Appalachian Food

Cereal for Breakfast

pan of biscuits fresh from oven

“The most common foods to be found on the breakfast tables in the mountains were eggs, bacon, side meat or ham, hot biscuits, cream gravy, jelly and preserves. Sometimes there would be a side dish of oatmeal or boiled sweetened rice. We never ate dry cereals for breakfast, or sat down to only a dish of oatmeal and toast.

In 1960 my first husband and I moved to Indianapolis so he could get a better paying job. This was the first time I had ever lived away from the mountains and it was scary, exciting, exhausting. For the first time I had a job away from home and came home at night an hour after Leon and our son, Wayne, got home. The life-style was so different it was hard to acquire the confidence necessary to cross busy streets, ride city buses, shop in supermarkets which covered an area an large as my vegetable garden back home, and do business with large city banks.

I decide we would live like city people. The first morning I served a bowl of dry cereal and toast for breakfast Leon demanded how I thought a man could live on a breakfast like that. He worked hard in the paper mill and needed a hearty breakfast to last until lunch time. I fixed him a couple of eggs but insisted there was no time to bake biscuits because I had to be at work by eight o’clock. Gradually we learned to adjust, but never completely. We were homesick for the hills and went home every weekend we could manage it.

My mother cooked oatmeal, rice and cornmeal mush for us sometimes. The list of breakfast foods is not long because there was not much variety in the foods we ate. Eggs, churned butter, cream gravy, and hot biscuits or corn bread were as certain to be on the table as the sun was certain to rise on a clear day. If any variety existed it was in the servings of fruit, jams and jellies, or oatmeal, rice, and cooked cereals. “

—Sidney Saylor Farr – “More than Moonshine”

Like Farr, we don’t have time for a hearty breakfast each day before we all head to work. We do try to eat a big breakfast on the weekends.

Unlike Farr, I did grow up eating cold cereal along with oatmeal and grits. For most of my life I had a low appetite and if I couldn’t think of exactly what I wanted to eat then I’d rather not eat anything. Cereal was always my go to thing—even if I couldn’t think of something to eat I could always eat a bowl of cereal to keep going.

These days my appetite is the best its ever been and I don’t even eat cereal anymore. I do still love oatmeal and grits.

Are you a big breakfast eater?


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  • Reply
    Wendy Paige
    March 24, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    I grew up in Indianapolis, and my mother was NOT a cook. Every morning she would make hot cocoa, and that was our breakfast. In spite of lousy nutrition, all four of us excelled in school.

    My kids weren’t really interested in a hot breakfast when they were growing up so they ate cereal, sometimes doughnuts from Entemenn’s. Because my mother didn’t cook, I was hesitant about cooking.

    Now that I’m retired, everything I make is from scratch. I wish I knew when my children were at home what I know now. I have to give a lot of credit to several shows on the Food Network that empowered me to cook from scratch.

    I love to go out for breakfast; would rather go out for breakfast more than any other meal. I love biscuits and gravy, sometimes with scrambled eggs on the side. I can take or leave meat.

    Since the pandemic, we haven’t been out to breakfast at all. My husband and I are retired so we get up and we eat at different times during the day until dinner, when we have a nice meal: a meat, a side, and a salad usually.

  • Reply
    Ruth cook
    February 25, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    we always had a good hearty breakfast,
    we enjoyed bacon and eggs and crispy hash browns and gravy and watermelon and oeaches what we enjoyed.

    we love good food. my husband being from alabama we always had great hearty meals and sweet tea.
    my roots are from kentucky and love good foods and cornbread not corn cake every thing is home made.
    I enjoy reading from yooour pages also your readers writing in.
    God Bless.
    Keep up the recopes and I did miss out on your biscuit recipe.

  • Reply
    Jonathan Blakeslee
    February 23, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    I enjoy Pie ,Cake ,cookies and milk for breakfast. Eggs, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, fruit are also good if there is time. I do not like cold cereal, or oatmeal but if that’s all there is, I will eat . Oh yes I forgot forgot fried potatoes and hash browns. Yes I like breakfast. Also good for lunch and or supper. Thank you for sharing life with all of us. Kind of like getting a letter from home everyday.

  • Reply
    Becky Burnett Nunnaley
    February 23, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    I grew up eating the traditional Appalachian breakfasts everyone has mentioned, with one very occasional memorable difference, probably my favorite. We always picked gallons of blackberries every summer, burning up in long sleeved shirts and long pants to protect us from the briars and chiggers, and watching for rattlesnakes in the weeds. But it was worth it to have a bowl of sweetened, thickened blackberries with a good pat of home churned butter on top and a hot biscuit on the side. It was almost like having blackberry cobbler for breakfast.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 23, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    My grandpa always ate a big bowl of oats–they were in an actual serving bowl and he put salt and pepper on them. He also ate eggs and some kind of breakfast meat and biscuits–every day. Strangely I don’t remember them having gravy but I’m sure they did. I remember her making salmon patties for breakfast & we all just gobbled them up. Granny got deaf as she got older and my baby brother tells a funny story about her cooking his eggs–she kept thinking he was saying he wanted a hard egg & he kept telling her he wanted a soft egg. I don’t know how that worked out!

