Folks who are natural born early risers believe those of us who are not are just lazy. I know my father did.
I never aspired to be lazy so I’ve struggled with my body’s insistence than I remain asleep until the rooster has gone hoarse and given up. Over the years though, I’ve concluded that biology determines our sleeping habits.
I’ve noticed a couple of things about early risers. They wake up starving to death and wolf down huge breakfasts yet rarely struggle with their weight. Late risers rarely want breakfast, in fact some practically gag on it. Yet most of them are prone to weight gain.
Regardless of when I wake up, I have no desire to eat. I choke down a banana or an orange and about four ounces of milk so that I don’t take my medicine on an empty stomach. I don’t feel the slightest hunger pang all morning. I don’t have any trouble eating lunch but the truth is, I could skip it if I didn’t know my blood sugar would crash around 3 p.m.
Usually if I wait until about 2 p.m. to eat, you had better not hand me food unless you are wearing Kevlar gloves because I might take your fingers with it. However, if I eat lunch, I’m good until 9 or 10 p.m. Give me a couple of Keystone Lights along the way and I might not need any supper. Yet nobody calls me “slim,” except with a twist of irony.
I got to thinking about breakfast this week when a friend of mine who reps for some outdoor product lines sent me a promo on “Bacon Up.” It’s sort of like, don’t laugh, gourmet bacon grease, purified and rendered and strained. I personally can’t wait to fry a couple of eggs in it.
While I don’t eat breakfast very often, I love breakfast food. And the secret to fried eggs is bacon grease.
By and large, my father expressed a lot of pride in me. But I know there was one thing he found deeply disappointing in me. I wouldn’t get up early and have breakfast with him.
The only time he could get me to do it was when we went hunting together. Usually it was for our deer drives at Spidle Lake Hunting Club. Unlike a lot of the old school clubs, ours didn’t have a big breakfast before the hunts – although Jimmy Spencer made sure he got there early and fired up a propane stove so that the men could have coffee and the boys could have hot chocolate on cold mornings.
I got to experience the big pre-hunt breakfast at Millwood Hunting Club and even for a person who isn’t a natural born early riser, it was a special treat. I wish our club had done that when we I was growing up but I’d have missed out on something equally special.
Spidle Lake fined its members $2 per hunter if they were late to the 7 a.m. muster. I have no idea why we mustered at 7 a.m. because we stood around for another hour waiting on the hunt to start.
The thought of paying a $2 fine pained my father greatly, old Scotsman that he was, so he made sure he got me out of bed at least an hour before we were to depart. And he made sure my clothes, gun and any other necessary equipment were laid out on the table and across a kitchen chair the night before.
We had to be quiet because hunting season was already working on my mother’s nerves by November. We sure didn’t need to add waking her up before dawn to the list of high crimes and misdemeanors of which we had already been convicted.
Getting up early gave me a chance to see how my father went about his ritual for his pre-hunt breakfast. Actually, it was what he did every morning. He just made a little extra for me, those days.
He started by putting a couple of slices of bread in the oven. If my mother or our housekeeper, Nonie, had made some biscuits on Friday, he’d warm up the biscuits. He liked his breakfast bread hard and crunchy because he liked his egg yolks runny and he liked to crush the crunchy toast or biscuits up into the yellow yolk in what he called “mashup.” I do it today and you can’t beat it.
After putting the bread in the oven, he’d put bacon or sausage in his cast iron skillet and cook them. After cooking every morning, he poured his bacon grease into a little gray can with built-in strainer. So, after cooking his bacon or sausage and putting them in a warm oven, he’d pour more grease from the grease can into the skillet.
He already had some grits bubbling in a sauce pan on another eye and he usually added some butter and grated cheese to them before serving them. While the grease was getting hot, he cracked a couple of eggs in an old coffee cup he no longer used for its intended purpose. When the grease got hot, he poured the eggs from the coffee cup into the grease.
The grease was deep enough that the eggs floated and he never bothered to make them over easy. He “basted” them by splashing hot grease onto them with a spatula. When they were done, he put them on a plate, went to the oven and added the rest of the ingredients. He liked his grits a bit runny, as I do, so whether he put them in a bowl or on his plate depended on how runny they were. Grapefruit juice and coffee accompanied it.
If I had never hunted with him, I doubt I’d have known his breakfast ritual. It would have been a shame not to have experienced such a thing of beauty. If I’d have had a lick of sense, I’d have woken up and joined him every morning.
That’s the kind of thing you don’t figure out until the opportunity is long gone and life doesn’t give you second chances, not when it comes to the people you love. Good thing we both like to hunt.
Robert DeWitt is the Outdoors writer for The Tuscaloosa News. Readers can email him at email@example.com.