They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don’t know who “they” are, but I agree. It’s also my favorite meal of the day.
Breakfast offers many opportunities. During the school year, the morning meal is a come-and-go, in-and-out proposition in my home. I have a high school senior and an eighth grader, both of whom are on separate schedules. On any given day, one might need to go into school early to work on a project; the other might need to cram for an exam. The four of us rarely sit down and eat breakfast. We manage to do so occasionally (and certainly during school holidays), but family-eating time is usually reserved for supper.
Breakfast is often an opportunity to catch up with friends, sports and politics at the local bakery across the street from my office. Breakfast is also my favorite time to host a business meeting. I like to take care of those issues at the beginning of the day while my mind is fresh. Also, bacon makes any meeting better.
I receive a lot of emails from families who tell me about their long-established eating traditions. A lot of the correspondence covers breakfast. They usually mention a particular food item or recipe that was served at a family breakfast. I have written often about my long-time neighbor, Mary Virginia McKenzie, and her world-famous orange sweet rolls. I also write about my grandmother’s pancakes and my family’s practice of eating steak biscuits the morning after an evening cookout. It’s all about breakfast.
I also receive a lot of invitations to dine with people in their homes, at their deer and duck camps, and in their restaurants and cafes. One such invitation has been in the hopper for a couple of years. It’s a long-establishedSaturday
I have seen Facebook posts about breakfast at the Underwood’s for the past several years. I have also received dozens of invitations to attend. Unfortunately the timing has never worked out— until this past weekend.
Phil and George Underwood are the sons of legendary Southern Miss football player, and coach, P.W. Underwood. They live in a small compound in the Piney Woods just north of Hattiesburg. I grew up with the Underwood boys back when their father coached at Southern Miss. They— like me— know and love food, especially breakfast.
I invited my friend and mentor Bud Holmes, who was a great ally and longtime supporter of Coach Underwood, and who had attended the breakfast several years ago. He picked me up and we headed northwest into Lamar County.
We arrived at 8:00 a.m. and someone was already cooking in the massive kitchen, which I think may have been a converted two-car garage. After a few minutes at this event it began to make sense: Anyone who would go to this much effort every Saturday morning, puts way more emphasis on breakfast foods and feeding friends than keeping automobiles in a carport— my kind of people.
The Underwood home is a shrine to Southern Miss sports history and the unofficial P.W. Underwood sports museum with photographs, plaques, and memorabilia lining the walls. It is set up to entertain and feed a lot of people, and every Saturday morning, that is what they do.
There were people there I hadn’t seen in years— friends from all corners of the region and from all walks of life. It was a blast.
The 16-foot spread was extensive and could have fed a small battalion. There were at least five types of sausages (the boudin went fast), four types of biscuits, gravy, pork chops, chicken, blueberry waffles, two styles of grits, country ham, bacon, eggs, potatoes, homemade jams, toast coffee, juice, and bloody Mary’s (which seemed to go almost as fast as the boudin).
I was humbled by the scale and scope of this weekly feeding. The best part about the event was the fellowship. The atmosphere was casual, relaxed and come-as-you-go and everyone enjoyed everyone else’s company. There was no pretention and no shortage of tall tales to be told.
Any chance to gather with friends and family over breakfast should be taken. This columnist wonders how many of the world’s problems could be solved if everyone spent just one morning a week sharing breakfast, spinning yarns, and fellowshipping with one another. You read it here, first. The road to world peace starts at the Underwood’s.
Breakfast Casserole # 1
1 lb Spicy breakfast sausage
3 /4 cup Onion, diced
1 /4 cup Green bell pepper, sliced
1 /4 cup Red bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp Garlic
1 tsp Creole Seasoning
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
10 Eggs, beaten
1 cup Half and Half
1 tsp Dry mustard
6 pieces White bread, crusts removed
6 pieces Wheat bread, crusts removed
1 /4 cup Soft butter
1 cup Sharp cheddar, shredded
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 tsp. Hot Sauce
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Brown sausage in a large skillet and drain most of the fat. Add vegetables, garlic and seasoning and cook five minutes. Set aside.
Mix together eggs, half and half, and dry mustard in a mixing bowl. Using the softened butter, butter both sides of each slice of bread. Cut the bread into small cubes. Fold the bread, cheeses and sausage mixture into the eggs. Mix well and place in a buttered two-quart baking dish.
Bake for 40-50 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Yield: eight servings