Surrounded by a dozen family members ten years ago at a local restaurant in the suburbs of Tampa, I had all the bacon I could eat, all the fluffy scrambled eggs I could pile on my plate, and a warm mattress of pancakes swimming in hot syrup calling me by my first, middle, and last name. I felt like the King of Breakfast. That particular breakfast was an answer to the annual question, one that comes with a bow on top: “Where do you want to eat for your birthday?” Oh. That. I appreciate the query. I do. When my wife, Grace, throws that fastball, I know It’s full of love and compassion and a desire to please. She zealously and joyously celebrates my birthdays like they’re her own, bless her heart.
For most of my adult life, I deflected the question out of a false sense of humility. Dinner at home is fine. Wherever you want to go is fine. Anyplace is fine. Birthdays have never been too big a deal for me, except the one where she surprised me with a trip to Manhattan.
Ten years ago, I finally gave an answer closer to my heart: I’d prefer to have breakfast.
Dinner is great. I’m a big fan. Finding a new eating place we haven’t yet visited is a crisply wrapped present all its own. I enjoy pretending every day that I’m some kind of spelunker exploring a new cranny for subterranean culinary treasure. Birthdays are no different.
But celebrating birthdays over dinner can be problematic. Including any more than four people in the exploration party frequently turns what was supposed to be a lovely gathering into a Fight Club scrum to choose a place everyone agrees upon for food and price. Next thing you know, you’re reluctantly pushing around your endless salad with endless breadsticks.
Lunch birthdays are dandy—I’ll never look a gift hoagie in the mouth—but somehow they feel a tad unspecial, like wearing someone else’s new shoes, Birthday lunches are for office celebrations where everyone born in August gets well-intentioned communal cake with the word “happy” misspelled.
I’ve discovered that birthday brekkie is the way to go for many glorious reasons. Stay with me on this.
It takes place early in the day
This solves more problems than you might expect. First, it proves who really cares about you and who is merely there out of obligation and/or the potential of someone else picking up the tab. Anyone who can get down on some flapjacks before 8 a.m. has a special capacity for grabbing the world by the daisies. The earlier in the day you can celebrate a birthday breakfast, the better. First, you feel like you've started your day with something fun and unusual. Second, IT FREES UP THE REST OF YOUR BIRTHDAY. You’re not just doing stuff before you go to BIRTHDAY DINNER, and then not having much time or energy after for cavorting and making mischief. Birthday breakfasts free up a lot of time. You could literally put away a Denver omelet at sunrise, take a nap, then fly to Denver and back, and still have time for a toast before midnight. Did you miss the nap part? It’s very important.
It encourages napping
Bomb your gullet with an assault of grits, porridge, fried potato products, and pancakes thick enough to qualify for a Sleep Number and you’re going to need to close your eyes for just a moment or two hours. Pass out after a birthday dinner and suddenly you’re a candidate for AARP. Do this after breakfast and it’s cute and snuggly and therapeutic and not the least bit self-indulgent.
There’s almost no singing
At breakfast, it is unlikely that servers will gather around your table to reluctantly—and half-heartedly—sing a marketing-based “Happy Birthday" song with lyrics customized to their establishment. It’s breakfast. No one sings at breakfast, unless it’s a gospel, jazz, or blues brunch. Then you’re dealing with professionals, which is the way all non-toddler singing should be. Having no songs is better than birthday chanteys with fill-in-the-blank sentimentality. Have you heard yourself sing lately? Really, really pitchy, dog.
Need I elaborate? No, but I shall regardless. This breakfast superstar alone is enough to joyously leap to the heavens and give thanks that you have yet again defied the odds and crossed the birthday threshold. Want to be bold? Head to a breakfast buffet, empty the steam table of bacon onto your plate, go back to your table, and plant a candle in the summit of the porky pile. People will notice and applaud. Guaranteed. Envious onlookers will whisper, “Why didn’t I think of that?" Okay, I can hear your question: Won’t enjoying that much bacon at one sitting take years off my life and, thus, reduce the number of birthdays I can celebrate over breakfast? Well, yeah, if you do it right. Duh.
You can still drink
Actually, you should. Reasons: First, you can sleep it off if you go too far over your fried potatoes. (See previous nap citation.) Second, it’s way easier to Uber at 2 p.m. than 2 a.m. Third, birthdays were built on the back of boozy indulgence. Bumping the consumption hour closer to sunrise should be no different. If you’re feeling self-conscious, sneak your way into the Day-Drinkers Club with a frilly mimosa or fizzy bellini. If your confidence is less inhibited, find a bartender who knows how to mix a proper bloody mary that is more about vodka than ridiculous mountains of vegetation and protein garnishes. When you decide you want to turn pro, jump into the friendly waters of a gin fizz. Or whisper the words “corpse reviver” and see what happens. You’ll thank me later.
You’ll save money
Whether you’re making breakfast at home or going out for a ridiculous portion of chicken and waffles—even if you’re splurging on a pinky-in-the-air brunch—you’re still going to come out ahead in the wallet, compared to the dry-aged filet and matching bottle of Cab that spent years being coddled and nursed into prime condition. Eggs, baby. That’s the ticket. You crack ‘em, cook ‘em, eat ‘em, and barely break a ten spot.
There are pancakes
Sweet baby Hayzeus in the manger, pancakes are divine and serve perfectly as an alternative birthday pastry for culinary iconoclasts. Pancakes are like a goose-down comforter for your soul. One bite and you’re suddenly six years old and smiling like you just stole a handful of candy. If you’re too shy about turning your flapjack stack into a birthday cake in public, make your own at home using cake batter instead. Apply a dollop of sweetened cream, make it rain with sprinkles, light a prank candle you can’t blow out, and forget all about those fondant monstrosities you celebrated with during years past.
Breakfast is fun
Breakfast joints are the final culinary home (we’re looking past you for the moment, dive bars) for humor, irony, playfulness and personality. Take a place like 2 Minutes in Zephyrhills, FL. The owner, Kurt Sombutmaillc has two passions: John Wayne and the Cleveland Indians. Every inch of wall space inside the tiny diner is a makeshift monument to The Duke and The Tribe. Kurt stands behind his cash register most mornings, wearing a hat and a broad smile and invites you to enter this unique breakfast lilypad in the middle of nowhere. Breakfast apostles come by the dozens. And if there’s a table with an open chair, you sit with whomever is at that table and make polite chit-chat until you become best friends for life. If that’s not worth celebrating on your special day, maybe you just need another strip of bacon until life becomes a little clearer.
Jeff Houck is a food writer and marketing and public relations manager from Tampa, FL.