Navigating Mexico: The Most Important Meal of the Day

Photo: Google


So is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

According to most mothers, yes.

And it may be the most delicious too.

In particular, Mexican breakfasts, outside of remote villages, can be the best combination of European, U.S. and traditional Mexican cuisines, and you can make them work for your mood.

In general, Mexican breakfasts are delicious and plentiful. Fresh pastries and breads, tamales, chilaquiles, any form of eggs, several types of coffee and many options for fresh juices.

Mexico knows how to do breakfast.

In Mexico, if you are at a restaurant, you are almost always going to get your coffee or tea before the breakfast.

Usually, when your waiter or waitress comes over to take your order, they have a pot of hot Java in hand and offer to fill your cup.

And then there is the ever-expanding list of options, from fresh sliced fruit and home-squeezed juices to an enticing array of egg- and tortilla-based delights.

And there are always delightful accompaniments, like fried beans with shredded cheese or tamales.

The function of breakfast in Mexico has changed over time.

Just 50 years ago, Mexico was a majority agrarian-rural society. Machines were not common to cultivate and harvest the fields, so people did that job, including the kids.

At that time, there were actually two breakfasts, or desayunos. The first was known as the primer desayano, or merienda, and the second as the actual breakfast.

The pattern in Mexico for many of those years, since the temperature got so hot by midday, was to get up before sunup, drink something hot to warm up — like café de olla or a thick-consistency porridge-like atole (sweetened corn-flour broth), with a piece of leftover bread — and then it’s off to the fields.

After a few hours, those working the fields would take a break at midmorning and have what was considered the actual breakfast, prepared in the house and brought to the fields, wrapped in cloth to keep it somewhat warm and at least clean.

That meal usually consisted of leftovers from the previous day’s main meal, to be eaten without utensils, some mole gathered into a tortilla or a tamale.

From there, those enrolled in school might leave the field to make it to class, and the adults would keep working for a few more hours.

At midday or when the sun became unbearable, the adults would head back from the fields and clean up while the kids were already dismissed from school, so everyone could sit down to the main meal of the day, dependent on regional standards.

Often, a siesta was warranted after the main meal, as everyone had already done a good deal of manual labor.

My very unscientific and non-sociological guess as to why Mexican breakfasts are so rich in variety in current times is the agglomeration of this first and second breakfasts, all in one, with the addition of U.S.-style breakfasts of pancakes and waffles, picked up by returning migrants who worked in the United States, introducing them into some regions of Mexico.

The end result is a plethora of options for a full Mexican breakfast.

Bon appétit!

Leave a Reply