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Jewish World Review August 7, 2002 / 29 Menachem-Av, 5762

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney
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Consumer Reports

About all of those breakfasts ... | The good people of the world, like mothers, have traditionally insisted that we "eat a good breakfast." It sounds like sensible advice, although there may not be any solid medical evidence that we should start our day's work on a full stomach.

Whether it's true or not, mothers have failed to impress us with the importance of starting our day with a sensible meal. All of us have the same thing for breakfast today that we had yesterday, whether it's sensible or not. You can't get a cereal eater to switch to toast and jam, or a bagel-eater to try scrambled eggs.

The monotony of breakfast diets comes from the fact that we don't want to waste time considering what to eat when we get up. We have other things on our minds. We know what we're having, where it is in the kitchen and what plate it goes on. We have no intention of having anything else.

In the days when more people were working with their hands and fewer people were selling things or working in sit-down jobs in what's called "the service industry," people ate substantial breakfasts of bacon and eggs, pancakes, waffles or corn beef hash with a poached egg. That was what farmers, ranchers or lumberjacks ate. If a family eats a breakfast like that now it's usually only on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Most people going to work in an office now eat one of several dozen of the boxed cereals made by just four huge corporations. These companies keep buying each other out and putting more sugar in their cereals. Nabisco is owned by Kraft Foods, but Kraft is owned by Philip Morris. Nabisco sold its Shredded Wheat to Post. Kellogg still has Corn Flakes, but Quaker Oats is owned by PepsiCo.

The biggest seller among the breakfast cereals is Cheerios, followed by Frosted Flakes and Raisin Bran. Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies still make the top 10, although Shredded Wheat isn't on the list and Wheaties are nowhere to be seen. Kellogg's Special K and Fruit Loops are still fairly popular.

People have read that cereal is good for them, so they eat what is called "cereal." The trouble is, many of the commercial brands are probably not what doctors had in mind. Anyone who eats one of the popular brands of cereal thinking they're eating "a healthy breakfast" ought to read the list of ingredients. The word "fiber" sounds good and it's on the box, but many brand-name cereals have more sugar in them than fiber. Kellogg's No. 2, Frosted Flakes, for example, has just one gram of fiber per serving but 14 grams of sugar. You look at the label and wonder where the cereal is.

The traditional breakfast in a cookbook or in a hotel dining room menu does not represent what people eat at home, either. The buffet steam table is laid out with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, pancakes, French toast, muffins and bagels. If you order breakfast from a waiter, it usually comes with a portion of fried potatoes. Where did hotel kitchens get the idea that most Americans eat fried potatoes for breakfast? In the South, they used to eat grits, but even grits have had their day.

A commercial loaf of American bread made by one of the baking conglomerates is so poor that toast has diminished on the breakfast menu. There are good small bakeries in many cities that make good bread but it's not usually in the shape of a loaf that can be sliced for toast. Many people who once had toast and jam for breakfast have turned to bagels.

For years I worked with a man who sat down morning after morning with nothing but the newspaper, a cup of coffee and a cigarette. You couldn't talk to him about this. You can't talk to anyone about what they eat for breakfast. The young people's equivalent today of "a cuppa coffee and a cigarette" is simply a Coke or some other sugar-loaded soft drink and nothing else. Whatever it is, don't try to change them.

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© 2002, TMS