If Gilmore Girls makes you crave Chinese take-out and Mad Men makes you want a stiff drink, Parks and Recreation will make you desperate for a waffle with whipped cream, served with bacon, coffee, and a heaping plateful of scrambled eggs. Parks and Rec is the ultimate breakfast show, and the evidence is overwhelming. From Leslie and gang fighting to save their beloved J.J’s Diner, to April and Andy eating turkey chili out of a Frisbee for breakfast because they can’t be bothered to buy plates, to Leslie’s sweet moment with Ben when she says, “It’s so nice to be able to sit here in public and have breakfast with you,” the first meal of the day is a cornerstone of the Parks and Rec world.
I’ve listed every breakfast food enjoyed on the show, as well as analyzed its relative importance—on character development, plot, and relationships.
Bacon makes an appearance on this show every time Ron Swanson orders food from J.J.’s Diner (or, rarely, another establishment in Pawnee.) Bacon defines Ron every bit as much as woodworking and his distaste for the government. When a grocery store offers him a vegan bacon sample, in an effort to save the world from fake meat, he accepts it and immediately discards it into the garbage, then proclaims: “Another.”
Ron also enjoys his bacon when Leslie gives him a plateful to enjoy on his birthday… in a room. All alone. The American Dream, Ron Swanson-style.
This breakfast staple makes a prominent appearance four times in the show. Andy eats it (and likes to read the boxes) when he lives with Ann. April likes to eat it at work. Then, when Andy and April are married, they both eat it together. Full circle!
I stopped counting how many times coffee appeared in this show once I hit 75 (although, in retrospect, I probably should have stopped sooner.) Because it uses a workplace setting, coffee is in *Chris Traeger voice* lit-rally every other scene. It makes a spot on this list both for its prevalence and for its significance on the show. It illuminates each character’s personality: for example, Leslie drinks hers with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, Tom prefers espresso, and Donna likes hers like she likes her men… “dark, rich, and full-bodied.”
Bonus points for its role in bringing April and Andy together. When Andy tackles a possum like the heroic shoe-shiner he is, he tells the newspaper: “I wouldn’t be able to do it without an early-morning caffeine boost from the amazing April Ludgate. She gave me the liquid courage I needed to tackle that beast to the ground.”
Donuts appear on this show twice. The first time, Ron brings them into the office and brings an extra box (one box was for him.) The second time, Ben gives Leslie an L-shaped éclair, convincing her that she couldn’t break up with him.
Eggs, or as Tom would say, “pre-birds or future-birds,” are secondary only to waffles and coffee on this show.
Ron tends to pair them with bacon. His diner orders range from: “I’m gonna get 12 eggs and part of a dead animal,” to possibly the best Parks and Rec line of all time: “Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait, wait. I’m worried what you just heard was, ‘Give me a lot of bacon and eggs.’ What I said was, ‘Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.’ Do you understand?”
Eggs also make a statement in the horrific suburban Gergich family sing-along that Leslie is subjected to, “Start your day the Gergich way with eggs, bacon, and toast!”
It is also notable that Ron has a poster in his office of eggs, bacon, and toast. Originally, he has a framed picture of a woman with eggs, bacon, and toast, but he is forced to replace it once he escapes the clutches of his second ex-wife, Tammy.
Frittatas make a notable appearance at the first ever Galentine’s brunch. Leslie believes Galentine’s Day is all about “kicking it breakfast-style, ladies celebrating ladies.”
Oddly enough, Tom is the character who is caught eating fruit. He oftentimes entertains an apple at the office, and at one point peels a banana for an office visitor for a tip. April and Andy play catch with fruit while waiting for Leslie, revealing that both of them played baseball or softball growing up, so add it to the list of breakfast foods responsible for the cutest relationship of all time.
Andy asks Ann for a glass of milk when his cast is still on, and Garry/Jerry/Larry drinks it in the office (because of course he does).
Oatmeal and berries
Ann orders oatmeal with berries for breakfast, which is just such an Ann order. On-brand.
While not as symbolic as waffles, pancakes do have some impact on this show. When Leslie first meets Ann, Ann makes them for boyfriend Andy and for Leslie, both of whom have fallen victim to the giant hole.
In season 7, Tom proposes to his girlfriend with pancakes—which is what they ate on their first impromptu date.
No one drinks any quality smoothies on this show, but Chris does force-feed Ben an herb smoothie when he’s feeling depressed.
It takes a keen eye to notice that sometimes Leslie prefers tea over coffee, which should come as no surprise, as she cannot handle her coffee without copious amounts of sugar.
Chris orders “dry toast and half a grapefruit” at a restaurant, which is conceivably the worst breakfast order I have ever heard.
Let’s all reminisce about when Andy lived in a pit amongst the rats, and ate vegetables from the park’s community garden to live.
When you think Parks and Recreation, “waffles” comes to mind immediately after “Leslie Knope” and before “comedy.” Leslie believes in waffles as much as she believes in equality (her stripper name of choice), especially with whipped cream.
J.J. tells Leslie that she is his favorite customer because she spent $1,000 last year on “waffles alone.” She throws her Eagleton nemesis onto a pile of garbage, wrestling her to the ground when she threatens to feed a waffle to a dog for a laxative. When Leslie orders “the usual” at JJ’s, Marta brings her waffles with whipped cream. For Ann’s first day at the Parks Department, Leslie schedules a “waffle explosion” at 10 a.m. When Leslie announces she is running for city council, the entire office eats take-out waffles out of plastic tins. When Ben tells Leslie he got her an engagement present, she guesses a waffle tower.
Ann tells Leslie she is moving to Michigan by force-feeding her waffles. And, perhaps most iconically, Leslie eats Madeline Albright’s waffle off her plate when they meet because she is stressed. That’s right, Leslie values waffles above Madeline Albright, her feminist government heroine. One of her most iconic quotes is: “Friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, and work… it doesn’t matter. But work is last.”
Tom enjoys the occasional yogurt at lunch—twice, to be precise.
It’s not solely the breakfast food consumed on the show that makes it such an iconic breakfast show—it’s how breakfast is heralded, how it is appreciated by its characters. By her own ranking, Leslie loves waffles more than (possibly) her friends, and certainly more than her beloved career. Tom proposes to his girlfriend using pancakes, Ron uses breakfast as wall-art, Gerry/Larry has a breakfast song, and breakfast plays an enormous role in Ron and Leslie’s friendship.
Ron promises Leslie that they will stay friends over breakfast at the diner, and he tells her that she’s welcome to his job once he moves on. Over the course of the show, their bond over breakfast remains one the main pillars of their relationship. When Leslie accidentally stands Ron up at the diner, it becomes a major, and heartbreaking, plot point.
Still, their most memorable breakfast together comes early on. When Leslie sits across from Ron at J.J.’s Diner, fork in her mouth, elbow propped on the sticky table, she poses: “Why do people eat anything beside breakfast food?”
“People are idiots, Leslie,” Ron answers. She smiles, mouth full of whipped cream, and nods.