Memoir Writing Lesson #11: Check

Today’s memoir writing lesson from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away:

“Tell me about a breakfast you were once privileged to have.”

I wish I had a story about sharing my tiny breakfast with someone in need or a morning when I had not been able to eat after days of illness and the first bite into dry toast sent me into paroxysms (always wanted to use that word) of delight. Alas, I can’t think of anything in that vein. All I’ve got is that one event of pure and utter gluttony.

The gardener and I were young, not married that long, and were friends with another couple with ties to Chicago. They were a fun couple, and both Michelle and I were thin and fit and vain.

After two nights and a day going to museums, restaurants, and clubs, we went to a Jewish deli for Sunday brunch. Chicago friends had told us this place had the best brunch in town. Being from Michigan, we had no idea what awaited us. Michelle and I both wore culottes in the cream-colored wrinkly Indian cotton that was so in style.

When we got into the crowded restaurant, I noticed that one large room was ringed in a U-shape of very long banquet tables literally groaning from the weight of the dishes. More than one type of lox, pickled fish, smoked fish, several flavors of cream cheese, big stainless containers overflowing with real New York style bagels. All the fixings: tomatoes, onions, capers, and more than I could even “process.” There must have been a dozen salads: tuna, whitefish, pasta, cucumber and salads I’d never heard of before. Hot containers held tomato sauce-smothered stuffed cabbage and sweet ‘n sour stuffed peppers. I’d never seen so many latkes (potato pancakes) in my life. Since they are one of my favorite foods (with sour cream, not apple sauce), I seriously considered moving to Chicago, somewhere near the restaurant. They had sliced deli meats (including a pastrami they could barely keep stocked it was so melt-in-your-mouth), cheeses, and hot meats as well. One long table held every flavor of rugelach, cake, coffee cake, kugel, and cookie you could ever imagine encountering in your entire life.

At this point I should probably mention that we had “put away” a lot of alcohol that weekend. Michelle and I were more hungover than the guys–probably because we weren’t used to drinking as much as our husbands although we were all just out of college. So, speaking for myself, I was hungry. Very hungry. I filled up a plate and gulped it all down. So did Michelle. Then I filled another and ate it. So did Michelle. At that point, I realized we were in a competition to see who could eat the most. And we both continued to eat and eat and eat and eat. We unbuttoned and partially unzipped our culottes. But we kept eating. Finally, the guys got worried that we wouldn’t stop eating and tried to pressure us into leaving. By the time the brunch was over and dishes were cleared away, we both lay partially prone as we couldn’t sit upright. My stomach bulged, and my pants were completely unzipped at that point.  Michelle and I waddled out to the car and tried to slide in the backseat in a reclining position.  I began to hate my culottes just from looking at the strain on the fabric from my huge body. The two hour ride back home Michelle and I lay there groaning from the pain of all that food in our stomachs and from the laughter caused by all the jokes we were making at our own expense. I sure didn’t feel thin any more.  Or fit. I felt as if I had a different body just from one meal. To me, Michelle still looked as thin as ever, but I looked like a snake that had swallowed a cow.

Our pants looked like the blue ones in the pattern above, except for the color and the fabric type. That wrinkly cotton was soft and had more give to it than denim.


Go ahead and try it. Tell me about a breakfast . . . .


Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Nonfiction, Inspiration, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing prompt

26 responses to “Memoir Writing Lesson #11: Check

  1. This made me laugh, Luanne. We’ve had some pretty big brunches, but I’ve never eaten like that. My husband has though. 🙂
    (The culottes made me laugh, too. I have some photos where I’m wearing a pair. I cringe when I see it.)

  2. We used to do Sunday brunches in town that got pretty wild with all the free mimosas! I’d rather not write about them though, LOL.

    • LOL, well, that would be wonderful! We didn’t want anything alcoholic to drink that day, let me tell you. I have no belief in hair of the dog.

