Breakfast TM_BF_ONTHEGO_FI_001

Like most people, I wake up in the morning with just enough time to scramble some eggs or make a bowl of oatmeal, taking my coffee to-go in a thermos. Maybe the scrambled eggs and oatmeal go beyond what most people eat in the morning, if they even eat anything at all. But I can tell you that it’s been a decent number of years that I’ve sat down at the breakfast table for a bowl of cereal.

After stumbling out of bed every morning for school, it was an unconscious movement through kitchen cupboards for the familiar box, bowl, and spoon. Through the years, I ate all types of brands — from the sugary kid stuff like Count Chocula to grown up Great Grains — but eventually I switched to foods like fruit and yogurt well before I earned my diploma. As my mornings became more rushed and my stomach started growling earlier and earlier, I started to pick more balanced breakfasts that weren’t so carb-heavy, but were still convenient.

And according to Kellogg’s most recent earnings report, many Americans are making a similar switch. With a dip of 16% and a reduced outlook for the rest of year, Kellogg’s is feeling the effects of Americans ditching the cereal bowl. According to the Wall Street Journal’s report, Kellogg’s isn’t alone – on the whole, the cereal industry is down 5% and dropping. But at the same time, statistics show that more Americans are eating breakfast – about 44% do, compared to 34% back in 2011 as reported by a Kellogg’s survey.


Seventh-day Adventists are historically known for their interesting — if not always tasty — food experiments. Thus it was Seventh-day Adventists who brought us the Choplet Burger, a canned fake meat product; it was Seventh-day Adventists who created Postum, a grain-based beverage intended to replace coffee (and the related evils of caffeine); and it was two Seventh-day Adventist brothers who, in 1894, rolled stale wheat and discovered that instead of breaking apart, it created flakes. One of those brothers, W.K. Kellogg, continued experimenting and learned how to flake corn as well. In 1906, he went into production, and Kellogg’s became the first company to market that all-American convenience food: cold cereal.

Kellogg’s is also known for another food first: in 1984, it became the first company to include a health claim on its packaging. At the time, the practice was forbidden by the FDA. But instead of telling Kellogg’s to remove the claim — which suggested that eating All-Bran could possibly reduce the occurrence of some cancers — the Regan Administration’s FDA reconsidered their stance. In 1986, Marian Burros wrote about the change in The New York Times: MORE

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“And here’s the kitchen!” said my British flatmate. “It has everything you would have in the US: sink, oven, microwave, refrigerator, pots and pans, coddler – the basics.” She pointed to every item as she said its name. “Well,” she said, “that’s the kitchen. Pretty standard. I’ll let you look around.”

“What in the world is a coddler??” I asked myself. Not wanting to seem like a rube in front of my new flatmate, I just smiled and nodded. But really, what is a coddler? It’s bad enough that in my four months in London I had to look up the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit every time I used the oven (or stepped outside, for that matter).

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When the Atkins Diet crashed upon America’s shores with its wave of red meat and energy bars, I thought I was too smart to believe anything it claimed. After all, I don’t even believe in dieting per se — just that you should try to eat healthy foods and consume fat, sugary, and processed foods in moderation. But even now, when the Atkins wave has long receded, and Paleo is hopefully on the wane, I was surprised to find that a bit of its flash-in-the-pan advice had stuck in my head: I should avoid carbohydrates. Wait, I’m sorry: carbs.

Now, logically I know this isn’t true. After all, six ounces of steak is never going to be healthier than six ounces of brown rice. But still, every time I want to eat a bread product, something tugs at me: Isn’t this bad for me? That’s why, when I do eat bread products, I always try to do two things — eat something that’s made with whole wheat flour, and make it myself.

That’s the primary reason why I make my own bagels: I feel like if I put the effort into making them, they’re better for me. But homemade bagels are also pretty damn delicious. How delicious, exactly? Well, not too long ago, my roommate’s boyfriend came into my room clutching the last bits of a bagel I had just made. “This made me fall in love with you,” he said.

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Few food subjects rouse the emotions of Texans like the Tex-Mex morning staple — the breakfast taco.

