The Breakfast(less) Club

breakfast club
Nope, not this kind of Breakfast Club

Recently, while flipping through my athletic club’s newsletter I found what I thought would be an exciting addition to the GX schedule, Breakfast Club. Alright, I exclaimed to myself, now we’re talking! All this Pilates, Step, and Indoor Cycling shit at my club was getting me down. Now we have something I can really get into! (Oh, by the way, for any of you exercise squares out there, “GX” is the hip way to say Group Exercise. You’re welcome!) Why the newsletter has a breakfast event in the GX schedule is beyond me. Of course, the club could be viewing the 1985 film directed by John Hughes, but three times a week, every week? They better be serving breakfast with that if they expect members to return.

I worked out a deal with my manager to come in a little later on these days so I would be able to make these foodie events that occur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 a.m. Even as I penned the email to him asking for the arrangement there was a cloud of negativity hanging over me. Man, I would have to get up really early.

Figuring out just how early I had to get up to make it there by 6 a.m. ready to go through the line picking my favorite items then sitting in the corner somewhere alone, not socializing, took some thinking. I came to the conclusion that I was not going to ride my bicycle as I usually do. Kind of a double-whammy considering the only exercise I get (save for walking my dog) was from riding to work and back every day on my bike. I would have to ride my scooter.

breakfast club film
Nope, not this kind of Breakfast Club either.

So, early Wednesday morning I hopped on my scooter and headed for the club–the Breakfast Club, that is! Well, as it turned out there was no breakfast to be found in The Breakfast Club. There is no long steamtable of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, and hash browns. No scones, croissants, and muffins artfully stacked for the participating members. There wasn’t even a carafe of coffee and individual servings of cream on ice. Nope, just a line of step decks and mats and a young athletic woman with hair the color of an almond croissant queueing music. We won’t be consuming calories in this breakfast club. We will be burning them. Well, I could do that by sleeping another hour!

So the young athletic woman with hair the color of an almond croissant is Bernadette. Her voice comes over the studio’s speakers with the house music telling us to get two sets of weights. I don’t remember how heavy, but that’s because I’m still thinking of hash browns. I look what the tall guy and the blonde woman with all the tats get and decide to get lighter sets. I take them back to what is my step deck and mat.

I flinch at the prospect of using the step deck. I have never been to a step class and have no plans to attend one in the future. Years ago my wife bought a step deck and an exercise DVD so she could practice at home. During one workout she wanted me to “work in” (to use weight room lingo) a few minutes just to see if I liked it while she sat out to catch her breath. I reluctantly agreed and about four steps into a routine I tripped and fell. I do not have the coordination to do this step thing, and I’m sure the chances of stumbling would only increase the more fatigued I become. As it turned out the step decks in this class was more of like tools to be used in other ways then stepping on and off: a bench for exercises like push-ups and dumbbell flys.

Along with fewer risers under my step deck and lighter weights, I also took the cautious (or is it wimpy?) approach to this first session in the actual exercises opted for modifications. When Bernadette and the other two overachievers did star jacks I started doing them until I literally saw stars then just did standard jumping jacks. When the class did high steps, tapping the step deck with alternating feet, I just lamely alternated lifting my feet a few inches off the ground.

The style of workout I believe is called H.I.I.T. or High-Intensity Interval Training: workouts that alternate between intense bursts of activity (also known as “burst circuits”) as well as fixed periods of less-intense workouts. I’m not a stranger to burst circuits. I did this style of workout in a weight room setting where a trainer had me go to multiple stations, lifting to fatigue, immediately move to the next station where I would work on another set of muscles. When I had hit all the stations I was awarded a short break to catch my breath and hydrate then repeat. Since the weight room routine was not called “The Breakfast Club” I was under no illusions.

When the hour was up Bernadette told us to replace our step deck, risers, and weights. After an hour of this torture, I’m holding onto my kneecaps feeling my heart beat through my eyeballs, and she wants me to carry her water. You’re so damn fit put this shit away yourself, I thought. I did as I was told and left The Breakfastless Club.

Friday morning rolls around and I make my way to the Breakfast Club. This morning their serving up Boot Camp nice and hot: a series of cardio-centric exercises including suicides, scrambled eggs, backward suicides, green chilies, butt kicks, about a half an avocado, high knees, onions, overhead squats, cheddar cheese, jumping jacks, sourdough toast, lunges, hold the salsa, reverse lunges, a side of bacon, push-ups, and house potatoes. (Just kidding, the edibles are the contents of a South of the Border Scramble or at least the way I order it at Cafe Dantorels. Oh, and the push-ups are the hard kind, not the ice cream confection.)

