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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Game Day Breakfast

November 15, 2016

I have written often about breakfast being my favorite meal of the day. There is something about the freshness-of-the-morning aspect to it that holds great appeal to me. Everything is new and the world as we will know it on that day is just beginning to unfold.

Breakfast foods appeal to me, too. My inner carboholic appreciates the breads that are available in the morning. Pancakes, French toast, and waffles are great. Down South biscuits are almost a prerequisite to the morning table. Donuts, bagels, and sweet rolls are universal, but I am also happy with a couple of slices of buttered wheat toast covered in honey.

I am blessed to work across the street from a French bakery where the croissants and French pastries are as good as any I have eaten in France. It helps when the owner of the shop is a classically trained French pastry chef who found his way to Mississippi by way of Canada.

It’s not just the breads though. I have a lifelong love affair with eggs prepared in almost any style— scrambled, fried, poached, soft-boiled. My love runs deepest, however, with breakfast meats. Sausage— especially ground, spicy, patty sausage— makes frequent appearances on my breakfast table. Country ham, in all of its salty splendor, is in the weekly mix as well. Though the king of the breakfast table in my world is bacon.

There aren’t too many dishes or items— savory or sweet— that aren’t made better with the addition of bacon. One can’t say that about most food items. Bacon not only makes meals taste better, it makes life, and living on this planet better. Bacon is good when paired with all of the above breakfast items, but it also adds depth and flavor to so many foodstuffs such as hamburgers, scallops, meatloaf, and hundreds more. I have always believed, if you are the food item that can make meatloaf taste better, you deserve a place in the foodstuff hall of fame.

Breakfast is great for another reason. It’s one of the things my 15-year old son and I have always shared. He has never been one to sleep late and in his preschool days he was always up early asking me to cook breakfast, or ready to hop in the car to go out for a morning meal. The morning dynamic really changed between us when we were on a six-month family excursion in Europe.

During that extended trip, my wife and daughter usually slept late. My son and I used the opportunity— and our shared love for breakfast— to venture out into a new town or city to find a place where the locals were eating.

My son and I ate soft-boiled eggs on a rooftop in Athens overlooking the Temple of Zeus, croissants on the banks of the Seine in Paris, pastries in small cafes in Denmark and Sweden, fresh breads in the food markets of Barcelona, fresh fruit on the terrace of a villa overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Amalfi Coast, crepes in the Swiss Alps, and countless other locations in 82 European cities in 17 countries.

Those European breakfasts are when the father-son bond between he and I really caught a foothold. Nothing could take that away from me. For that I will be forever grateful.

This year, his sophomore year in high school, we started a new tradition— breakfast at the aforementioned French bakery on the morning of his football games. We called it his game-day breakfast and would go and eat early before I took him to school. We were four or five breakfasts into the season before we realized that we each had eaten the same exact thing for those meals, and the team was undefeated. Before long he looked at it as an edible good-luck charm and demanded that we go at the same time, sit at the same table, and order the same food. To be honest, I didn’t want to jinx us either. And to be totally honest, this superstition was much more tolerable than his “I can’t wash my practice jersey while we are on a winning streak” belief.

We continued the game-day breakfast tradition through an undefeated 11-win season.

Last week I helped host an Extra Table charity concert in Tupelo on a Thursday evening. While traveling north, I used the opportunity to have breakfast with my daughter. As she and I were sitting enjoying each other’s company, it struck me that my plan was to spend the night in Tupelo. The second round of my son’s state playoff game was the following morning, and I wasn’t going to be there to have our game-day breakfast.

The choice then became, not IF I would go home to eat breakfast with my son, but WHEN I would go home to eat breakfast with my son— that night after the show, or early in the morning?

At 55-years old, the days of driving home late at night have long since passed. I get sleepy driving on the highway in the middle of the afternoon these days. So I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m., only an hour or so before I usually get up so it wasn’t hard, and drove home. I pulled into my driveway just as my son was walking out the front door with his mother. “I got this,” I told her. “Hop in the car, son.”

We went to the same bakery and sat at the same table, in the same chairs, ate the same things, at the same time. Unfortunately his team lost the game. It was a heartbreaker. Though I can rest a little easier knowing it wasn’t due to a jinx put on the team because we missed our game day breakfast. There’s always next year.


RSJ’s Garlic Cheese Grits

1 Tbl                    Bacon grease or oil

1 Tbl                    Garlic, minced

1 tsp                    Salt

2 cups                 Milk

2 cups                 Chicken broth

1 cup                    Grits

1 tsp                     Creole Seasoning

1 tsp                     Hot Sauce

8 oz                      Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

4 oz                      Cream cheese

Melt bacon grease over low heat in a 1 1 /2 quart sauce pot. Add garlic and salt and cook for one to two minutes being careful not to brown the garlic. Add milk and broth and increase heat. Bring to a simmer and slowly pour in the grits. Lower heat and cook grits for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Add remaining ingredients and stir until cheeses are melted. Serve immediately.

Yield: eight servings

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