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Saturday, 26 November 2011

My Breakfast

This is autobiography.

Forty years ago, academic year 1971 - 72, Roland Barthes gave a seminar course at l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes titled "Ten Years of Semiology". I was in the audience. The stylish presentations were enlivened by digressions:

Barthes remarked that he had once begun a project on the semiology of food and had tried asking his students what they ate for breakfast. They were very reluctant to talk about this, Barthes said - and added, I think they would have answered more readily if asked about their sex lives.

Breakfasts are things of habit, sometimes ancient habit. I began drinking Breakfast Tea - strong with milk (British Rail tea, Workman's tea) - when I was a child and I continued more or less uninterruptedly for over fifty years. I would only abandon the habit (in favour of coffee) when abroad in hotels and faced with the impossibility of getting strong tea and milk. I stopped adding sugar when I was about eleven.

Then, following prostate surgery a couple of years ago, I developed an irritable bladder. (The consultant said that since my prostate had been reduced in size by fifty percent, the bladder was now free to wobble ...).

A few experiments convinced me that part of the solution was to give up the habit of a lifetime in favour of weak Jasmine tea ( now sometimes I vary that with weak Bombay chai. You need some kind of hit in the morning)

I drink my tea with McVitie's Digestive Biscuits,which I dunk even though they disintegrate, occasionally varied with Rich Tea, shortbread (too sweet at breakfast time really), and Scottish Abernethy (also too sweet).

Then, after a pause or a second cup of tea, I eat a bowl of muesli (fruit and nut; supermarket own brands) to which I add a portion of All Bran and, always, fresh fruit - a banana, a pear,an apple, berries, a peach ... simply depending on what I have in the kitchen. The milk is always semi-skimmed.

This is another recent habit. For most of my life, I ate buttered toast and marmalade for breakfast, and though not a connoisseur of the bread I cared greatly about the marmalade. Unfortunately, as I knew but failed to act upon, first thing in the morning two or three slices of buttered toast and marmalade made me feel bloated and a bit nauseous. The same was true of the croissants which substituted for the habit when abroad.

As with most habits, I was not put off by this major disadvantage to my diet until I ran into some additional digestive problems occasioned by a liver disorder. Eventually, I tired of feeling nauseous and found my way to my new diet with which I am very happy. I never feel rubbish after eating my bowl of muesli.

There you are: My Breakfast. A little tribute to Roland Barthes, forty years on from that seminar.

1 comment:

  1. We are creatures of habit. I ate an egg for breakfast every day until Edwina Currie said it would kill me; so I was delighted when, a few days later, she was discredited.