Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 12, 2013

GARY'S WORLD: Breakfast. It’s what’s for dinner

By Gary Nelson
Senior staffwriter

CROSSVILLE — As I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed the other day I saw an NPR news story headline that grabbed my attention and made me stop and read the story. After all, that is what a headline is supposed to do — grab your attention and get you to read the story — and in this case it worked.

The headline was “Breakfast-For-Dinner shame should be put to bed.”

It kind of made me chuckle, because it’s true that in the past, having breakfast for dinner did have a negative stigma attached to it.

I honestly don’t think there’s too much of a negative stigma attached to it these days, though. Thinking about breakfast for dinner makes me smile.

I mean, first of all, most breakfast foods probably have more nutritional value that what’s available in the majority of fast food restaurants.

Anyway, the article was very brief and said it was OK to have breakfast for dinner. It contained several “easy to follow” recipes, which to me, looked pretty complex and were nothing I would ever try at home.

What I did like about the article, though, was what it did for me. It triggered a memory I really hadn’t thought of in a long time — my dad teaching me how to cook breakfast at a very young age.

In fact, my dad taught me a lot of my cooking skills as I was growing up. Today, I am a good cook. Nothing fancy, but I can make many meals without the worries of burning them, or undercooking them. It was an important set of life skills to learn.

When I was around five years old I knew how to cook several meals. I’ve often told my kids that I was like the child in the movie Matilda, who could cook meals for the family at six years old. It’s true. On several occasions I did indeed put the food on and cook the meal for dinner after I got home from school.

When I was young, my mother was away at college earning her degree in education and library science. I only saw her on weekends, summer and holidays for a couple of years. My father worked night shift at the time and my older sister who was in high school was often out at dinner time and wouldn’t get home until later.

Dad would cook dinner for us most of the time before he went to work. Our dinner time was his breakfast time, though, so many times we would have breakfast for dinner. Not always, but pretty frequently.

I was a curious child and it didn’t matter to me that we were eating breakfast for dinner. What mattered to me was that dad would let me help with the meal and make me feel like I was important and mattered to him.

That’s what children need.

He taught me how to fry bacon in a skillet, baste eggs with the bacon grease and how to cook toast, biscuits and fry potatoes. I knew how to peel and cut potatoes before I knew how to tie my shoes. I am serious.

Dad also taught me many different ways to make eggs, scrambled, soft-boiled, hard boiled, over easy and over medium. And, he taught me how to make French toast — although we never had it that often. Dad even taught me how to make cheese omelettes.

Along with cooking those meals together came plenty of conversations and life lessons. He would often answer my deepest questions I had about the world, as best as he could. I often looked forward to making breakfast with dad.

To this day, my speciality when it comes to cooking is breakfast. There are many times my wife and I have breakfast for dinner and there is no negative stigma.

Dad was always patient with me when he allowed me to help make breakfast for dinner. He showed me what to watch for when cooking, the importance of safety with the stove and the blaze.

By the time I was seven or eight years old and in Cub Scouts, I was one of the only kids who could actually help cook during the camp outs, so I never got stuck having to wash the dirty dishes and pans. We didn’t use disposable throw-aways back then, or microwaves.

My dad turns 87 today. He’s had many birthdays on Friday the 13th. Although he doesn’t live close to me, we remain close and I think of him every day and remember all the life lessons he taught me.

I think of the important values and morals he taught me by being a living example for me. He has always been a living example of patience, care and understanding for others.

He taught me about thinking of others by putting yourself in their shoes and asked how I might feel if I was in their situation. He taught me so much without even knowing, or realizing he was doing so. Many parents do. A child will learn by example — good or bad.

He taught me some of the most important ingredients in being a good father to my children — patience, care, involvement, love and understanding.

Not only did my dad teach me how to cook, he taught me that breakfast, no matter what time served, is the most important meal of the day.

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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.