    As a child I was a skinny picky eater and ate very little at any meal. I don’t remember us having boxed cereal or even oats much. We did sometimes have rice with sugar & milk. Mama generally cooked every morning or eventually midmorning as she got older. Biscuits & gravy, eggs, and meat of some kind if we had any. Fatback was a staple for us & I like it now but it’s very hard to find around here. I need to find someone with a fat pig!!

    We all love a big breakfast. I used to cook a huge breakfast on Sunday midmorning. My husband’s mother & dad lived next door to us and sometimes he would skip church & sneak over here to join us–He liked that I had sliced tomatoes whenever I had any. I especially love gravy and would probably have it for every meal. We occasionally eat cereal but usually not for breakfast–for a snack at night sometimes.

    • Reply
      February 23, 2021 at 4:47 pm

      Wanda, if you happen to live in Anderson or Greenville county, SC , I can tell you where you can get fresh sausage, tenderloin, ham hocks, hog heads, and other cuts of pork . The hogs are butchered on Monday, sausage made on Tuesday, and you can buy on Wednesday. Fatback and other cuts that have been cured are available all week. Grocery store sausage, fatback and other cuts of pork are not in the same ballpark with his meat.

      • Reply
        Deborah Patterson
        February 28, 2021 at 11:25 am

        Where do you these items?

        • Reply
          March 16, 2021 at 2:18 pm

          Deborah-here’s the info from Randy: Gambrell’s Meat Market
          108 Billy Gambrell Road
          Honea Path, SC 29654

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 11:37 am

    My husband does the cooking and we always have a hearty breakfast. Before I retired, I swore I could teach all day on sausage gravy and biscuits. When Mama was alive, and if she spent the night at our house, my husband fixed scrambled eggs, bacon, and biscuits for breakfast because Mama liked scrambled eggs. She called it a working man’s breakfast. I can’t skip breakfast.

  • Reply
    Patricia Price
    February 23, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Tipper, I tried your biscuit recipe using self-rising flour and heavy whipping cream, and I am now a True Believer! I have passed the recipe on to my sister. Love not having to fool with mashing up shortening… Our people were farmers, but we grew up away. We were cereal eaters or maybe peanut butter on toast. Now retired, I fix myself those breakfasts that our farmers ate to have the strength to raise crops and farm animals.

  • Reply
    Rosamary Christiansen
    February 23, 2021 at 11:10 am

    I grew up in a divided breakfast camp. Mom would have cereal, skim milk, and decaf coffee.
    Dad made bacon, fried eggs, toast with butter, and regular coffee boiled until it was strong enough to raise a blood blister on a rawhide boot. I plod along until I grind to a halt in a couple hours wirh cereal. Dad’s breakfasts kept me going strong all day. When I got married and became a nurse, dad always had bacon ready for me to grab when I dropped off the children each morning. What a blessing!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    February 23, 2021 at 10:40 am

    In my early days as a cook and baker in the Navy, I got out of the habit of eating breakfast. We rose early and prepared breakfast for the crew. Many hours passed before there was a chance to eat. Like Ed, I never eat breakfast. Just three or four cups of coffee,

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 10:18 am

    If I’m having cereal I prefer oatmeal with fruit mixed in or on the side. (blueberries, grapes, peaches, banana, etc) Biscuit and gravy with bacon or ham or a couple of eggs is preferable.

    When our daughter was in elementary school her teacher commented that she came to class ready to learn while many other children didn’t perk up until after lunch. I said, ” See what they have for a snack before bed, what they have for breakfast and what time they go to bed.” Our daughter had proteins and got 9 hours of sleep. Many of her classmates had sugary cereal or pop tarts and 6 hours of sleep. Breakfast makes a big difference.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    February 23, 2021 at 10:06 am

    I like breakfast a lot, but my husband could eat breakfast three meals a day. For his birthday every year, I make breakfast for supper: deer tenderloin and cream gravy, biscuits, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, baked apples. There is seldom much left and it never lasts past the second day! I love pancakes, especially for supper, and I love real grits smothered in lots of butter.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 9:29 am

    hubby grew up in the “city” if you want to call it that…I grew up in the country…he’s happy with a bowl of cereal, he swears it makes him sick to eat a “big breakfast”…not me…i gotta have some sorta meat ie bacon, ham, sausage, deer meat, etc and eggs with some taters either hashed or fried.. i never liked gravy although ironically he likes gravy but he likes it with light bread…biscuits are a hit and miss…sometimes i want them but usually its just meat eggs and taters…I find it interesting that people outside the region don’t eat sugared rice…i was all growed up before i figured out that rice was eaten other ways than sugared

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 9:13 am

    My girls went to school many mornings with a bowl of Fruity or Cocoa Pebbles in their belly because that is what they wanted. I had time to cook in the morning and tried the bacon and eggs breakfast for a change only to end up eating it myself. Shoney’s used to serve the best breakfast bar a long time before Covid and a long time before I stopped eating at self-serve restaurants.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 23, 2021 at 9:07 am

    I don’t ever eat breakfast. I worked 3rd shift for 25 years. We has a break for a meal at 3am and I ate a sandwich or something then. After I finally got on 1st, if I ate breakfast, I would be sick all day so I only drank coffee. I still follow that regimen. I have coffee in the morning and a meal at night. Nothing in between unless it’s water.
    I do like foods that are most often associated with breakfast but never at breakfast time. Last night I had cornmeal gravy over fried eggs. Yup I tried your cornmeal gravy and loved it!

