Sunday Morning Ritual

Sunday morning breakfast at the golf club in the Village of Appleton along the meandering Mississippi River has become a stock performance of ours. Like most ingrained habits it is a combination of convenience and reliability. Historically we have perched ourselves on high chairs at elevated tables in the dining room overlooking the first tee. This year during the pandemic we’re obliged to dine al fresco on the patio. The young sylphlike summer-student servers wear face masks and practice social distancing as well as regularly using disinfectants. In spite of the dystopian medical precautions the substantive culinary and social experience is predominantly unchanged. The usual people congregate at the trough. The geese and their goslings waddle about on the fairway above the marsh reeds adjacent the River.

One thing which has changed is my choice from the menu.  Normally I was content to indulge my incomparable protein diet; namely, three eggs “over easy“, two orders of crisp bacon, two orders of sausage, cheddar cheese wedges and tomato slices. Today – for the second time in as many weeks – I ordered a reprise of what Chef Wendy MacDonald calls “Mediterranean Benedict” – a sufficiently healthful production which I feel justified to contaminate with my personal additions of protein, fibre and carbohydrates. It is no doubt a trait of progressive aging that I am developing a more refined appetite – or at least what I could label a “balanced” portion. Decades ago I persuaded myself that Dr. Atkins knew what he was doing. Open-heart surgery subsequently quelled that particular conviction but I have nonetheless been slow to adopt a replacement.

In an interview recorded in the “Talk of the Town” column of The New Yorker in 1942, the year before his death, Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, said that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 and, hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover, ordered “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a hooker of hollandaise”. Oscar Tschirky, the maître d’hôtel, was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus but substituted ham for the bacon and a toasted English muffin for the toast.

The sequel to breakfast is normally a 10 km tootle on my Electra bicycle along the erstwhile railway right-of-way. I wasn’t up to the challenge this morning. I argued that a “break” would do me some good. Customarily I am correct in this precaution. It still irks me to narrow the day’s adventure with such seeming delinquency.