The torture this morning is dolled out by Scott, a tall redheaded, bearded fellow that does not remind me of any food except ginger, but not gingerbread because that’s not really a breakfast food in my view. Scott gives me a lot of one-on-one attention–kind of like a Special Physical Education teacher. I’m not keeping up with the three overachievers in the group, including the retired woman who is running suicides around me all the while talking to Scott how much she loves retirement. Shut up!

On the far side of the room, there’s this tall, thin brunette with long hair. The brunette does not opt to put in a ponytail that insists on doing all exercises with dumbbells in her hands. I want to yell across the room at her, “Hey you, Scott didn’t tell us to use weights!” Instead, I shoot dirty looks at her via the mirrors that virtually surround us. She is too busy getting ripped to notice my glares. Anyway, her hair is in her eyes half the time. The guy between Miss Dumbbells and me is the second-most out of shape person, but he is soldiering on better than me. I doubt he thought The Breakfast Club were foodie events.

~ A Yoga Interlude ~

I attend yoga at the club on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could comment on the Thursday night class between Bernadette and Scott, but it was the usual–nothing different from all the other Tuesday and Thursday classes. I have been practicing on Sundays the longest. This yoga class–the one after Friday’s torture and the unknown but forboding Monday class was very different. We were introduced to our new teacher. Let me make a point here. I don’t cruise yoga studios with my eyes. Yes, there are pretty, young women I practice with, but I pay them little mind. I’m concentrating on my practice. However, the yoga teacher who walked into the studio on Sunday was mysterious, dark, shy, and she taught Yin yoga. Yin is a style where the practitioner holds asanas (poses) for long periods of time—anywhere from two to four minutes in this kind of class, though the more skilled hold them far longer.

Because of this style and the longer time spent on each asana, the teacher is able to walk around and make adjustments to her students’ asanas. So I am in a hip-opening asana with my head down nearly facing the floor. There is music playing, but it is soft, the lights are low–like they always are in practice–and I can hear her whispering as she walks around the studio. My guess is the teacher was adjusting her students. Suddenly I am hit with the most wonderful scent. It’s the teacher’s perfume. Then her hand gently caress my leg. She moves it forward whispering in my ear if this movement is painful. No, mystery yoga teacher, but do you really have to move to the next person? Wait, is my head in line? What about my arm? But she is off to another practitioner and I immediately feel her absences.

The class continues until we go into Shavasana (corpse pose)–the final asana of the practice. I don’t want it to end. We all lie there in the dark, eyes closed. Then I feel hands on both of my shoulders. She has noticed how rounded they are. (Thirty years at a desk.) Lee, a Sunday yoga teacher from a few years ago, discovered ole Quasimodo during Shavasana too. She tried to man-handle my shoulders flat like she was trying to get me to tap out. This angel was soft. Then she did something I haven’t been able to get out of my mind: she gently rubbed Eucalyptus oil above both eyebrows and then on my third eye (the Ajna Chakra). I almost spontaneously weep. She moved on to other people but laid there seemingly in another state. When Shavasana was over I quietly rolled up my mat and left. Now, that was better than any breakfast I have ever had!

It’s Monday and I’ve had five days to get over Brutal Bernadette, three full days to recoup from Suicide Scott and fifteen hours since parting with the mysterious yoga teacher and her incredible touch. I walk into the studio and see the step decks are out. I introduce myself to Janelle, the trainer for this Breakfastless Club. No part of her body reminds me of food in any way. Perhaps this is a good thing. She assures me this is not a Step class and that we use the step decks for balance and leg strength exercises.

As it turns out Monday’s Breakfast Club is a lot of leg exercises. Janelle also likes working out with weighted fitness bars. From across the studio, it looks like a black barbell without weights. Janelle tells us to grab one for some squats. It’s early in the workout so I’m thinking, “Shit, with no weights on it this should be a snap.” The first thing I notice is that it has a rubber covering–not just metal like a barbell. I grab one at the top end of the bar and it will not budge. Janelle walks over, chokes up on the bar a little, and easily pulls it out of the rack and hands it to me as if to say, “Easy now Gramps, this is really heavy and I can tell how old and fragile you are.” When I re-grip the bar she lets go of the fitness bar and I nearly drop it.

