Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 22, 2021

My grandpa’s breakfast table, then and now

By GABRIEL LESSER | September 27, 2021

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COURTESY OF GABRIEL LESSER

Lesser reflects on the role his grandfather’s breakfast traditions have played in his life.

Sitting at my grandparents’ breakfast table as a little kid, I once had the brilliant idea of taking one of the die from a board game and stuffing it up my ear. When I tried to take the die out, I counterintuitively pushed it farther and farther into my ear canal. Worried but embarrassed, I hesitated to tell anyone about what I had done, until my parents finally noticed hours later. 

Luckily, my grandpa is an ear, nose and throat doctor so, at the end of the day, we went over to his clinic and, in a matter of seconds, he was able to magically get the die out with a special serum. I was fascinated by how quick the process was and I felt instant relief.

Growing up, I constantly replayed this story in my head, mainly so that I would remember to never repeat my foolish mistake, but also to look back at all my memories spent at my grandparents’ breakfast table.

When I think of morning people and breakfast, my grandpa is always the first person that comes to mind. He wakes up every day bright and early, goes through a meticulous morning routine and then sits at the dining room table to read the newspaper and, more recently, to check his WhatsApp messages as well. He also makes a series of phone calls, starting with calls to the pharmacy, then to the supermarket and, lastly, to friends.

For him, mornings are a time to be efficient, and the most important part is always breakfast. Each morning, he decks out the table with various different types of cheeses, breads and cold cuts. He eats half a papaya, assembles his breakfast sandwich of the day and then drinks café com leite with a few drops of liquid stevia, out of a mug that says “We love our vovô Zig.”

My mom used to say that when she was little, he would go to the bakery every morning to pick up fresh bread to make her sandwiches for school. Eventually, her sandwiches became so popular among her friends at school that my grandpa started to make two a day, one for her to eat and one for all of her friends to split.

My grandpa just turned 90 this past week, and it’s amazing to see how he has continued to value his breakfast routine all these years. 

I remember being 5 years old and marveling at the intricacies of my grandpa’s breakfast table. I was always especially excited because my grandpa would separate specific kid-friendly items for me and my sister to enjoy at breakfast. Since my sister and I were too young to have full loaves of fresh bread, my grandpa would get us Bisnaguinhas, mini bread rolls, which we’d fill with requeijão, Brazilian cream cheese. He’d also always stock up on Toddynho, a boxed chocolate milk, and to this day, he still continues to buy extra Toddynho whenever we come to visit. 

While I have now graduated from Bisnaguinha and Toddynho, I still savor the experience of sitting down with my grandparents for breakfast. We all have different routines; while my grandpa is still an early riser, my grandma now likes to sleep in and enjoy her breakfast at noon. And, personally, in my day-to-day schedule at school, I often find myself rushing out in the morning, usually prioritizing five extra minutes of sleep over any form of breakfast.

Yet, when I visit my grandparents, I’m in a safe haven, one where I am required to pause, unwind and enjoy a nice breakfast before starting any other activity of the day. In fact, this past summer, despite having an online physics exam early in the morning, I still sat down with my grandpa and enjoyed a nice breakfast in the minutes leading up to the test.

While sitting at the breakfast table with my grandparents may seem mundane to some, it is one of my most cherished memories, a constant in my life that has followed me throughout my childhood and adolescence. 

If I’ve learned anything from my grandpa, it’s the importance of making time both for yourself and for your loved ones. Sit down, enjoy a nice breakfast and call the people you love. Parabéns vovô!

Gabriel Lesser is a sophomore from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. He is a Social Media Manager for The News-Letter. His column explores his memories along with his current reflections and the lessons that he has learned.

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