An oozy, sun-colored yolk dripping all over a slice of airy sourdough bread. A pan-seared slice of Earl Grey teacake spread lavishly with butter. A frittata speckled with ramps from a nearby garden.
These are breakfasts that I have seen on other people’s Instagram feeds. As for my own morning meals? Let’s just say they’re not winning any beauty contests.
I have always been a deeply practical person when it comes to feeding myself, valuing nourishment over aesthetics. My breakfasts over the past few weeks have looked a little something like this: peanut butter and strawberry jam on fiber bread; store-bought wheat cereal in milk; yogurt sprinkled with chocolate chips; a bowl of blueberries with a few spoonfuls of almond butter. These breakfast choices are wholesome and filling enough to keep the hunger pangs away until lunchtime. That’s all I really want.
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But, of course, I can’t help but feel jealous when I drowsily look at Instagram first thing in the morning and see that someone has daintily arranged smoked trout and bright green dill over some rye bread they just took out of the oven. All sorts of questions start to dart through my mind: When did they have time to make that bread? Isn’t smoked trout really expensive? In this economy?!? Maybe they smoked their own trout? But who even has time for that? And how is that dill so perky? Did they go to the farmers’ market this morning?
What’s weird is that I don’t mind seeing that someone laminated dough or constructed a three-tier cake. Those projects are wildly ambitious, and I probably won’t ever take them on. It’s the fact that it’s breakfast that somehow makes me feel the most insecure. While everyone else has had these hyper-productive mornings and has their act together enough to put together a beautiful meal, I’ve summoned up just enough energy to drag myself out of bed and mindlessly eat a bowl of cereal while scrolling through the news. These feelings of inadequacy are heightened during quarantine, a time when we’re told we should be starting on a project we’ve always wanted to do, or that it’s not okay to wear sweatpants every day, or that we ought to be whipping up three magazine-worthy square meals every single day.
But what I’ve realized is that no matter how anxious some photos make me feel, I’m not going to change my breakfast habits. I am simply not the kind of person to spend a long time on a dressed-up breakfast, and that’s fine. Sure, on weekends, I’ll make a stack of pancakes, or soft-scramble some eggs with cheese. But most days, I just want quick sustenance: a piece of toast, a bowl of oatmeal. The toast doesn’t have to be adorned with salmon roe, nor the oatmeal jazzed up with homemade compote and toasted nuts. I’ve talked to friends in quarantine who are eating PB&Js or spaghetti with olive oil for dinner every night—not because they’ve given up, but because it’s what they prefer right now. It’s okay to genuinely enjoy the most basic version of a meal, or to prioritize other things over putting together a beautiful food spread. I look forward to my breakfast, which takes a minute or two to put together and gives me the energy I need to start the day. What more could I want? Now, excuse me as I return to my shredded wheat.