glazed washed down with a double-double. And while there are myriad ways to design a good-for-you breakfast, I’ve settled on one that works for me: full-fat yogurt, fruit, and granola. Of the three, the granola has been the hardest to pin down. I have bought and tried many, looking for the Goldilocks of toasted oats; granola that isn’t too sweet, doesn’t cost a fortune, and strikes the right balance between clumpy and crumbly.
Homemade granola was a revelation to me, and one that has changed my mornings. No two batches are identical. Sometimes it’s a deliberate combination of fruits and nuts, and sometimes it’s a party of random things from my pantry. And lately, I’ve taken to sneaking in sesame seeds, cacao nibs, and flaxseed meal for extra nutritional oomph.
After dancing for decades, it seems that breakfast and I have come to an understanding. We’ve had our sugar highs and crushing lows, our late-night dalliances, our bacon-fuelled hazes—and we’ve come through to the other side, where sensible and delicious food choices can coexist. You might even call it a healthy relationship.
Eagranie Yuh is the author of The Chocolate Tasting Kit (Chronicle Books). She apologizes to the sparrows for any offense her alarm clock may have caused. thewelltemperedchocolatier.com
Food photographer Barbara Cameron knows her profession is simply delicious. barbaracameronpix.com
SLIGHTLY SAVOURY GRANOLA
From Eagranie Yuh
A touch of olive oil and salt give this granola a savoury edge. Either way, you may want to make a double batch, as it disappears quickly.
Makes 5 cups
- 3 cups (750 mL) rolled oats (not instant)
- 1 cup (130g) nuts, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) lightly packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) maple syrup
- 1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt
- zest of one orange
- 1 cup (115g) mixed dried fruit
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
- In a small saucepan on medium-low heat, combine butter, olive oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, and orange zest. Stir occasionally until the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid over the oats and stir to coat evenly. The oats should be generously coated but not soggy.
- Pour the mixture onto the parchment-lined tray and spread into a 1-cm-thick layer, being careful not to make the edges too thin. Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through for even baking. The granola is done when it is golden brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray; it will continue to brown slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine the dried fruit. When the granola has cooled completely, add it to the fruit and stir to combine. It will keep in an airtight container for several weeks.
- For crumbly granola, stir the granola when you rotate the baking sheet. For clumpy granola, press down on the layer before baking, and allow it to cook undisturbed.
- Feel free to experiment with your favourite combinations of nuts and fruit. If you're stuck for ideas, try almonds and raisins, hazelnuts and dried cherries, macadamia nuts and coconut, or pistachios and crystallized ginger.
- Most nuts benefit from being toasted while the granola bakes. However, smaller add-ins like coconut, sesame seeds, or cacao nibs can burn if cooked too long, and should be added in the last 5 minutes of baking.
- The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed are heat-sensitive, so be sure to cool the granolz completely before adding flax-seeds or flaxseed meal.
This story was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Edible Vancouver & Wine Country.