The Unexpected Benefits of Breakfast after Retirement!
Happiness in being married and in retirement is an art. You can become quite the Zen master at both by cooking, relishing and enjoying breakfast together. The test of time in love is devotion especially to this very treasured of all meals. It’s breakfast, and where and how you eat it, that is the key to a happy marriage in retirement. The finesse is not necessarily in the cuisine or its varieties. Of course choosing simple but spectacular spread of world dishes makes the meal, the setting, the conversation lively and entertaining. Love feeds on the food and strengthens the bonds. I do have a knack of selecting breads, toasts, bagels, jams, jellies, cheese, eggs, fruits, and preparing quite a surprise everyday for my wife, my lifelong companion. Once we both longed for paninis. Being retired we have to watch our budget eating out. Breakfast at home is so pleasurable that we are not willing to part with $15-$20 at Panera or Corner Bakery. I bought a $5 panini press at Sur La Table and pressed some wonders. My wife does not eat meat. I consume it like a tiger . . . Well, I hail from the nation and its state of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Avocadoes we both find are great in a panini. I lightly toast pumpernickel bread, butter both sides, layer pepper jack cheese, avocado goes on top, slices of home grown tomatoes, a couple of twists of the pepper mill, sprinkle salt, lay it on the oven-top grill, and press the panini press down. The grill leaves golden brown diagonal lines that says everything is just oozing perfection. I ball melon into small desert tumblers and slice a kiwi for more color. In the meantime the Darjeeling tea has steeped to the color and concentration we both prefer. Our breakfast area is not a nook. Our living room has a very large bay window that looks out across our lawn to a park that is no less than an arboretum. There are pines, spruces, non-fruit bearing crab apples, magnolias, a tree whose leaves turn golden in the fall and never shed. A walking path winds around the park and is the perfect place for exercise. We have repurposed one of our high glass-top side tables as our breakfast table for two. There are two Phoenix print fabric draped winged chairs on either side. Breakfast gets served on gray pottery plates and the tea cups are rotated every day from a selection of blue, green, yellow, orange and brown depending on what’s not in the dishwasher. There is a red tray with Japanese lettering in black on which we can stack up the jams, jellies, butter, cream for the tea, tiny salt and pepper shakers and our matching gray pottery tea kettle. Love the food and live the company. Conversation bounces like a ping pong ball around current events, the pesky phone call the night before, plans to visit Indía, lighthouses in Maine, my wife’s next month’s Facebook profile picture, to return or not return library books. Then Linda, my new neighbor who plays golf with me on Tuesdays, walks and waves from the park. Next it will be the dog Lilly and her master Joanne. The crabapple tree is in full bloom. Or the once-in-a-while cross country skier pushing through the new soft snow. It’s winter. We are still having breakfast at our bay window, sitting in our Phoenix draped chairs, munching on spicy cocktail samosas with mint and coriander chutney and steaming India spice chai. The fire place is glowing. This time we can add a few sugar cubes to the tea and finish it all off with golden “motichur ladoos”. Mmm – – – good!
My only quarrel with my wife is that she does not eat any meats. However, we both like smoked salmon, on a open face half of a bagel smothered with cream cheese, topped with Tabasco. Needless to say that as bagel lovers we finally bought a bagel guillotine. For a couple of days my wife stayed from the kitchen but adored the deftly cut bagel halves. Yes, we eat the other half spread with cream cheese topped with blueberry jam for the Mrs. and orange marmalade for the Mr. It’s English Breakfast tea, no cream, no sugar cubes. The aroma escaping from the kettle spout. The big conversation – Do we have enough money put away for our younger daughter’s Masters program. “It’s all in the phone’s notes app,” I say for the third day reaching for my iPhone. I stop midway. Walk over to the island, retrieve my wife’s journal and favorite pen, and go through the exercise of writing it all out in her own hand, placing a sticky page marker so she can come back to it at breakfast the next day, and the next. My dear wife returns the favor declaring we will have idli-sambar the next morning. It’s love alright, for the food, the company, the joy of being put out to graze at the same time. We have earned it after thirty five years working in the Chicago Public Schools. That reminds me of the time we invited friends to brunch to celebrate our joint retirement. What a feast we both put out. It became the talk of the town and the envy of many still-at-work friends. On summer omelette days, I sneak out the kitchen back door to the small but sufficient vegetable patch, grab a handful of cherry tomatoes, tear off a second handful of fresh chives and coriander, two slices of butter simmer in our non-stick Japanese omelette pan, in go the vegetables, a twist the pepper mill, sprinkle salt. The aroma begins to rise and drift while I fluff the eggs. Spoon in enough eggs to create an uniform thin layer. Wait for it to harden slightly, then roll and push back the first layer. Spoon a second thin layer and as the egg cooks, roll up the first layer into the second and repeat for the third, till you have a wonderful fluffy roll of Japanese omelette. Goes well with toast, butter, and jam. Choose green tea to stay true to the Japanese flavor of breakfast.
Love’s labor is not lost. Our breakfasts help to smoothen the rough edges of our marriage. Most disagreements revolve around the idiosyncrasies of other “insensitive” family relations. Pesky and sour. If it were not for breakfast with my best buddy, my wife, we would have missed out on the excitement of sitting stone still whIle the hummingbird is hovering over the sweet lantas in different shades of pink filling up the two hanging baskets we have carefully placed outside the bay window for just such a small but significant visitor. Wonder and awe. “What’s tomorrow’s breakfast?” she asks. “A surprise,” I say.