What do you eat for breakfast? I know people around me eat cold cereal, eggs and bacon, pastries, etc. In the hot cereal category there seems to be some strong opinions on if you should eat oatmeal, cream of wheat or grits depending on where you are from.
A typical South Korean breakfast in the 70s was a small bowl of hot soup, a bowl of steamed rice, steamed eggs and of course side dishes of various veggies and kimchi. Sometimes there was fresh grilled fish. Yum. While I rarely ate breakfast during the school days, I enjoyed eating breakfast on the weekends when I did not have to wake up quite as early.
One of the first breakfasts I was introduced to in the US was a stack of pancakes. First, I thought it was for the whole table not just for me. I took one pancake, transferred it to a plate and had a bite. Not bad – slightly greasy but chewy and not very sweet which was a great change from anything else I had tried. Suddenly some random adult plopped some greasy mess and smeared it all over the pancake and then covered it in some sort of sticky goo. It was inedible after that. I learned that was margarine and “syrup”. When they were not looking, I took another slab of unadulterated pancake and ate that instead.
One day a relative slid over a hot bowl of grain. It was too fine for rice but had the same color. There was a dab of butter floating on top and he handed me a spoon. He commanded me to try it. I almost burned my tongue off and he laughed saying I should have cooled it down. Make up your mind, man – do I try it or wait? I’m not sure if my first impression can count since all my taste buds had died. But subsequent tastings of grits taught me that it was not something I enjoyed eating. Much like its name sometimes it was gritty. Other times it was total mush. There was no flavor unless you added something to it and I never learned to like it. I can eat some shrimp and grits if I have to but I generally just fish the shrimp out and leave the grits.
When I told that story to a college dorm mate she laughed and said, I need to eat Cream Of Wheat instead. She was not from the South and she made me a hot bowl of. . .wait that looks really similar. It was smoother than the corn grits but just as tasteless. She did put a splash of maple syrup in there. I did not think much of the wheat mush but boy that maple syrup was amazing. It was sweet but it had a POW to it and the flavor was beyond just sweet. I tried this hot cereal several times over the years when people would suggest doctoring it with fruit, jams, etc. I can eat it and I do not hate it but I do not seek it out.
Oatmeal was next. Someone from Ohio said that oatmeal was the only hot cereal anyone should eat. He proudly made me some and plopped what looked like glue paste into my bowl. I could not get past a spoonful. The texture was slimy and I almost gagged. It would be a very long time before I would try it again. Funny enough it was my mom who fell in love with instant oatmeal and I discovered I could make it firmer by controlling the amount of water and I again could stomach eating it but was not sure what the big deal was. About 5 years ago, I tried Trader Joe’s multigrain oatmeal and I played with the water amount and damn if it is not something I truly enjoy eating. I add walnuts, different kinds of raisins and of course delicious maple syrup from Vermont. The syrup is extra sweet because JoAnne’s sister gave it to me. Her love makes it perfect. The oatmeal, as far as I’m concerned is just the “glue” that holds together all my other goodies. LOL