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.
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.