In Austin specifically, breakfast tacos are ubiquitous; they are an accepted (and often taken for granted) part of everyday life, thanks to the blending of Mexican and American cuisines and cultures throughout the state. Fancy a bacon, egg and cheese on your way to work? Chances are there’s a taco truck on your commute, and in many cases the local coffee shop either makes their own or brings some in every morning to sell to tired, hungry Austinites.

Texans are so obsessed with the seemingly simple breakfast dish that much literature has been published on the topic. The New York Times tackled the subject back in 2010, and Austinite Hilah Johnson published an entire book on the subject the same year (the second edition came out in 2013). This past year, two Austin-based taco bloggers put their knowledge into a book as well, called Austin Breakfast Tacos, where they gathered recipes and stories from notable chefs and food industry types from across the city. Excerpts from Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece’s treatise were subsequently featured in Texas Monthly’s oral history of the breakfast taco.

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Ask ten Londoners what a traditional English breakfast should include and they’ll give you ten different answers.

“I swear by blood pudding.”

“No way! I only eat white pudding. I don’t want blood in the morning.”

“As long as you fry the bread, puddings don’t even matter!”

Fry the bread? Just buy a toaster already!”

The squabbling could go on forever – though it’s in a British accent, so who’s complaining? Most can agree that a traditional English breakfast includes fried eggs, bread – either toasted or fried, sautéed mushrooms, fried tomatoes, sausage of some kind, bacon, and Heinz beans. And yes, it must be Heinz, the same company we all know in the States for its ketchup. Even restaurants will boast Heinz brand beans on their menus. Sometimes black or white pudding is included (black is fat, oatmeal, and blood in a sausage casing, while white is everything but the blood).

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There is little glamour in porridge. It may be historically significant, nutritious, and cost efficient, but it isn’t an inherently trendy food. This is no surprise really, considering the fact that it is difficult to make a bowl of lumpy, beige, amorphous goo look appealing to the uninitiated eater. Most people see porridge as an emergency food – something to cook when there’s nothing left in the pantry besides a few odd scoopfuls of wheat and a bit of salt. So it might seem funny that porridge is rising in the culinary ranks.

There is nothing new about porridge. Humans have been turning various cereals into porridge for nearly 6,000 years, well before society decided that grains needed to be hulled, ground, leavened, risen, baked, and sliced in order to be palatable. Cooking whole grains in liquid requires only minimal effort and results in a greater total yield than milling and processing grain into flour and bread. Grain could be harvested, dried, and stored to provide food year-round, and more valuable foods such as fruits, nuts, and spices could be added when available to create infinite variations on the base dish.

The rising popularity of bread – a more expensive, labor-intensive, and delicious grain-based dish – spelled disaster for porridge’s place in food culture. Where bread has seen countless waves of innovation, such as slicing and electric toasting, porridge has mostly been frozen in time, its recipes unchanged for thousands of years. Now, however, new generations of chefs seem to be taking those age-old recipes and revitalizing them with modern techniques and elements.

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Every Sunday morning growing up was marked by the same sight: my father hovering over a griddle making pancakes, my sister requesting that he put strawberries in the batter, me reminding him to make mine without the berries, and my brother standing in front of the fridge drinking milk straight from the gallon. We all live in different states now, but our first question when we all come back home is if Dad will make pancakes in the morning.

Away from my family, I’m more likely to be sitting at a table with friends on a Sunday while a waitress takes our order. Being on my own in the city has opened my eyes to new kinds of breakfast treats aside from my Dad’s tried-and-true pancakes. My new breakfast delight? Eggs Benedict.


In 1999, a company named Breakaway Foods created a line of products called IncrEdibles. Packaged in tubes with sticks at the bottom, the IncrEdibles family consisted of savory, meal-replacing treats that could be heated in the microwave and then pushed from the tube and straight into one’s mouth. No utensils were required; all you needed was a food hole in your face ready to receive such appetizing tube products as Macaroni & Cheese, Chili Mac, and Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Sausage. The IncrEdibles press release also used the phrase “push n’ eat” [sic]. Apparently if you don’t have time to eat food with a fork, you don’t have time to say the letter “i” either.

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When I was a child, no breakfast was better than a scrapple breakfast. I preferred a plateful of the crispy, savory mystery meat to any bowl of Lucky Charms or stack of chocolate chip pancakes. But then, when I was 10 years old, I learned what scrapple really was.

