Breakfast for Supper
Since he was just 18 when he enlisted, Blaine was only 22 when he finished his four years in the military. His return to civilian life took him right back to where he had been before he joined up - his mom and dad’s house. Things picked up right where they had left off with mom doing his laundry and fixing his favorite meals. All three of them - Blaine, his mom, his dad - knew this was a short-term arrangement. A few additional months of boyhood that had been cut a bit short when he enlisted.
I got to know Blaine when I was in grad school in Tennessee. My after-class job was at a print shop and Blaine was a co-worker, saving up money for his own place. About two o’clock each afternoon, Blaine would pick up the phone to make a call. When he replaced the receiver, he would give us all a report about what his mom was making for supper that evening. This kid loved to eat and he adored his mother’s cooking.
I was a Midwestern transplant but Blaine was a native and he had the accent to prove it. His drawl never got out of second gear so whatever he said took about a third longer than it would coming from a faster-talking Yankee. “Gentleman” he would say, “Tonight it’s fried chicken.”
Blaine also had very traditional ideas about the roles of men and women. He found it perplexing that I cooked and even more so that my wife occasionally wore a baseball cap. He thought we were an odd couple indeed. I used to needle him a bit about how he was going to eat once he moved out of his folk’s place. He figured he’d find himself another women to take care of him.
Blain was always excited about dinner - chicken, fish, whatever; but about once every two weeks he would go over the top with enthusiasm. “Boys, momma’s fixin’ breakfast for supper.” Sometimes it was hotcakes, other times it was simply bacon and eggs. It didn’t really matter. Breakfast for supper was to Blaine what lasagna is to Garfield the Cat.
Although my enthusiasm doesn’t match that of my former co-worker, I too am a fan of breakfast foods for the evening meal. Sometimes we’ll go out to a restaurant that serves breakfast all day long and I’ll opt for something off the breakfast menu even when my companions go for a more dinner-like selection. At home, I’ll often cook eggs, pancakes, waffles or any other number of foods more often associated with am than pm.
As a man in my 40s I am finding myself, with increasing frequency, dispensing both solicited and unsolicited advice to men younger than me. When I find myself talking with a guy with little or no experience in the kitchen, I encourage him to begin building a simple culinary repertoire. Breakfast foods, no matter what time of day they are eaten, is a good place to start.
To begin with, breakfast foods are usually some of the most inexpensive groceries you can buy. A dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, a loaf of bread, oatmeal or grits, potatoes for hash browns, these are all really cheap eats.
There are also a few tips that can help ensure success for even the most novice of short-order cooks. First, use a non-stick pan to cook eggs. Melt a little butter in it and you’re good to go - scrambled, sunny-side up, whatever.
When it comes to the bacon, I like to cook mine in the oven. Put a rack on a baking sheet, lay the bacon on it and bake at 350 degrees until it is as crisp as you want it to be. This is a lot less messy - no grease splatters. It also frees you up to work on something else while the bacon cooks. A basic toaster can take care of the bread. Brew some coffee or pour some OJ, and breakfast is served. Anyone who masters these basics can quickly move on to variations like French toast and omelets.
I’m not sure where Blaine is now. It has been 13 years or more since I’ve seen him. I’m sure he’s out of his mom and dads house by now. If he’s married, I’ll bet he waited until he found a women who could cook as well as his mother. Maybe, just maybe, he learned to cook himself after all. If he did, I bet breakfast for supper is one of his specialties.
Originally published on July 17, 2008