Farm boy breakfasts to military chow hall breakfasts to scrambled eggs in the halls of Congress, it's still my favorite meal.
Farm boy breakfast
Interesting how some things you do can have a mighty impression on people. Entirely wrong, but nonetheless positive impressions.
I like to eat breakfast. No question it comes from working summers on my grandparents’ farm. It doesn’t take long for that Central Illinois sun to heat up in summer with the humidity rising off those corn fields and bean fields making for a miserable heat index. Grampa’s 1954 International pickup had one of those two-fifty air conditioners. Roll both windows down and drive fifty miles an hour.
To beat that summer heat, we’d be up before dawn, eating that big breakfast and headed to the fields before 6 am. Breakfast was big because it had to carry you through a long morning’s work. Oatmeal, bacon, eggs, homemade biscuits with hand churned butter and homemade apple butter, mug after mug of hot tea with honey and a couple of glasses of cream top milk.
Cream top milk for you city folk is unpasteurized milk fresh from the cow. It’s called cream top because the cream rises to the top so it can be skimmed off to churn into butter or chilled for pouring over fresh-sliced peaches.
Once I was off to college, I’d make a point of making it to the dormitory cafeteria for breakfast just before it closed. No way I’d miss my favorite meal of the day. French toast with hot strawberries on top fueled me for the hike from the dorms to the quad and even north of Green Street, past the Student Union to the old men’s gym for physical education class. My dorm fees paid for that meal and nineteen others for the week. No way I’d miss it. I paid for it.
So, it was, once I dropped out of college and joined the Air Force. Hit the chow hall before dawn, ham and cheese omelet and an order of French toast before the walk to the flight line and the smell of jet fuel.
To this day breakfast is my favorite meal. The first couple of mugs of steaming brew followed by a hearty breakfast is just the right way to start the day.
As much as I love breakfast, I dislike meetings. I like to gather facts, consider the facts, make a decision, move on to the next issue. Sit in meetings, not so much.
When I got elected to Congress, I knew I’d have to sit in meetings, but that’s the price you pay for democracy. I was prepared to sit through meetings. Some contentious. Some boring. All with people who to one degree or another love to hear themselves talk.
My first week as a freshman Congressman I learned that the Democratic caucus had a morning meeting each morning we were in session. The meeting is in one of the large wooden paneled conference rooms behind the ropes tourists aren’t allowed past in the basement of the Capitol complex. Only Congresspeople and a very few leadership staffers allowed in.
The meeting is billed as starting at 8 am. The leadership would discuss issues coming up. Leadership would tell the assembled members what leadership’s position was on upcoming votes and we’d debate what our position should be. Sometimes administration officials, up to and including the President of the United States would come in to brief us on critical issues of the day. Exciting stuff working on the nation’s business. Now former military person that I am, I follow the Army maxim that if you’re on time, you’re late. Meeting set to start at 8 am. I’m there at 7:55 am.
Me and three staffers. And…the breakfast buffet. Little did I know that in order to entice members to show up and show up on time, a magnificent breakfast buffet is set out. Scrambled eggs, crispy bacon just the way I like it, breakfast potatoes, bagels and cream cheese, juice, lots of hot coffee.
Hog heaven to a farmboy, military guy who loves breakfast. A few Congresspeople straggle in around 8:15, by 8:30 a few more and the meeting may start by 8:45 with folks still straggling in. I made it my business to set out from my apartment each morning to make the ten- minute walk to the Capitol complex, passing the homeless guy camped in front of the Canadian embassy, dodging the Uber cars, nodding to the Capitol police, who recognizing me, waved me through the security checkpoints to get to my hot breakfast.
No need to cook for myself when I’ve got all that waiting!
Imagine my delight when after a couple of months of great breakfasts my chief of staff told me: “Hey boss, Pelosi’s staff is really impressed with you!” “Why’s that?” I ask. “Because you are always the first to show up for the morning caucus meeting,” came his response.
I nearly spilled my coffee laughing. “It’s the breakfast,” I said.
You can take the boy out of Southern Illinois, but you can’t take the Southern Illinois out of the boy.
© William L. Enyart , 2022
Audio production by Tom Calhoun, www.paguytom.com