  3. That’s it! We’re off out for a brunch, now

  4. This is hilarious, Luanne…I can just picture you girls pigging out! I know your husbands were horrified!! 🙂
    Some great visuals with the McCalls patterns, too. Now that reminded me not of breakfast – but of my grandmother’s making most of my clothes for me as a child. I must have seen a million patterns in little piles around her sewing machine in the kitchen. I hated trying on while she pinned and pinned – my one salvation was the smell of the pies or cakes baking in the oven. Aaah.

    • I hated the pinning, too! It was uncomfortable and my grandmother would poke me in the stomach and tell me I was fat (I wasn’t, but she had been for much of her life, so what does that tell you?). I love the patterns. I must still have a few as I have lots of fabric scraps that belong to my grandmother. What should I DO with them? NO QUILTING.

  5. That sounds like a very interesting breakfast – I can certainly sympathise with eating too much from a buffet style breakfast, though not one quite so diverse as this!

  6. Haha! I can imagine the yummy delight and the sad, tight consequences! I like when we see our friends in Chicago. At least one of the days we’re there, Mr HME will make sausage gravy with biscuits. I make it too, but he’s the only person who ever makes ME homemade ones 🙂

    • Oh, I love biscuits and gravy. I pick out the sausage pieces or get the ones with the white gravy with no sausage pieces, but YUM. Biscuits. Gravy. Only thing better is probably fried zucchini. Or baklava.

  7. Love it! And that pattern brought back memories of my poor mum making everything from scratch. I have many memories of eating different breakfasts from all over the world. When I travelled for two years. But do recall a morning in a B and B in Scotland where we were served black pudding and we did not want to offend the chef, so we hid it in our pockets until we got out of there. Lots go giggles were had.

    • Oh, I love that story about the black pudding. I am sure I would hate it. When I was a kid, my mother used to make some food that I could not eat, but I was required to finish my plate before leaving the table. I would sit there for literally hours afterward until my parents had long forgotten me. Then I would wad the offending food (ghoulash, lima beans, etc.) into my napkin and hide it. Once I snuck it into my bedroom closet and a smell developed in there, which led Mom to the scene of my crime.

  8. What a delightful food competition, Luanne. I don’t recall ever taking part in one of those although I have eaten a lot of food. A breakfast that I was privileged to have. I think it has to entail more than food to be a “privilege” — as in the case you wrote up. Gotta think some more…..

    • There was also that time, senior year of high school, that I tried to get 10 free tostadas. We used to go to the taco stand after school every day where I would eat two tostadas. One day I ordered another one. I was always starving when I was a kid, by the way. Anyway, the owner told me that if I ate 10 they would all be for free. So I went for it. I ended up at 8 or 9 (my memory is slipping tonight because I used to remember which it was) and had to pay for them all. I didn’t have the money, but luckily the gardener and I were already an item, he had a job, and he paid for them (and still married me later on).

  9. What a great post, Luanne. It made me smile. Reminds me of the first bar mitzvah I went to and I was shocked at all the food. (I wasn’t wearing culottes, though.) Just a hand-me-down prom dress from my sister. What a “fashion” statement that was. 🙂

  10. I liked going to a really nice hotel and eating their breakfast buffet with fresh omelets, with request of swiss cheese, mushrooms and onions, crepes with sour cream and squeezed lemon, strawberries and cream. . . I think having a story though is important. . . Your friend and your unzipped culottes, with buffet stuffed tummies made me smile and chuckle, too. 🙂
    My grandmother was born in Germany and made delicious cherry preserves, homemade bread and sometimes kuchen which was a delicious coffee cake. It tasted particularly good with cinnamon and nutmeats. Scrambled eggs with sliced potatoes just completed delicious breakfast. My grandpa would take us to a park not too far away to wear off the calories and let our parents sleep in. While walking, we would fight over who got to hold his two hands. (3 siblings) Grandpa whistled and sang songs. It was nice to hear his silly jokes and he seemed to listen to each of us. Mornings were relaxed, warm and cozy while visiting them, Luanne.

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