My mother wasn’t much of a cook, especially when it came to what my childhood friends referred to as “normal” breakfast food. Her specialty was bacon, poached eggs, and toast. She used one of those wide metal pans with a detachable eggcup tray. Ninety percent of the time, the yolks resembled large yellow marbles. I spent most of my mornings at Arthur Kramer Elementary School with an achy stomach. At lunch, I soothed the pain by eating fresh yeast rolls, butter, and vanilla ice cream.
Then we moved to a new house designed by my father, an avid fan of early American architecture. He built a huge walk-in brick fireplace. In the absence of a fire, cast iron and copper pots hung inside. My dad was brilliant, ahead of the times. To the left of the fireplace, he installed a Jenn-Air gas grill. He loved to cook outside, and during the winter he stood in front of that grill with a gin and tonic in his hand, cooking mammoth steaks. The Jenn-Air became ground zero for my new breakfast regimen. My mother created the best breakfast a growing tomboy could ask for: cheeseburgers.
Almost every morning during junior high and high school, I devoured a medium-rare burger covered with a thick slice of melted Velveeta, which was served between two toasted Mrs Baird’s buns slathered with Hellmann’s mayonnaise. I dipped each bite into a warm (yes, I was persnickety at a young age) pile of Heinz Ketchup. My drink of choice was a cold glass of milk into which I stirred a packet and a half of chocolate-malt flavor Carnation Instant Breakfast. This protein-packed breakfast kept me going until dinner. And it wasn’t unusual for me to ask my mom to make me poached eggs on toast in the evening. It beat the hell out of her chicken à la king.