Obsessions: Breakfast

This piece appears in the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. 17, Comedy

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I am obsessed with breakfast. I don’t mean the history or art of breakfast cuisine in general. I mean the timing and the content of my own breakfast. Sometimes I think it’s all I ever want in life. For me, it’s ideally this: Grape-Nuts cereal with almond milk and blueberries, and two cups of strong coffee. I think about my breakfast the night before. Do I have enough blueberries in the refrigerator? Did I grind enough coffee? How much time will I have in the morning? I need at least an hour. My preference is to get up really early and have that time to myself. It gives me a moment to think. Once I’ve accomplished this part of the morning, I feel like I’ve already won the day.

I’ve never understood work-related breakfast meetings. I don’t like the idea of being distracted from getting that food and coffee down. I also think I’m a little self-conscious about what I look like when I eat. Eyes down, focused. I have often made sure to eat before a breakfast meeting.

I see the world through the eyes of breakfast. That is the most exotic part of traveling, to me. If someone is telling me a travel story, urging me to visit, let’s say, Serbia, the first thing I picture is me having coffee in a hotel restaurant in Belgrade. I imagine wearing a little jacket because it’s so early that it’s still chilly. Breakfast is when I feel the most like I’m in a foreign country. Even after landing and going through customs and checking in, it’s only the next day, in front of my breakfast, that I’ve said (quietly, out loud), “Wow. I’m in Iceland.”

Sometimes it’s not as easy to find the right kind of place, destination-wise. I have become wary of balmy, tropical resorts. The kind of place where everything is centered on relaxation and spas. They always seem to have long, winding pathways to get from one villa to another. That’s a warning sign to me. I think these places put so much work into their dinners and nightlife that breakfast is an afterthought to them. They assume that everyone is going to want to sleep late. I resent having to walk so far to find the building with the restaurant, and there have been many times where I was met in the morning with “we’re not open yet.” Nothing makes me angrier than those words. I resent it. That’s when I understand wanting to be a dictator. That would be one of my first enacted laws. All food-service establishments will be open at 5:00 a.m. Five. Just as a buffer for people arriving at six. “We’re not open yet” will no longer exist.

When I am away from home, I have some reliable options, as substitutes for Grape-Nuts and blueberries. Oatmeal is always a good one. Starbucks usually has a simple little container of that. Toast with peanut butter is pretty filling. I’ve had to do a wheat bagel at various airports. And breakfast tacos! I put an exclamation after that because isn’t that what it’s like? Breakfast tacos! And of course, always the strongest coffee. That’s never a problem to find. That’s one of my favorite things about seeing the world move into the future. Even convenience stores are putting some effort into offering a version of specialty coffee. If I’m shopping for coffee by the pound, I really am a sucker for that D.I.Y. packaging. Where it’s made to look like a paper bag that someone stamped the label on by hand. Even if it’s fake, that’s what I reach for. They really know their customers.

I wrote most of this in the morning, after I had my breakfast. That’s when my brain works best. I am not kidding when I say this: I just washed blueberries in a little strainer and put them in the refrigerator for tomorrow.

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Fred Armisen is an American actor, comedian, screenwriter, and musician.

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