By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
The other day, I saw a commercial on TV for a fast food restaurant advertising breakfast.
This commercial was produced as if this restaurant had invented the most important meal of the day.
I had seen this commercial before and had laughed at one particular item.
This item was in my family’s history and served to my mom and her best friend during the depression.
This fact made me think of how much things have changed and how much they have remained the same.
My mother grew up in a large city in Kentucky. Her parents raised rabbits and ducks for food but nothing else. My mother’s grandmother was the gardener. Her yard, which was right next to my mother’s, was filled with nut trees, flowers, vegetables and herbs. Summers were spent picking the fresh produce, preserving and cooking the freshest meals possible. In today’s society, freshness is not something associated with breakfast but for my mother and her grandmother there was no meal left without freshness.
While they did not raise chickens or hogs, breakfast still benefited from the garden. My grandmother would make “transportable breakfasts” for my mother, her sister, and friends. In the early morning, around 5 a.m., the friends and family would begin to line up for breakfast. Since there was no school bus, the children had to eat their breakfast while walking the sidewalk to school. In my mom’s situation, school was eight blocks away so there was time to savory the meal.
My grandmother’s “transportable breakfast” started off with two pieces of her homemade bread. This was sliced thick and oozed with freshness. Then two eggs where cooked to perfection and placed on one of the slices of bread. The eggs were then topped with bacon, sausage and/or cheese. The final ingredient before the top was put on the sandwich was a slice of tomato. Now this only happened when tomatoes were in season but this addition make the breakfast. Sometimes, depending on my grandmother’s budget, lettuce was added to the breakfast sandwich.
Once the last slice of bread was put into place, the sandwich was wrapped up inside a cloth napkin, which doubled as a wipe. After school, the children diligently returned the cloth napkins, which were washed and reused for other breakfast sandwiches.
This memory was relived every year when tomatoes came into season. While my mother loved these sandwiches and could have them year round, she refused to use any tomato that was out of season. So her walk down memory lane was limited to about four months out of each year. I asked why she would only use tomatoes in season and she said because that is what my granny did. I suppose the freshness of tomatoes grown locally allowed my mother to stay in touch with her grandmother.
When I had children I followed suit and taught my kids about freshness at breakfast. My kids never ate theirs on the run to school but understood the importance of breakfast and only using what was in season.
Today my mother is gone but the commercial for this fast food restaurant still continues. I have had this restaurant’s example of my grandmother’s cooking and it does not even come close. Sometimes, I wonder if the founder of this restaurant met my grandmother and tasted her “transportable breakfast.” I suppose I will never know but the role and memory of fresh tomatoes will always stay with me. Every year while I am cleaning up the tomato garden, I reflect on how long it will be before I can have one of those “fresh breakfasts” straight from my garden to the table. This thought forces me to get out the calendar and I begin to count down the days until I can garden again.
Until we blog again, freshness is the key to life, whether its breakfast, lunch or ones dinner delight.