When I interviewed renowned chef René Redzepi, one of the things that stuck with me was his insistence on cooking a hot breakfast for his children, and the importance of starting the day with a meal that "warms them inside." I don't have kids, and Los Angeles is the opposite of chilly Scandinavia, but last week I decided to apply this practice to my own life. I firmly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet recently I had stopped given it the attention it deserves (I deserve). Breakfast had become something that happened quickly and mindlessly while checking email — a cold smoothie on a good day, or a handful of crackers on too many occasions to count. Things had to change.
I primarily work from home, which seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in elaborate, leisurely breakfasts, but reality is quite different. I often begin working the minute I wake up and don't stop until late at night. Over the past few months my first, most important meal of the day had begun to consist of whatever I could scrounge from the cupboard or whiz in the blender in the least amount of time. Breakfast felt like a nuisance, not nourishment, and I realized that this was not the tone I wanted to set for each day.
On the first morning of Operation Hot Breakfast, I pulled out the pot to make oatmeal. Not instant oatmeal but real, old-fashioned oats, the kind that take 15 minutes to cook. I focused on the oats, the stirring, the fun of poking around my pantry to pick fruits and spices and seeds to add to the oatmeal. While waiting I resisted the urge to check email and instead looked out the window at the trees and birds. I'll confess, I ate my oatmeal while sitting at the computer, but even so the whole day seemed less stressful.
On subsequent mornings I cooked hot porridge, I simmered miso soup, and I made pots of tea. Cooking a simple, hot breakfast really did not take much time at all, but the effects were profound. My days felt more purposeful, less frenzied, and more energetic. Work-wise, taking the time to make breakfast did not detract from my productivity but rather enhanced it. It's possible I could achieve a similar effect with a well-made smoothie or a bowl of granola but I think René Redzepi is right, it does feel especially nourishing to be warmed inside. And while he was referring to his kids, I think treating oneself with such care is just as important.
Do you cook a hot breakfast for yourself or your family? How does it affect your morning and the rest of the day?
(Image credits: Emma Christensen; Faith Durand)