Tennessee Mountain Stories

What’s on your Breakfast table?

I’m not good at breakfast.  I’m happy eating leftovers or a sandwich or something and I realize how weird that sounds to yu’ns.  I’m a fan of cereal – all those nutrients and the protein from the milk all in one neat little bowl.

So when I saw an old advertisement for breakfast cereal it got me to thinking about how different that morning meal looked a few years back.

I don’t know about you but I always think of the “traditional” country breakfast containing meat, eggs, gravy and biscuits.  And that’s certainly been an enduring standard among hard-working farmers who needed a breakfast that would strengthen them through a tough day. 

However, we’ve mentioned many times that on the Cumberland Plateau – if not throughout Appalachia – wheat flour was a luxury for many, many years.  That kind of rules out biscuits for everyday eating, doesn’t it?  Of course the meat that was not available for lower income families in larger metropolitan areas was more common on the farmer’s table since he could raise or hunt for it.  And eggs are easy enough to produce. 

 Both of my grandfathers remembered eating cornbread for breakfast and maybe the reason that generation was so attached to bread at every meal was because they hadn’t always been able to have it.

Certainly, one of the early challenges for cereal manufacturers was the growing prosperity in early 20th century America.  For centuries people in the old country were sustained on porridges or gruel which would resemble today’s oatmeal.  This is still common fare in undeveloped countries.  So when those early Americans could afford meat for every meal there was no way they were going back to the food they’d gotten by on before. 

Cereal sales didn’t really take off until the 1950’s when baby boomers were targeted with marketing campaigns and cereals were sugared for better flavor.  Today, statisticsbrain.com reports that 92% of American households buy boxed cereal at least once per year and 2.7 billion boxes are sold annually.