Neatly-arranged and well-provisioned

Just the beginning of a sumptuous daily breakfast at Gables Guest House, Oxford, June 2017

“Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly-arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

I certainly agree with Hawthorne. Perhaps the beautifully bountiful breakfast was as special in his age as it is in ours; likely even more so. I’m sure the time to enjoy a leisurely morning meal was a luxury for his generation, and fresh food was far more scarce and dependent on seasonal vagaries during his era. In any case, sheer delight at the chance to begin the day with a savory selection of tasty fare is a pleasure we have in common with countless people throughout the centuries and all over the world.

My favorite vacation destinations– bed and breakfast inns, cruise ships, and the homes of dear friends– all feature memorable moments lingering over coffee or tea along with an assortment of items such as fresh fruit, eggs, cereals, sides and baked goods. Though it starts rather than ends the day, I’ve always found that a full breakfast feels more relaxed, even when the table is graced with fine linens, crystal and china. I can’t recall ever worrying about which fork to use, or wondering whether anybody noticed that I spilled a few drops of tea every time I poured more into my cup.

Maybe a nice breakfast feels more special because most of us rarely take time for it. Regardless of the age-old (and largely disregarded) advice that it’s the most important meal of the day, I’m guessing that time constraints, less appetite, or force of habit usually mean that many of us eat less in the morning than we do at noon or evening meals.  If that’s true for you, I hope that you find the time on weekends or days off to make breakfast a special occasion.

You may have read here that Jeff loved to cook a full breakfast every Saturday, a habit he formed nearly 20 years ago. I’m thankful for each and every weekend he insisted on taking the time for it, right up to the morning he entered the hospital for the last time. It would have been easy for him to say “someday when I retire I’d like to cook breakfast every day.” Instead, he made it a point to enjoy the ritual on the one day each week when he did not have to be up and out too early to allow cooking.

These are now fond memories, and I hope someday to return to cooking breakfast, for friends, family or just myself, complete with a pretty table setting and maybe a fresh flower in a bud vase. I don’t need to tell you the tea kettle would be on, with coffee at the ready. Who knows– maybe some of us now reading this blog together will find ourselves face to face at breakfast someday, again or for the first time. Until then, Sheila and I have the Virtual Verandah Special ready when you are, complete with eggs any style, biscuits, country ham, grits and all the southern favorites, along with the croissants, whole wheat toast, fresh fruit, quiche, crepes and other delights that some of y’all might be more used to. Pull up a chair and get ready to start the day with a smile.


  1. You are making me hungry! Would love to enjoy a big southern breakfast one day with you! Grits and all! Love and Light to you and yours!🎆🎆🎆

    • Cherie, I really hope we will find some way to make that happen. If we ever head your way– or if you ever come our way– we’ll have to plan on it! I like cheese in my grits; how about you? Sending sunny hugs your way. ❤

  2. Carolyn

    So much has happen since Jan.12 that it will take time to write. I will send you a message soon. Please keep me in your prayers. If you can check our FB and then Lisa has some info about what is going on. This is not Cancer. Love you all.

    • OH Carolyn! I went to your FB page and read just a bit about what all has been happening to you. I am so, so sorry. I hope that each day brings you renewed strength. Matt and I keep you in our prayers but we had no idea about any of this. Thanks for letting me know. I sent you a card in the mail. Please keep us posted and I will try to check in on you more frequently. Is FB the best way to reach you? Or do you do email? I still do mostly email but I realize fewer and fewer people seem to check their email much anymore. We love you and will continue to send warm wishes and fervent prayer for your recover. ❤

      • Carolyn

        We do mostly on email from our friends. I do FB but don’t put a lot one it. Lisa has been great trying to let people know what all is going. Thanks for prayers. I will send you a message on FB when I am stronger. Love you guys. I really thought it was the end, but guess God has different plans. XOXO

        • Carolyn, you are one tough lady! Your loving heart and calm, sweet demeanor is proof that Saint Francis de Sales was right when he said “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” We are in your corner, dear friend, praying for your continued healing. Please let me know if there is anything else we can do. We love you and are so grateful that you came into our lives when we so needed you, AND STAYED through thick and thin! 🙂 I hope you will mark some time on your calendar to come visit us again soon, when you are strong enough to enjoy travel.