  • Reply
    Barbara Inmon
    February 23, 2021 at 9:00 am

    Where do you buy your yeast for your rolls
    I would love to fine yeast like we use to get 50 years ago

    • Reply
      February 23, 2021 at 9:17 am

      Barbara-I used yeast from the grocery store-either Fleischmanns or Red Star so it’s probably not the type you’re looking for.

    • Reply
      February 24, 2021 at 6:10 am

      Barbara, Are you looking for cake yeast? If so, I order mine from the interwebs.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 23, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Growing up, we didn’t eat cereal. It wouldn’t last. By 10 o’clock it would be as if you never ate breakfast. If you have physical work to do, cereal is not real food, in my opinion. I had some this morning, a rare event. But I don’t ‘chuck wood’ or do much physical work of any kind anymore; just mowing, raking, garden turning, dibs and dabs like that.

    I was in the grocery store awhile back and I was amazed at how much shelf space was taken up by ready-to-eat or nearly-ready to eat stuff. I’m guessing the raw foods and un-processed food such as produce and whole grain use less than 20% of the floor or shelf space. Not saying that is necessarily bad, but it makes me think. Nowadays you can pick where you want to be on the line from raw food to set-in-front-of-you-already done and they are kinda all running together into each other with carryout, home delivery, Blue Apron, etc.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    February 23, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Love a big breakfast. Anything, even a little piece of “fatback,” tastes better than a cold bowl of cereal.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 8:31 am

    I have commonly heard folks say they don’t like cereal for breakfast, but eat it as a snack at night. Old habits die hard, and I still cannot eat cereal for breakfast. Even through my working years I had to run through McDonald’s to grab a biscuit, or sometimes throw bacon in the pan to cook while I got ready. Dad was a farm boy, and he loved oatmeal and really liked the change to cornflakes. I would never eat it. I love the expression my sis’s Mother in law used to use, as she called our kind of cooking “rough grub.” We had a horrible deep snow one time, and a couple of us that could not get home had to stay with a coworker. To our surprise her husband had a big pan of gravy and some biscuits ready when we woke up.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 8:20 am

    I grew up during the 50’s and 60’s. My father, grandfather and all of my neighbors worked blue collar jobs that required manual labor, they did not sit behind a desk. They could not do the work they had to do if all they had was a bowl of cereal or some dry toast. We always ate some of these things every morning before going to school, or daddy going to work, eggs, grits, homemade biscuits , our own hog ham, sausage, fatback and gravy ( my favorite) along with homemade jelly or preserves. Another reason for eating like this was everything but the grits, flour, and milk was grew or made at home, cereal cost money we didn’t have. Mother and daddy would get up early enough to have time to work together and fix a breakfast like this. I very seldom eat cereal or toast even now, I’m fixing to go eat some grits and fresh sausage now and make the heart doctor or undertaker happy!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 23, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Most of my life I didn’t eat breakfast. I just didn’t want food in the morning. Later when I did eat breakfast it was not really breakfast food that I ate, maybe some fruit. Now I eat a oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter while I’m reading the Blind Pig and the Acorn!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 7:06 am

    Grits are a favorite of mine. I acquired at taste for them while working at jobsites in South Carolina and Georgia. But I don’t order them in restaurants here in East TN, they’re always too thin and running.

    • Reply
      Gene Smith
      February 23, 2021 at 10:06 am

      I’m a grits guy. Always have been. A friend and I asked for grits in a restaurant in Mountain Home, Arkansas, and learned that they don’t serve grits there. That surprised me. In all other respects, Arkansas seemed Southern to me.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2021 at 6:40 am

    I’m a big food eater.
    I enjoy breakfast and often eat it for supper. Dippy eggs, bacon, link sausage in real casings, with toast is my go-to fare. I make cornmeal mush often and milk soup on occasion.
    As a child of the ’70s, I liked those colorful and sugary cereals, oh, and cocoa wheats. I still eat a bowl or two of cereal for supper now and again.

    Several years ago I was browsing the cereal section when a two-generation older gentleman stood next to me, looking at the long aisle of cereal he said, “Cereal is nothing more than dog food for humans”. We shared a good laugh even though he was quite serious. I stopped eating cereal for a while and often repeat those words when I’m throwing a box in the buggy.

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