Elizabeth Watson

There are two types of students at Yale: the ones who eat breakfast and the ones who don’t. The former meets their body’s natural need for a morning dose of glucose, while priming themselves well for a busy day. The latter stumbles out of bed in a hurried and hypoglycemic state. Their stomachs grumble through lecture, ready to devour their computer keyboard. They live their days at Yale never completely full. This troubled demographic needs a savior: they need breakfast.

The most frequent arguments I hear from non-breakfast eaters are 1) they can’t wake up in time and 2) there’s nothing to wake up for. But I don’t go for a culinary experience — in fact, I don’t think most breakfast eaters do. Rather, simply put, I go to start my day with peace. 

I usually amble to my residential college dining hall at around 8:30 a.m., when Cross Campus is still quiet with the exception of middle-aged dog walkers and squirrels getting their fill from the trash. As I tap my ID, I can expect a vibrant “Good Morning!” from behind the dish drop off area. The dining hall workers are slowly prepping the day’s entrees while chatting over the morning radio show.

The blueprint of the breakfast servery is forever etched into my heart. The milks, juices and cereal pull-down machine on the left side of the entrance, across from the yogurts, teas and coffee. Mountains of the same pastry sit at the throne of the main counter as the ghost of pizza, steel cut oatmeal in place of soups and fresh-cut fruit hidden in the corner. The twin waffle machines sound their magnificent three beep-beep-beeps, over and over announcing their place. I move around this space like a cook in her kitchen.

I cannot argue against the monotony of breakfast, or American breakfast as a whole. Melon slices are more stable than most of my relationships at Yale, and I still struggle to decipher the cream cheese from the yogurt. But I’ve come to appreciate the predictability of cold breakfast in the Berkeley dining hall. At the start of the day, I’m more preoccupied with the classes and events ahead that I don’t want to expend more brain cells debating what to eat. In a world where we are inundated by choices, it’s relieving to enter the dining hall knowing that it’ll either be a cereal, yogurt or oatmeal day. 

That’s not to say there are no culinary gems. Rich greek yogurt topped with Yale Granola, drizzled with honey and sprinkled over with the half-thawed blueberries? Looks like a breakfast out of a health food blog. Slightly-burnt waffle topped with the syrupy strawberries and coconut yogurt to fill the void of whipped cream? Bye bye, $10 Belgian Waffle from Maison Mathis. And the pastries … cinnamon crumbles anchored by a cakey blueberry muffin? Dessert for breakfast needs no explaining. 

With my breakfast in tow, I head to the back of the dining hall. For once, it’s quiet inside. Sunlight takes up more space in this room than noise, pouring through the slim vertical windows, illuminating dust suspended in the air, and casting golden prisms onto the table. No longer shoveling food down quickly before class or being deeply entranced by conversation, I can tune into my environment. I start to appreciate the magnificence of this space. My eyes have traced the curled black veins ornamenting the gothic windows. I have scrutinized the paintings of past Heads of College — their clothes, their body language, and their wives. I have counted every taxidermied animal head, which I certainly hope are fake. At breakfast, I find myself marveling at the beauty and the quirks of the building like a high schooler on a campus tour. I’m getting breakfast with this building.

It’s not just about discovering the space, but also about searching deep within yourself. To me, eating breakfast is an act of reclamation — of our bodies and time. Not every waking moment of the day must be channeled to produce something, to perform for others, to improve yourself. So be intermittent fasting. So be the last pages of that reading I didn’t finish. So be the endless Yale Hamster Wheel™ that will enslave us to our work unless we carve out time for ourselves. For once, Yale is mine.