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Morning sickness

“Early to bed and early to rise, enhances your standing in everyone’s eyes.” The Guardian

When I say 'morning sickness' I do not mean pregnancy morning sickness, I mean how I and many other 'night owls' feel in the morning. And, of late, this seems to have been particularly bad for me, which is why I'm writing about it today.

As long as I can remember I have never been a morning person. It was the source of much contention between my mother and I every morning, particularly every school morning. I suspect that she also was not a morning person, but like myself in later years, was trying to do the right thing by her children in the morning. The impetus was two-fold - get a cooked breakfast into them - one a bit like this, although not as carefully arranged - fried egg, bacon and fried bread. Yes, not that healthy but they didn't know about cholesterol back then. She just believed that we needed a hot breakfast in us at the start of the day. Besides cereal was no good for me, because I hated milk - that literally made me sick, so imagine crunching through a bowl of cornflakes. Crunching was no better than chewing - not something I like to do first thing. The other impetus was to get us up and fed in time to catch the school bus, or, in earlier years, have time to walk to school. Now I realise that it was a major act of love and, of course, I feel bad about it. For as Anthony Bourdain (and probably many others) says,

"What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?"

"To cook breakfast is to care; to be cooked breakfast is to be cared for." Joshua David Stein/The Guardian

So thank you David too - because he brings me breakfast in bed every morning - a much simpler one of coffee and something with jam - toast, a crumpet, a croissant ... To which I shall return.

Don't get me wrong, throughout my educational, motherhood and working life days, I have always got myself up in time to do what needed to be done, whether it be to attend a lecture at university, get my children fed and ready for school or to get myself to work at the allotted time. I also managed all those dreadful sleepless nights of babies. However, I have never felt good about it. At university we had a shared bathroom in our residence, where it was easy to pick out the early birds who bounced around with big smiles and cheery greetings, and the night owls who grunted and could barely see what they were doing. For yes the majority of us do indeed fit into one of those categories and it is largely genetic. I won't go into the science of it all - you can find many articles on the net. And society is oriented towards the early birds as we all know.

And this leads to prejudice. It might not be overt, but there are always subtle signs of disapproval if you are groggy in the morning, and not so subtle jokes. It isn't seen as a medical condition - which it sort of is - but as innate laziness. It's a bit like being no good at sport. Those who don't suffer do not see the problem, and if you try to explain how you feel, then prejudice kicks in again and you are a whiner as well.

But enough of that. I know how it looks. What I really wanted to focus on, was how to overcome, the dreadful way I sometimes feel in the morning - worn out - even after several hours sleep - vaguely nauseous and just bad all over as the Alka-Seltzer ad used to say. Even after breakfast and a shower, it can sometimes take until lunchtime to come good. So maybe breakfast is the problem.

What is the purpose of breakfast? Does everyone around the world do breakfast? And/or do they do it in the same way? Obviously different cultures eat different foods, and therefore breakfast is different too, and I'm sure there is science about whether an Indian breakfast of breads and chutneys is better, than bacon and eggs or Japanese miso soup. And some it seems don't do breakfast at all:

"After spending time with a hunter-gatherer group in Tanzania, the Hadza, [Professor Tim] Spector is unconvinced about the need for breakfast: “I never saw anyone eating before about 10.30am, although they’d been up since dawn. They didn’t have a word for breakfast.” Rebecca Seal/The Guardian

The idea that breakfast is an essential meal, indeed the most important meal of the day, has been somewhat debunked by the scientists, although really the jury still seems to be out on whether you can skip it or not, whether it makes you fat, or helps to lose weight, whether diabetes can be caused by eating it or not eating it ... There are also plenty of people with very idealistic views about it. For example:

"breakfast is a poetic ritual that makes us feel happy" Joshua David Stein/The Guardian

This one is really over the top because most people are rushing at breakfast before facing the world in whatever way they need to in life. It might be Ok for a breakfast in some gorgeous B&B on the Italian/French border, as David is demonstrating here, but not for your everyday breakfast.

Or two that sort of say the same thing:

"Breakfast is “a family meal, five, six, seven days a week, served in the morning, when all is possibility”. Sam Sifton/New York Times

"It is to gently transition from the realm of dreams to the world of quotidian worry and wonder." Joshua David Stein/The Guardian

I doubt that many family breakfasts are full of possibility, other than the possibility of being late, or forgetting something, or the possibility that you will be in trouble because you haven't done your homework. The realm of dreams is not always a pleasure either. What about nightmares?

Or in the Utopian world of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet:

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?" "What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?" "I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said." A. A. Milne

I would like to say that I'm in the Piglet camp here, because I'm certainly not in the Pooh one, but it takes me a while to reach those feelings of anticipation and excitement. And that's a bit dependent on the weather too. Something to aim for though.

Because I have been feeling particularly 'off' in the morning this last week or so I am beginning to wonder whether I should be changing what I eat. Here are three hotel breakfast buffet choices that I have made in the past. Also not a realistic situation I readily recognise, because not only is there an amazing choice of options on these occasions, but I have also had a shower before I get there, and so have refreshed myself to a certain extent. I should also say, that besides these relatively restrained and almost healthy options I have also probably indulged in danish pastries and scrambled eggs. Well it's a hotel - we've paid for it - and it's special, we are not in a hurry. So indulge.

However, can I learn a lesson from this. Indeed on one of my, long ago now, hotel breakfasts - at Club Med in Noumea in fact - I thought I had discovered the perfect breakfast food - crème caramel. They were probably left over from the previous night's dinner, but not only were they delicious of course they also involved no chewing and provided protein and sugar at the same time - thus giving me a good start to the day. Combined with a cup of coffee it was perfect. However I can't expect David to provide me with crème caramel every day, because I either have to make it - and how boring and time-consuming would that be after a while - or buy it from the supermarket - which I inherently disapprove of doing. Apart from being expensive and ultimately boring. Even luxury can become same old, same old.

For a while there I ate smoothies which was a habit initiated by a stay with my younger son and his wife when they lived in Vancouver. They were surprisingly delicious, no matter what fruit you put into them, and so I continued for a while, but there was always the tedious washing up. Which when I think about it is an amazingly lazy thing to say. I mean how difficult is it to wash out a liquidizer? And surely these are healthy.

Also healthy is fruit, sprinkled with toasted muesli, or even just muesli and a dob of yoghurt. Just a dob - too much on its own is not really wonderful to me. And cream is not a good idea. Or is it? After all cream is the best of the milk isn't it? and milk is the complete food. Or so they say.

I cannot, however, ask David to start preparing these things for me. Maybe he could just bring me the coffee to wake me up - because that's the other problem - if left too long I just go back to sleep. How I wish I could do that when I go to bed! Then I could get up, have a shower and all that and then have a sitting up breakfast of fruit and something. No chewing involved either. I don't like chewing in the morning.

It's a dilemma that I need to work on. And here's a thought which is not really related to all of the above, but is thought-provoking none the less.

"Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you've depended on more than half of the world." Martin Luther King, Jr.


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