Belgian waffles with strawberry compote and whipped cream …eggs, sunny-side-up with bacon and whole-wheat toast…granola…spaghetti? Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day by far, but here in Haiti, they have a few options I’d never considered.
I was convinced that my English students were trying to pull one over on me when they all listed spaghetti first on their list of breakfast foods. “But not with a tomato sauce, right?” I asked. Oh yes, they informed me. A red, oily sauce and—if you’re lucky—mayonnaise and hot dog chunks. It’s partly a matter of economics; a package of spaghetti is only $0.50, and it’s more filling than a banana or a hard-boiled egg, which are also popular.
But breakfast is a matter of culture, too. There’s a perception that everything made in the USA is better, so cornflakes are extremely popular. Even the Haitian brands have a small American flag in the corner of the box. “Cornflakes Hyde Park,” they sing on the radio, “Before they go to school, you’re obligated to give them a bowl!” (It’s catchier in Kreyol.) A friend once eagerly asked if we ate Hyde Park cornflakes in the USA, and he was visibly disappointed when we shook our heads.
But the toughest breakfast to swallow is nothing. Our pastor told a story of a friend who always greeted him the same way: “Have you eaten?” It’s not a totally uncommon greeting, so he would respond that he had, and then continue on with the conversation. One day, it occurred to him that he hadn’t asked his friend the same question. It came out that his friend was only eating once a day and he was hoping that our pastor would share.
A friend once had a saying hanging over her sink: “Thank God for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell / While others may go hungry, we’re eating very well.” While I miss my mushroom omelets, I continue to be convicted that my daily cornflakes are also a gift from God…however boring they may be, day after day. Unlike the jingle, God’s not obligated to bless or provide for me, and yet He does, despite my ungrateful heart. And what better way to start the day than remembering His goodness?