Breakfast.

Friday is back on us and today’s topic has been chosen by me. I did it originally as a lark to give a simple topic as I had assured my co Friday LCB, Magpie11. This post is the Loose Consortium Bloggers’ Friday post when Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Marianna, Maria and I write one post each on the same topic. As I started to write however, it has got quite elaborate and long. I hope however, that it will be interesting. Please visit the other blogs too to have different views on this fascinating subject.
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Small people talk about others,
Average people talk about things,
Great people talk about ideas.
Sages Eat Breakfast.

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I define Breakfast as something to eat after a period of being without any solid food. I however cannot ignore the normal definition and shall comment on that too.

The Muslim month of Ramzan has just concluded in India. A very interesting phenomenon that I observed is the “Fast” kept by Muslims in India. The traditional Ramzan Fast started the day before sunrise and the first call to prayer with some simple food and nothing else was taken till after the evening prayers when the fast was broken with some dried fruits and /or fruits. Before the last prayer of the day, a simple meal was eaten, prayers said and people went to sleep.

Some modern Indian Muslims, who can afford to do so, sleep during the day and stay awake in the nights eating the most exotic food one can imagine. They would all however insist that they are keeping fast and would break it only in the evenings. Just have a look here. Many non Muslims wait for Ramzan to just gorge themselves on the goodies available during this month of fasting.

As this post is being written, the Hindu festival of Navarathri is in full swing and in the Northern parts of India, ladies fast during the day and feast during the evenings, by breaking their fasts at sundown.

Similarly, in Maharashtra, there is a custom of ‘keeping fast’ one day in a week. What this implies is that the solid intake is restricted to starchy food. Most popular food? A dish called sabudhana kichdi. This is one of my favourite dishes and I too wait for the ‘fast day’ to gorge myself on this if someone will only invite me to his home on that day. I am too lazy to make it myself though I am told that when I do, it is heavenly!

My earliest memory of the traditional breakfast is of having full meals before I left home for school. What is nowadays eaten as lunch by most people was what we used to have for breakfast. Our late mother would have got up much before the rest of the household woke up, to get all this ready to feed four hungry youngsters. After we left, around half past eight, our father would also have the same things for breakfast.

Our mother would have also packed small stainless steel boxes of rice/curd mixture with either pickles or jaggery for our lunch. This would go into our satchels and off to school we would go.

After my working life started, I realized that the morning meal was the most important meal, for the simple reason that I never knew whether I would get the time to eat lunch, or if I did get the time, a proper restaurant to have a meal would be available. That habit has stayed with me and in our family, breakfast has become a major meal. Now of course, the items are different in that there is fruit and cereals, bread, eggs etc, rather than the full meal of our youth.

Colonial officials of India had a Chhota Hazri. This was usually served in bed by the butler on a tray and consisted of some fruit, usually bananas, biscuits and tea. The belief was that this helped come out the excesses of the previous night and to assist in the movement of the bowels. The belief was that loading top weight helped in ridding of bottom weight. One needs to read colonial literature to understand how important this was when access to toilets during the day time was a nightmare. Their idea of breaking fasts as per my definition, normally followed this pattern:

Chota Hazri – 0530
Breakfast – 0700 first meal, before work, no special time, becomes “brunch” when combined with lunch.
Elevenses – 1100
Lunch – 1230
Afternoon Tea – 1530
Dinner – 1900
Supper – 2230
Midnight Snack – 0000
Have you seen photographs of how these worthies looked?

India is a vast country with many cuisines and varying food habits and tastes. The southern parts have predominantly rice based breakfast food like idlies (steamed rice cakes), dosas (Rice and lentil pancakes), pongal ( Rice and lentil porridge) and vadais, deep fried doughnuts, accompanied by curry of lentils and vegetables, and / or chutneys of various types including made out of coconuts.

As one moves north, more of wheat starts appearing. There are deep fried pancakes, called puris that are eaten with a potato curry, or sautéed pancakes called parathas eaten with yogurt, vegetables or cream, all accompanied with pickles and /or chutneys; sweet dishes called jalebis accompanied by milk and so on and so forth. In Mughlai cuisine, minced meat, eggs, trotter and tongue soup, etc accompanied with unleavened bread like rotis, naans etc are also common.

The traditional fare for breakfast was of course the idea that one had a good substantial meal to start the day with, and tapered off the quantity for lunch and dinner. In most households, there was no system of dinner as we know today, and the evening snack and tea or milk was the last meal of the day taken before sun set. The idea was logical as one did not want to risk consuming creepy crawlies along with one’s food in the dark when the culture was to sit on the floor and eat off leaves or flat plates.

Along with progress, development, urbanization, prosperity and more access to restaurants and wayside food vendors, Indians have now started to break their fasts every couple of hours. This is of course highly recommended if it was restricted to small quantities, but each two hourly snack has also now become a major meal. While in rural India, with the populace still predominantly in agrarian occupations, food habits have not changed, and people look and live healthy lives, in urban centers, the global forms of affluence, in the shape of diabetes, obesity, acidity, cardiac problems etc have become common.

Many middle class urban Indians of today have become so recently and they do not want to deny anything to their children. Urban Indian children in their turn now break their fasts as often as they possibly can and obesity at young ages has also become endemic.

I have now been on fast for over two hours and it is time that I breakfasted. I am sure that you too will want to after having spent all the time reading this marathon post. Forgive me Grannymar, the subject just had to be explored properly.

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