  3. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    I am starting the day with a smile; and I’m hungry! Breakfast is my favorite meal, but I seldom have it, as you’ve described. I, too, am up and out early each weekday, and have little time to enjoy breakfast. My wife is not a big breakfast fan; thus, not much fanfare for the meal on weekends either. However, when we travel, I’m indulged with the occasional trip to an iHop, or the like.
    Were you and Jeff ever stationed in Germany? Their breakfasts are a bit different! Living on the economy away from American bases, and working for the German Army for three years was a true cultural experience, and I even learned to like the breakfast! 😊
    Have a wonderful day!

    • Chris, Jeff and I never did get that European tour we had hoped for; England was where we would have chosen. But because of Matt’s heart condition, they counted Hawaii as our overseas tour. Not a bad alternative. 🙂 Even so, Matt (and we) still had to Medivac to CONUS for his second open heart surgery, which was too complex to be handled at Tripler or anywhere else in Hawaii. Our dear friends Amy and Steve were stationed in Germany, and we had a lovely visit with them in 2005. I don’t remember anything specific about the breakfasts, so I’ll ask Amy to tell me about it. She clued me in that the new LiDL store here is of German origin. I knew Aldi’s was, but I didn’t realize LiDL was too. I guess the world is shrinking somewhat since the days before imports (whether products or businesses) were so easy to find. Amy is often here in the comments so if she reads this, maybe she can weigh in. I know she really enjoyed Germany and I was able to visit her there twice, but still wish it could have been more often. Hope you are getting some of this warm weather to enjoy this week!

  4. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ The Bonne Maman (made in France) is my very favorite breakfast treat, sweet and any flavor! I spotted that so familiar red checked lid in your photo, first thing! This morning I treated myself to a bowl of hot grits with a side of bacon strips. Then I had my cup of java and Defeat Despair, waiting patiently by my placemat. What a surprise to see BREAKFAST as the featured topic. What fond memories of Jeff cooking breakfast, good and often. 🍳🥓🥞 I bet he grew up in Tennessee with a big breakfast every morning, and EARLY! My mother in law loved to serve summer breakfasts on her screen porch when we would visit in Bristol, TN. She always referred to that special place as “Verandah Beach” so I delight in our use of VERANDAH! Much love to you and Matt. 💞

    • Sheila, I was in total ignorance of Bonne Maman (which means “good Mama” and maybe something else idiomatic, that I’m not aware of) until you mentioned it here, but I’ll certainly be on the lookout for it now! I’m happy to know that it was not just my imagination that those preserves were truly worthy of those fabulous croissants. Yummy, grits and hot bacon! I like my bacon so crispy that Jeff used to describe it as “burned.” (That’s what he would tell waiters when I was trying to describe how I liked it cooked.) Amy knows how to make it super crispy and just recently when she was cooking some up in the oven for her potato soup, I ended up eating about half of it before it ever made it to the table, hee-hee. 🙂 Yes, Jeff grew up with amazing breakfasts. Not only was there lots of food, but his mother actually cooked breakfast several times each day, because she didn’t expect everyone to get up at the same time, so it was fixed when you were ready for it. The phrase “I’m not a short order cook” never crossed her lips or her mind, it would seem, though I heard most other women say it at least once during my childhood. And when I say she cooked breakfast, I’m talking COOKED, as in, everything including the jam was cooked fresh that very morning. She had a skillet she kept on the stove while cooking, that she’d keep adding fruit to, stirring it until it was ready to serve warm. I had to tell Jeff that I hoped he didn’t expect that level of cooking from me, and he didn’t, though I still cooked breakfast for him every single morning for years– but not nearly as many items. Oatmeal, bacon, eggs, toast– that was about the limit of my breakfast menu– and he was very picky about me not burning anything! No cold cereal for him until the kids got old enough to want it, and by then he was getting up so much earlier than we were (the Air Force day starts very early) that it was no longer practical to cook every morning.

