Breakfast. Remember when it was nothing more than a simple meal we ate to help kickstart the day? Before the politics of toast and cereal became subsumed in a growing generational war?
Slowly, but surely, breakfast has transformed from a dietary necessity into perplexing, and at times rage inducing, cultural phenomenon. My own history with breakfast is complex. During my time at university I tended to avoid eating it entirely, driven by a desire to save money and lose weight. Eventually I was convinced by smarter friends (medical students mainly) that this was apparently the least healthy way to diet. I ended-up clambering back onto the breakfast bandwagon just in time to enjoy the boom in smashed avocado, ‘artisanal’ bread and oddly procured coffee.
But recently I had a revelation. We’re all being had. The whole concept of breakfast culture in contemporary Australian society has spiralled out of control.
We used to pay $2 for a loaf of bread, smear it with some peanut butter (crunchy, of course), gulp down a cup of tea and head to work. Now we go to an obscenely over-priced café and pay $15 for a tiny bit of organic sourdough with a spitting of Vegemite. We have lengthy conversations with our baristas about the provenance of coffee beans and the temperature of the water slowly dripping through them before we purchase an incredibly expensive macchiato.
The commodification of breakfast and it’s transformation from a basic human need to a luxury good has occurred alongside the commodification of our own identities and the way we express ourselves on social media.
Perhaps the most obvious example of how out of control breakfast has become is the kind of tableware our meals are served on. I’ve become used to being served drinks in jars. I think it is insane, given jars were not built to be drunk from and feel quite uncomfortable around your mouth, but I have made peace with fact they are here to stay.
However, when ordering my delicious sounding strawberry and coconut bircher muesli I fully expected it to be served in a bowl, as it has for thousands of years. Instead I got a jar. A jar of muesli! It made no practical sense – it was layered, so by the time I ate my way through the coconut yoghurt, and got to the actual muesli, it was too dry to enjoy. Again I was scuppered by the breakfast industrial-complex.
On another occasion my morning meal was interrupted when a fellow breakfast-goer, who was standing on top of their chair attempting to get a perfect birds-eye view of their meal for an Instagram post, slipped and landed on top of the table.
The commodification of breakfast and it’s transformation from a basic human need to a luxury good has occurred alongside the commodification of our own identities and the way we express ourselves on social media. We seek out the most exorbitant and bizarre breakfasts, willingly line up for hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning, pay huge amounts of money, mainly for the affirmation we receive from the Instagram money-shot, as opposed to the nutritional value or quality of the food.
It’s not clear what is driving this trend, why it began and whether it will ever end. It may be that the further atomised we become as a society, the more alienated and less fulfilled we feel in our work and social lives, the more we attempt to find salvation at the altar of the cronut.
Ultimately we have no one to blame but ourselves. Despite my complaints, I regularly indulge in overpriced breakfast goods, even if I am appalled at the way they are marketed and served. Maybe it’s time to fight back against breakfast culture. Let’s resist the accelerating descent into breakfast madness. Instead let’s resuscitate the more humble origins of our first meal. Peanut butter on toast. A croissant with jam. A bit of muesli with yoghurt. Maybe even a Poptart, if you want to splash out. By reclaiming breakfast we can take the first step in reasserting control over lives and break free of the bonds of exorbitant cafe culture and the myth of social media fame and influence.
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