I used to work nights. You can draw that card at a newspaper, same as you might in a hospital, police station or a factory. I did not cook dinner much then. Night work makes cooking dinner more than a chore. Often, it makes it impossible.
I felt bad about that. I had little kids. I knew that eating with them regularly was important. Everyone knows that, or says they do: your spouse, your aunt, the pediatrician, Michelle Obama.
So I made breakfast. I came home late and slept briefly, then woke to feed everyone breakfast.
It was great. It’s still great: a family meal, five, six, seven days a week, served in the morning. Cooking dinner can be stressful on weeknights, whatever your hours. Try cooking breakfast instead.
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Let us stipulate: We know that no one has that much time to cook breakfast. There are buses and trains to catch, cars to get started. Someone needs to go to the gym before work or run a few miles, get the dry cleaning, walk the dog. Cooking breakfast is a hassle many of us don’t want to face. That’s why there’s a drive-through lane at the doughnut shop.
Do it anyway. Wake up 15 minutes before you usually do and see how easily the sacrifice play can lead to a win: a pile of buttered toast with jam; bowls of yogurt adorned with granola and fresh-cut fruit; some quick pancakes with maple syrup, nuts and dried fruit; a skillet of soft scrambled eggs. You won’t be alone. The NPD group, a retail tracking firm, estimates that sales of raw or fresh breakfast ingredients will be up 9 percent by 2018.
For students, especially, the data is clear: Eating a healthy breakfast leads to improved cognition and memory, helps reduce absenteeism and generally improves mood. A 2008 study in the journal Pediatrics found that teenagers who ate breakfast regularly had a lower body-mass index than those who did not.
So: Whole-grain muffins. Orange slices. A sausage or two. Everyone wins.
Drink your coffee while the radio plays softly and others sleep, cook a little, then call everyone out for the meal. Cooking breakfast is easier the third time you do it than it will be the first, but it will always be welcome and will always be worth the time.
You can prepare the meal the night before, right before bed: Steel-cut oats placed in a rice cooker overnight yield a breakfast porridge out of 19th-century Ireland. Assemble the makings for French toast and dip the bread in the morning, or tear it into chunks and make a casserole to chill overnight and bake at dawn.
Or wait until morning: Whir frozen fruit, orange juice and yogurt for a smoothie to go with a simple fried egg. That’s a 10-minute job. Or make like a Californian and spread avocado over toast.
It’s all good cooking, if you serve it with care. And it gets easier every time you do it.