      I am thinking of adding a screen porch to the new home I’m building. Maybe not right away, but eventually. It was not an option that came with the home I chose. I grew up with a screen porch, but have not had one since, and have really missed it. We didn’t have breakfasts on the screen porch, as far as I can remember, but we did have lots of watermelon there, in the summertime, after we got out of the pool. It kept the flies away, and when it would “come up a cloud” in one of those summer thunderstorms that were so common, and we’d get a burst of rain, it was such fun being under that metal roof and hearing the sound of it without getting drenched. I was also confined to the screen porch for my attempts at oil painting, decoupage etc. since Mama didn’t want the fumes or mess in the house. We used to have ornamental gourds hanging on the brick wall on the porch, and inside one that was hollowed out, we kept our spare key. Mama and Daddy put a screen porch at the home they built when Daddy retired, and Daddy’s mother had one too. I guess screen porches are a sort of southern tradition. I bet Mrs. Vann’s porch was lovely and fit perfectly with that Bristol charm that I so loved the one time I was there, forty years ago. How cool that she called it Verandah Beach! Wonder where she got that? Hope you are having a lovely week!! ❤ ❤ ❤

      • I’ve enjoyed this comment as much as your actual post. You have so many good memories. I too have always liked the idea of a screened in porch. We don’t really need them here but in places with high humidity (and mosquitos galore) they are no doubt a lifesaver during hot, summer days. I had a wonderful breakfast with Marlene in Portland. By chance, we arrived at Bob’s Red Mill the morning of his 89th birthday. The food was delicious, the server equally charming and kind and oh yes, the four-piece jazz band playing two feet away wasn’t bad either. (If you find the time, Marlene and I both wrote about our time together earlier this week). I’m so excited to see your new place.

        • Alys, thanks so much for letting me know about your wonderful visit with Marlene. I totally enjoyed reading about it. 😀

          • Thank you, Julia. I thought you would. I hope we can get a visit along the west coast to see some sites and to connect with Marlene and Kelly.

            • So do I! 🙂

  5. Janice

    Come visit us soon and I will cook you a big breakfast.

    • Janice, that sounds wonderful! I’ll try to make it happen soon. ❤ You are such a good cook that it's an offer I can't refuse. 🙂

  6. I love a good weekend breakfast and my dad used to cook them for us kids when my mother would go to work. He never made the kind of thing most people eat. He would cook hash brown potatoes and then scramble eggs into them with some cheese. I did just that this morning with leftover hash browns from a breakfast out. It makes me think of him as well. All those little cherished memories. I never dress up a meal like I would like to but instead just end up sitting in front of the TV and eat my meals alone mostly. Maybe I can find a way to change that. 😉 You make me think about it.

    • Marlene, isn’t it cool how so many men loved to cook (and were good at it) even in the days when they weren’t expected to help out around the house? Hash browns with cheese and scrambled eggs sounds great to me. Jeff and I both used sharp cheddar cheese very liberally in most of what we cooked for any meal. I have a couple of cheesy hash brown dishes that I used to make often as a side at dinner, until the pounds started arriving for both of us, and then I cut back and just fixed them on holidays. To this day the hash brown casserole is my favorite side at Cracker Barrel (not counting the cornbread which is in a class by itself). I too almost never “dress up” my table; perhaps it’s the result of cooking for males who tend to eat very quickly. My time to put out the “good china” and crystal and sterling was confined to holidays and dinner guests. But I hope to find the time to start doing it more often in the near future, even if only occasionally. As they say, “Life itself is a special occasion.” Sending imaginary tea party hugs your way! 🙂

  7. MaryAnn Clontz

    I’m ALL IN! I’ll start with biscuits, scrambled eggs & GRITS!!! Then segue to quiche & fresh fruit! Thanks for the Virtual Verandah Special invitation! Lingering over breakfast is such a joyful treat! Love the idea~~~
    Love to you & Matt

    P.S. I sent you an email Feb. 16, 2018.

    • Mary Ann, I’m so happy you could be here for the occasion! So now that you’ve been on the Virtual Verandah for breakfast, you must have noticed my quirky habit of mixing my scrambled eggs with my grits– something I picked up when I was first away at college and eating in the cafeteria, where the impulse to improve the food was hard to resist. The older I get, though, the more the fresh fruit becomes my favorite part of breakfast. I love those nifty pineapple slicers that make it easier to cut up a fresh pineapple. However, nothing beats a good Ruby Red Texas grapefruit in my book. I totally love quiche, and I tell myself that if I get the Florentine instead of the Lorraine, the spinach makes up for the (not so healthy but wonderfully delicious) crust. Hope you are feeling well or at least OK. If you were able to enjoy breakfast, that’s a good sign. 🙂 ❤

      • Ann H Weldon

        My grandfather, a very proper Southern gentleman, always mixed his scrambled eggs and grits together! I follow his example:-)

        • Ann, I am greatly relieved to know that there are others who enjoy this! I have wondered before about whether I should try to come up with some sort of scrambled-egg-and-grits casserole, but I think part of the fun is mixing it together on the plate. It may be my imagination, but it seems that mixing them keeps it from getting cold as quickly, especially if the grits are really hot, right off the stove. Yummy, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. 🙂 Hope you have a great weekend.

