(aka Cottage Breakfasts)
This post is about our occasional horrible eating habits. Don’t read it if you’re militantly health conscious. You will decide to stop coming to this blog. And keep the kids away if you want to set a good example. There are no decent food groups showing up in this post. Trust me, it’s all downhill, nutrition-wise.
We’re currently enjoying a family cottage holiday in the great Canadian North. Keep in mind that in Canada, “North” is not really very far away. In fact, most of Canada is “North.” In my opinion, North starts about 1 hour out of the city. That’s when the trees really start taking over, the air smells different, and the friendly laid-back Canadians you meet are even friendlier and more laid-back. I’m sure our friends from places like Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout might disagree, but compared to Toronto, cottage country really feels Up North.
Up North is where you get to do things like this:
And where you get to buy amazing pea meal sandwiches from the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
And you get to take a boat to the marina and buy candy for a Pixy Stix Taste Test.
But, I need to be clear: we DO NOT have Pixy Stix for breakfast! Absolutely not! That would be breaking the rules of our Break-The-Rules Breakfasts. Pixy Stix are not proper breakfast food. Or proper food, actually. They are strictly snack-food-appropriate only. A Pixy Stix breakfast would be going too far.
Now I have really digressed here. I think I am avoiding coming out of the closet about our family bad-but-good breakfasts. Either that, or I have vacation brain. Maybe a little of both.
What I should be saying is that Up North is one place where we have our break-the-rules breakfasts. It’s a cottage tradition. Some of these breakfasts involve cake. And cookies. Dunked in coffee. I feed this to my kids. For breakfast. Yes, I do. I FEED MY KIDS CAKE AND COOKIES AND COFFEE FOR BREAKFAST. Not on a regular basis, mind you. But this is what we do when we are in the mood for a treat. And at the cottage, we’re in that mood A LOT.
Now, some of you may know that I am pretty health conscious with food. We try to avoid gluten and refined sugar when we can, we buy organic when it makes sense, we try to eat lots of fruits and veggies. Even our dog gets a natural, raw diet. I can be a little fanatical about things at times. I am the kind of mother that yells “Noooooooo” and dives across the kitchen to stop my kids from irradiating their milk in the microwave. And the kids still talk about the healthy cereals that I used to force feed them when they were younger, the kind that taste like sawdust.
I can’t really help being like that. A background in chemical and environmental engineering makes it difficult to ignore the long list of toxins that are present in just about everything we eat. And I was brought up in a very Italian family. Italians are religious about their food. Their day revolves around making, growing, or talking about food. My mother used to agree to any political party putting their election signs up on the lawn, because she’d immediately take them down and use the stakes for her tomatoes. Local food meant something you grew in the backyard, or a chicken that you got from a nearby farm and plucked yourself. Processed food was strictly forbidden. Food was fresh and healthy where I grew up. So how do you explain giving the kids cookies for breakfast?
There is 1 major blip in the Italian Healthy Eating Philosophy. For some reason, breakfast doesn’t really make nutritional sense. You take something sweet, dunk it in milky coffee, and off you go. In my house, it got even worse than that. Sometimes my mom would whip a few raw egg yolks with sugar to make a light and fluffy zabaglione, and then douse it with coffee, or Marsala (a fortified wine), or even a little beer. Then I got to dunk my cookies in that. Booze or caffeine in the breakfast didn’t seem to be a problem. My mom used to say these foods had “sostanza,” which means “substance.” That’s how you raised your kids – you feed them some sostanza. It was a kid’s dream come true.
In fact, for a number of years, I had “cookie breakfast” with my dad. He filled a rimmed soup bowl with Mr. Christie Social Tea biscuits, then topped them with 6 or so Mr. Christie Chips Ahoy cookies, doused it all with coffee, and then grabbed 2 spoons so we could share. It is one of the best memories of my childhood. Who knows what kind of glycemic disaster it created in my body? Didn’t matter – I was delirious with joy eating cookie breakfast. Or maybe delirious with a sugar coma. It still felt amazing, and somehow I managed to grow up just fine.
A few years ago, I got a little nostalgic and thought it was time to introduce the kids to these break-the-rules breakfasts. They were actually a little stunned that I got to eat like that when I was young. The cookie breakfast with my dad was a big hit, and we always fit in a few of those when we’re away with my parents. And for our family cottage holidays, I turned to Maria’s Honey Cake, another childhood favourite that our fishing friends used to bring on the Golden Lake holidays of my youth. This is a huge cake made from an old school recipe that tastes amazing dunked in coffee. I’m going to whip one up tomorrow, and that’s what we’ll be having for breakfast for the next few days. Bad, but very, very good.
One other break-the-rules breakfast is waffle ice cream sandwiches, which the kids would sometimes choose for their birthday sleepovers. I would whip up some fresh waffles, and the girls filled them with ice cream and whipped cream and chocolate sauce. There was little girl happiness all around that table. And lots of sostanza, I’m sure.
Do you have any break-the-rules breakfasts? Anything decadent you like to enjoy with the kids? Come back in a few days to have a look at our cottage cake recipe, if you want to try something to dunk in coffee, Italian-style. I’ll be enjoying it on the deck with family, doing my best to pass on the glycemic disaster tradition.