Honestly, I could have lived happily without ever figuring out what constituted one of my favorite breakfast foods. Surely, most of us could. In case you’ve lived into adulthood in blissful ignorance, this is how scrapple is made: Pork scraps — everything from skins and hearts to livers and tongues — are combined with flour, cornmeal, and spices, then molded into a one-pound brick. It’s not the best food for people who insist on knowing exactly what is in what they’re eating, and certainly isn’t for those that are particularly health-conscious.

I always wondered if there were many scrapple lovers who appreciated it as much as I did. MORE

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The great American sweet potato. We all recognize it as a staple of any Thanksgiving dinner, and see sweet potato fries now offered as a healthier alternative to white potato ones at almost every restaurant. They’re even showing up more often as a substitute in traditional potato salad recipes. But though the orange-fleshed vegetable is an occasional visitor for lunch and dinner, we almost never see it on our plates before noon.


Whereas fresh bagels are coveted and home-baked bread approaches a spiritual experience for many, it’s rare in America to come across a fresh-from-scratch English muffin. In fact, I’d venture that there isn’t another bread product we’re as willing to buy pre-packaged (except for maybe the pocket pita). We simply don’t have respect for the English muffin. Take the breakfast sandwich, for example. A staple everywhere from the McDonald’s drive-thru to high-end restaurants, the breakfast sandwich puts the focus on the egg, cheese, and meat that’s tucked in the middle on the sandwich, forcing the English muffin that holds it all together to play second-fiddle (or is it griddle?). Of course, a breakfast sandwich doesn’t have to be made with an English muffin. But let’s not lie to ourselves: A bagel or bread couldn’t handle the breakfast sandwich the way an English muffin does. The bagel has too much dough, and bread falls apart. Only the English muffin has the right size and sheer tenacity to properly rein in the wily breakfast sandwich. Yet we rarely give it the attention
it deserves.

The Larder

Roll Out the Oats

A flexible pantry staple full of possibilities


My maternal grandmother (Tutu) was not much of a cook. A perpetual dieter, she was far more interested in what she wasn’t eating than what she was. However, as a woman raising children in the 1950s, it wasn’t possible that she escape the kitchen entirely and so learned to make a few things to fill the gaps when the maid or my grandfather were unavailable.

Oddly, her specialties involved either beef (broiled steak, hamburger patties, and pot roast) or rolled oats (hot oatmeal and oatmeal cookies, mostly). When she made meatloaf, she would bring her two favorite ingredients together, relying on the oats to act as a binder. Beaten eggs and generous amounts of onion salt rounded out that recipe.

When I was old enough to pay attention, she took me into the kitchen and taught me her secret for making creamy oatmeal. You always start the oats in cold water and you heat them very slowly. That way, you give them the chance to soften and release their starch. As we stirred the quietly simmering oats, she’d say, “Cook them like that and you don’t even need butter!”

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Much like with birthday cakes, skillet suppers and onion soup, home cooks have been led to believe that cornbread is so hard to make that one should employ a boxed mix instead of doing it from scratch. Truly though, to do it entirely from raw ingredients takes no more than 30 minutes from start to finish (and that includes the baking time).

Homemade cornbread is a highly versatile thing to have in your culinary repertory. A basic loaf baked in a square pan makes a meal of soup and salad fit for a cozy dinner party. When you’re planning brunch for a crowd, brown a few strips of diced bacon, stir those crumbles into a batch of prepared cornbread batter and bake the bread right in the same skillet. It makes the most delicious accompaniment to eggs. MORE


DIY Junk Food

A new book helps you recreate your childhood favorites


When I was eight years old, my family moved from Southern California to a cozy neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. To my young mind, there were a number of good things about our move, but none was more tantalizing than the fact that for the first time in my life, there was a small market a few blocks away that I could get to entirely on my own steam. Suddenly a world of candy and store-bought snacks opened to me.

My friends and I would meet after school and ride our bikes to the “Little Store” to buy boxes of Cheez-Its or packets of Lik-M-Aid. From there, we’d go back to the playground, where we could sit on the swings and gobble our spoils. For a girl who had previously been led to believe that homemade popcorn and baked tortilla chips were the highest form of snackage, it was revelatory.