Generation Y

Your favorite meal of the day

What is it with people who claim that breakfast is their favorite meal of the day? Stop saying this, people.

In fact, it’s come to my attention that the phrase “favorite meal of the day” is employed solely in the context of breakfast: no one ever uses it to describe lunch or dinner. Yet both lunch and dinner are actually way better than breakfast. What gives?

Breakfast food—at least in the United States—is boring primarily for two reasons: 1) hardly anybody wakes up with sufficient time or energy to cook a complicated meal, so the food has to be simple enough to prepare within a few minutes; and 2) most people’s stomachs are too sensitive early in the morning to handle any aggressive flavors.

As a consequence, breakfast food exists to fill us up quickly and easily and to serve a few basic nutritional needs, in order to power us through the morning, until we’re ready to consume a more complicated meal. It typically consists of some grain-based mush (oatmeal, porridge), some protein-based mush (eggs, yogurt), a few preserved foodstuffs (bacon, jam), and/or a cheap shot of sugar to give us the illusion of energy (orange juice, Lucky Charms, Pop-Tarts). Most of the time, the closest thing you’ll get to a vegetable is some fried potato.

I can’t pretend that breakfast isn’t important; it is, but it’s hardly a culinary event. It’s almost never anything more than strictly functional.

There are only about 25 different breakfast foods that I can think of, several of which (omelet/frittata, pancake/waffle) are just variations of the same thing. At dinnertime, by contrast, there are literally thousands of potential dishes that you can cook, and the ingredient list is limitless. Saying that breakfast is your favorite meal is really just another way of saying that you prefer bland, repetitive food.

That’s fine, I guess: just be honest about it. While you’re at it, though, please stop pretending that bacon is so great. It’s arguably the weakest pork product this side of scrapple. It’s basically just salt—it’s not so much a food as it is a played-out Internet meme.

Personally, I think the meals get progressively better as the day goes on. Breakfast is bare-bones stuff, obviously. And I’ve had some great, memorable lunches, but most people don’t have enough time at midday for the type of glorious meal over which they might want to linger, and there’s often some feeling that they shouldn’t eat too much lest they become sleepy during the afternoon. Dinner is obviously the main event: you’ve finished your work for the day—now you can pull out all the stops.

As we discuss these matters, it’s worth noting that, as the day progresses, so does the acceptability (and practicality) of alcohol. You really can’t drink at breakfast unless you’ve totally given up on being a productive, healthy person. Lunch may involve a beer or two, depending on your environment, but it’s typically seen as a vaguely naughty behavior, permissible only as a special treat on certain occasions. Dinner, again, is where the beauty and richness of the meal almost demand a suitable accompaniment from the beverage menu (or from your own stock if you’re eating at home).

The only thing worse than rating breakfast as your favorite meal is rating brunch as your favorite meal. The latter typically means that you’re a trendy urbanite who, every Sunday, is willing to stand around for an hour or two—stomach growling, discreetly repulsive in your early unshowered state—in the crowded waiting area of a jam-packed noisy restaurant, elbow-to-elbow with a group of people who hate you because your name is in front of theirs on the waiting list or with a group of people whom you hate for the same reason, watching the hungover, miserable waiters (none of whom wanted the brunch shift) run around frantically while you forever strain to hear whose name the hostess just called out.

This is a horrible, hectic experience that no one would endure solely for the privilege of consuming a $20 plate of eggs; the purpose is to see and be seen in a fashionable establishment—to demonstrate the leisure and good taste of the yuppie lifestyle. Yet it is purely a demonstration (an expensive one); nothing about it is relaxing, even after three $11 mimosas, whose sluggish effect will ultimately prevent you from doing anything actually enjoyable on your day off.

As far as nonexistent mealtimes go, I much prefer linner to brunch. Linner (served between three and five p.m., seven days a week) has yet not fully taken off as a concept; there still exists some manufactured controversy as to whether it shouldn’t instead be called “dunch,” but this is an attempt to discredit the whole noble enterprise and should be ignored.

Linner is great because it means that you cut out of work early or are in some other way misaligned with the usual, boring rhythm of the day. It’s a great time for eating out: since real restaurants usually don’t begin service until five, eating linner usually means eating at a bar that serves food continuously. It won’t be too crowded; the bartender will be friendly. By the time everyone else gets home from work, tired and cranky and trying to decide on some kind of meal solution, you’re already full and happy and slightly drunk. What could be better?

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