Reviving and reliving the nostalgia of long, leisurely breakfasts

Filipino breakfast: fried tilapia, rice, salted egg and tomato salad, and fresh mangoes

Exactly when the middle-and-upper-class city folk started to acquire the habit of eating cereals-from-a-box, I have no idea. Perhaps, the onset of the practice started long before I was born, when the Americans colonized the country, and it just became more pronounced when globalization happened and more brands and varieties of cereals became more accessible.

Although we flirted with Post cereals for a while, we quickly ditched it, not having really imbibed the taste for crisp cereals doused with cold milk for breakfast. Later on, the decision to ditch cereals altogether would make even more sense when statistics about the high sugar content of what was touted as a nutrient-packed morning meal became public.

There was also a time when we tried oats for breakfast. But, again, it was something fleeting. Perhaps, for me, it wasn’t the food per se but more of not being a breakfast person. Heck, I’m not even a morning person. I want coffee first thing after waking up, my head doesn’t function right until after the second cup of coffee and I can’t eat a meal until at least an hour after getting out of bed. My digestive system just can’t handle the shock of solid food until it has been warmed and stimulated by caffeine. And by the time my stomach is ready for solid food, I prefer something newly cooked. Like what we had today.

Filipino breakfast: fried tilapia, rice, salted egg and tomato salad, and fresh mangoes

Today was market day. I bought tilapia, per Alex’s request (she’s taking the train to and from school this week), seasoned them, fried them and had them with rice, salted eggs, tomatoes and fresh mangoes for breakfast. Well, more like brunch because it was 9.00 o’clock when we sat down to eat.

That’s the kind of first meal that I find appetizing. And I don’t mind having fish for my first meal everyday. Fried, poached, in a soup, smoked, steamed, broiled or grilled… I love fish.

I live in an archipelago of 7,102 islands. Okay, make that 7,101 during high tide when one island gets completely submerged — a geography lesson so memorably imparted by Charlene Gonzalez during the Miss Universe 1994 pageant held in Manila. That’s a lot of islands so that means a lot of internal waters.

Naturally, fishing has traditionally been an important livelihood and industry. And fish has always been an important part of the Filipino diet. A typical Filipino breakfast, for instance, often consisted of fried fish, rice, egg and tomatoes. It was either that or pan de sal with kesong puti (white cheese made from carabao milk).

Consisted? Was? Why the past tense? I don’t know just how widespread the concept of a “traditional” breakfast is these days. The Philippines exports its best catch, the domestic market is left with what the foreign buyers don’t consider good enough, supply has dwindled (naturally) and fish is no longer as affordable as it used to be. Except, perhaps, in rural areas right by the seas and rivers.

Irrespective of what the breakfast culture is these days, part of me wants to revive and relive the nostalgia of long, leisurely breakfasts. You know, the kind we had as kids during summer vacations. In a world spinning so fast, in a life where everyone seems to be rushing about all the time, it sounds good to start the day with a good meal, linger over coffee, talk about plans for the day… I know, the perks of being “retired” and not having to join the crowd rushing to city offices. Well, I am retired, at least I’d like to think so and even if only in a manner of speaking. I think I’ll make the most of it.

  • dianne orpilla

    yummy! that’s your breakfast, i’ll have it for dinner tonight dahil napalaway naman ako sa post na to.hahaha

    I always eat rice for breakfast! day in and day out with our traditional fare of tuyo, daing, dilis, langgonisa , egg , ganyan.

    traditional Filipino breakfast lives on in this part of the world!

    • Connie Veneracion

      Personally, I’m not into dried salted fish but I’ll take Vigan longganisa, breakfast or not!

  • susi

    Always have rice for breakfast, as long as I can remember. :) even if it means I have to eat at 10 am!

  • nina

    In our province breakfast would be tinapa, tuyo varieties, pangat na isda, alimasag, eggs, salted eggs, silog varieties or combination of these. We also make arrozcaldo, sopas and the like. And we love puto, kutsinta, suman, tamales and kalamay esp kalamay pinipig. Nakakamiss ang Pinoy breakfast. my husband doesn;t like friend food so I avoid fried breakfast…

  • Connie Veneracion

    Susi, 10 am sounds good to me! hehehe

    Nina, we had suman and mangoes just a few days ago… Love it!

  • marvin

    i picked up my cousin sa SDA the other day and saw alex or sam? i wanted to say hi pero baka sabihin stalker ako and besides she looks tired – i can imagine, sa dami ba naman ng ginagawa nya sa school diba?

    the girls needs all the pampering and good food only you can give.

    • Connie Veneracion

      Naku, ha, if you can’t tell one from the other, maghi-hysteria mga yun. According to both of them hindi sila magkamukha — although the whole world says otherwise. hehehehe

  • Paula F

    I am normally not a breakfast person either, but a traditional Pinoy fish breakfast makes my mouth water. I could eat this anytime of day.

    As a side note, I totally agree that it is heartbreaking and infuriating how the country exports all of its prized seafood, leaving its people with whatever is leftover.

    • Connie Veneracion

      The price of seafood is so shocking. Prawns more expensive that sirloin.

      • Kristine Busson

        dwindling fish stock …

        • Connie Veneracion

          “Fish stock” is concentrated fish broth.

          It’s the fish supply that’s dwindling.

  • DhayL

    That’s why I love weekends, and Mondays then I get to eat proper breakfast (pinoy-style) hehehe. I don’t mind waking up early and prepping it myself, but the reward of having to eat and not rush is so satisfying :)

    • Connie Veneracion

      It’s such a luxury, most times, not rushing. We’re so used to multi-tasking we forget the bliss of taking it slow once in a while. :)

      • DhayL

        Guess what I had for dinner last night? hehe After Costco and my daughter’s swimming, this mommy was so craving for some salted eggs! While the kids had hotdogs and pizza (booo) I had salted eggs and green mango with spicy bagoong for dinner! Yummy! :)

        • Connie Veneracion

          Good for you! Mommies deserve to eat what they want hehehe

  • Cecille B.

    I love long and leisurely breakfast with my sons. Since my boys are back home from the dorm on weekends, I take the opportunity to prepare them hotel-like breakfast.

    Lately, they have taken to smoked Norwegian salmon, scrambled eggs and cream cheese, with a basket of assorted breads – cibbata, mini baguette, foccacia, a cheese platter, mini pancakes and some greens, or potato salad. I serve these with fruit shake- watermelon, mango, grapes which are plentiful and in season (I freeze the fruits so that when I blend them, I need not put ice anymore, and the shake is much
    thicker! ). I also have fresh milk, Yakult, fresh fruits for nibbling, and really good butter.

    We linger on the table, and talk about the week past, while the radio is playing light classical music.

    I’m good my sons are home.

  • beth

    oh this brings so much good memories of growing up in the Philippines. My “Inda” or lola would feed all of us grandkids (since we all lived in a compound) fried rice, scrambled eggs, fried fish (dipped in vinegar) with her Hands… your share of laway of the other kids would totally depend on your position in the pecking order of things..It’s hilarious when we cousins talk about it now, but i must admit it left all of us good memories of our growing up years and somehow kept us bonded together..Pinoy breakfast rocks!