All-day breakfast is a half-baked idea

A McDonald's in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, advertises the company’s new all-day breakfast offering.
A McDonald's in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, advertises the company’s new all-day breakfast offering. AP

McDonald’s, the purveyor of fine calories, recently introduced with much fanfare an all-day breakfast menu – and now people can become obese at all hours. You don’t have to be lovin' it.

If you are like me and fear a Big Mac attack on social custom and the national waistline, join me in registering an objection. Although we are powerless in the face of social trends driven by commerce, sometimes a voice must be raised in the wilderness, even if only to say, “Wait! It’s not breakfast time yet!”

McDonald’s is not alone in serving all-day breakfasts. Some other restaurants have done it for years. But a chain with the slogan “5 Billion Chubby People Served” – I think that’s it – has to be taken more seriously than most. Besides, that Ronald McDonald is a bit of a clown and deserves at least a nonfat cream pie in the cake-hole area.

Of course, when and where people want to eat breakfast is their choice in the land of the free and the home of the bacon. I am not suggesting we call the Food Police. (There’s no point anyway – they are on their break eating doughnuts.)

Some people have an excuse for untimely breakfasts – for example, hookers and newspaper employees. They often come home in the middle of the night and wake up late. (I am not implying other parallels between the two because, obviously, hookers are better paid.) Such workers may crave a hearty breakfast in the afternoon.

But most of us should think twice before departing from long-established social practices. This is not just about breakfast at all hours. (For the record, I am also against cereal being served for dinner, unless you happen to be a horse.)

No, my concern is about an ancient wisdom that we have forgotten in all manner of things. My reading today is taken from Ecclesiastes 3:1: “To every thing there is a season / and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

You may not think this applies, but every single day has its seasons. Spring starts in the morning when we spring from our beds like startled gazelles (in theory); summer comes in the middle of the day when the sun never seems to set on office meetings; autumn arrives in the late afternoon when we fall out of our chairs with tedium; and then winter sets upon us with the darkness and the bleak evening news. Actually, every single life has its seasons, but don’t get me started before breakfast.

As to purposes, Ecclesiastes lists various ones. True, breakfast is not specifically mentioned, but the ancient writers couldn’t be expected to list everything under heaven – the whole Bible would read like a shopping list.

Certainly, breakfast has a purpose. Its purpose is to fortify us with energy at the start of the day and to make sure our stomachs don’t growl loudly while the boss is giving a presentation. There is a time for breakfast – in most motels and the better nursing homes, it runs from about 7 to 9:30 a.m. I would further argue this time is certainly under heaven if pancakes are involved.

If Ecclesiastes is interpreted with the proper elasticity, the message is clear: We should leave breakfast to the time when we break our fasts, not the time a craving for fat foods comes upon us, which is all the time.

This principle applies strongly in two other areas of life – politics and sports. Politics has nominal seasons, but in truth politics is an all-day, all-night buffet, all year. Here we are in the midst of presidential election campaigns – the midst, mind you, being more than a year away from Election Day. No wonder everyone is dyspeptic with a hardening of the political arteries.

Sports is no better. Again, seasons exist for different sports, but they overlap and grow longer. No one really stops talking about them or watching them. I watched a baseball playoff game the other night. One guy was wearing a mask to ward off the cold and he wasn’t the catcher. I couldn’t tell if he was an Inuit player or the Abominable Shortstop.

Actually, if breakfast becomes all day for everyone, Americans will become too rotund to play baseball. McDonald’s is playing its part. Every time someone at lunchtime chooses a big breakfast with hotcakes (1,050 calories) or a bacon, egg and cheese bagel (580 calories), a salad dies of loneliness and neglect.

Food for thought.

Reg Henry is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist. Readers may email him at rhenry@post-gazette.com.