  8. Good morning, Julia!
    Wow, with all the replies here, I can imagine what fun breakfast on the verandah would be all together! And I think we’d linger long enough for the crystal and China to be worth the bother. I volunteer to help clean up!
    I’m only in New England another 2 weeks on this gig (I think), and I’ve been considering “just how often” can I make breakfast at Jake’s part of my morning, before I leave? LOL
    Well, if we ever vacation here, I know several good spots, and we’d hit Jake’s for sure, although there is no crystal involved (probably a good choice, especially at the counter, which is lined with round stools, like diners of the 50s. No, not us, we might be diners, but we’re not … diners … boy … that’s a tough concept to impart, having the same spelling!).
    Have a great day!

    • Susan, I have just added you to the cleanup crew for the Bodacious Breakfast to Defeat Despair (date still to be announced). I was thinking you were leaving New England on President’s Day but I had it backwards. I was about to mail you a quick snail-mail note but I’ll wait until your back at your Minnesota digs. Breakfast at Jake’s sounds wonderful. Maybe we can make a trip to New England just for fun even if your work doesn’t take you there anytime again soon. Re: diners and diners…you might enjoy this podcast from Grammar Girl, wherein she discusses the variations between homonyms, homographs and homophones. I can remember learning about homonyms in elementary school, but I don’t remember the other two. GG also clued me in about a young Canadian boy who has come up with a new word for a concept that thus far has no name. It’s a cute and interesting story for logophiles who might want to help young Levi get his word into the dictionary.

      • Thanks for the great links!
        I vote “yes” for Levidromes!

        • So do I– but remember we have to start using it for it to “stick.” Now if I could just remember what it means…

          • Levi's Dad

            Ha! A levidrome is a word that spells another word backwards, like TOP-POT, PART-TRAP, or STRESSED-DESSERTS!

            • Wow, I am surprised and delighted to have a visit from Levi’s dad! We have quite a few word-lovers at this little corner of cyberspace, so maybe we can help to spread your son’s new word around the world. I invite all who read these comments to submit your own examples of levidromes. It’s a fun word game to play! Meanwhile– for Levi’s Dad– if you have not already done so, perhaps you can submit an edit to the Wikipedia entry on constrained writing. You could add “levidrome” to their list of terms (right under “palindrome” is where I would put it). That might get the word out to more people. Thanks for being here!

  9. Carol Hoyos

    Dear Julia, Have you never heard of the path to a healthier life? At breakfast eat like a king, at dinner eat like a prince and at supper eat like a paulper. I would guess most everyone does it backwards. xo

    • Carol, I think I had heard that before, but had forgotten it. It’s ROYALLY good advice, though! 🙂 I agree with you that most of us do it backwards. Based on my own very limited experience, I have the impression that WHEN I consume calories has more to do with weight gain than how many I consume, or even how much I exercise, within reasonable limits. I couldn’t afford to consume 3000 calories any time of day, but even 2000 will be bigger trouble if I eat them at night. Or so it seems to me. So I’ll try to keep this proverb in mind.

  10. Harry Sims

    One to remember.

    Traditional “Hunt Breakfast” in England.


    • Hi Harry, I’m not too familiar with the “Hunt Breakfast” but I quite enjoyed the “full English breakfast” we had each morning when I was in England for school last summer. The variation I most enjoyed was the sliced tomatoes. The pork and beans I’d have gladly swapped for grits, though. 🙂

      • Harry Sims

        Of course I knew you were a southern girl but you just proved it once again.

        • Harry, after growing up in Atlanta, I lived elsewhere for over 40 years now, but never lost my accent. I suppose I’m living proof that you can take the girl out of the south, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.

  11. I am so hungry! I love this post and the breakfast you have set here! Bon appettit! xo

    • Please pass me the strawberry preserves. I’m going to get another cup of tea– can I get you another croissant while I’m up? The ones I serve here online are 100% calorie-free! 🙂

      • Oh yes please! Thank you kind Julia! So nice to sit with you and chat for awhile. xo

        • My pleasure! 🙂

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