The Monday, 6 a.m. class used to be Power Pump (a total body workout with that emphasizes building strength and sculpting the body). But this isn’t Power Pump. Whatever this is it turns out to be fine, but the least favorite of the three classes. Perhaps coffee and donuts would bump the class up on my list of favorite Breakfast Clubs.

Janelle says she hopes more people come to the class so it can continue. Only one other person beside me showed up on this day. I want to point out to her if this were a real Breakfast Club attendance wouldn’t be a problem, but she’s sweet. Also, when I checked out the club’s website at work later in the day, I notice that this is the only class Janelle leads. I’m not sure if she’s an employee with all the security that brings or if she is an independent contractor. If the latter is the case and the class doesn’t hit critical mass she would be out of a paycheck. That would be a drag.

It’s Tuesday–in between Breakfast Clubs. I think I’m done with the jokes. When I see Bernadette tomorrow morning I seriously doubt I will think her hair is the color of an almond croissant. Maybe she’s a strawberry blonde. Mmm, strawberries. Like in strawberry vanilla pancakes!

This is only tenuously related to the subject above, but I saw this months ago and think it is funny and very touching so I wanted to share it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Jack’s Breakfast Club of One

Dant2Breakfast!
Jack has a very unhealthy attachment to food. As overweight as he is, Jack would be twice as big if he had the full breakfast he desires every morning–every single morning. Instead, he has roughly the same thing every weekday morning: a cup of coffee with cream. On the weekends he usually has coffee with the same lousy 2% milk that he has on his lousy cold cereal (though he occasionally has a couple of frozen waffles and maple syrup instead of the lousy cereal and lousy milk). Even though he always have eggs in the fridge, he’s usually too lazy to make them for his self. (Lazy=Lousy.) It is ironic that his favorite meal of the day is the one he almost always skimps on. Some evenings, when he’s too tired to read, he’ll join his wife who is watching that lazy Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham in “Downton Abbey” still in bed when the rest of her household is up, a tray of messy plates and silver next to her, talking to Lord Grantham about how tough they have it. Breakfast in bed every morning and she still finds something to whine about. No wonder Jack can’t stand the show.

Oh, but I digress.

About once a month, Jack breaks this monotonous breaking of fast and pigs out. He’ll take a day off in the week (either because he has a doctor or dentist appointment in the afternoon or something is broken in the house, and he’s staying to greet and, ultimately, pay the handyman. Whatever it is Jack strategically sets up the appointment in the late morning or the afternoon, so he can ride out to a restaurant in the morning and treat himself to a big breakfast. He usually orders a scramble with a lot of stuff in it like cheese, sausage, onion, peppers, and avocado. He also gets home fried potatoes or hash browns, (sourdough) toast, and a side of bacon. The bacon is cholesterol overkill considering he usually gets sausage or ham in the scramble, but he doesn’t care. At least for now. Ask him if he cares after his first stroke, and he’ll mumble out of the functioning side of his mouth, “Fffoukk yuucsh.”

Jack’s usual choice for this morning feast is The Artist Formerly Known as Crepeville. Actually, it’s Cafe Dantorels, but that name is so clumsy that Jack’s brain refuses to consign it to memory, so he calls the place its previous name with a twist in honor of Prince. He’s not claiming Danto-whatever is the best place for breakfast, it’s just that it is close to his house and the food is good.

Some people may poo-poo Jack sticking with one restaurant and not venturing out, but he doesn’t believe in taking chances when it comes to eating out–especially because he doesn’t get to do it that often anymore. In the 70’s and 80’s, he used to go to Spenger’s (a storied family-owned seafood restaurant in Berkeley) most times he was in the Bay Area. When he did, he ordered the same thing: Shrimp Scatter (deep-fried baby shrimp). One time he chided himself for being so boring and tried something different. It was good, but it wasn’t Shrimp Scatter. Similarly, when he would occasionally take his wife and kids to the Old Spaghetti Factory, he would always order the Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese until the time he didn’t and regretted it.

So here he is at the same ole place ordering the same old thing and loving it. Now that we got Jack’s oddball obsession out of the way let’s discuss breakfast’s oddball cousin.

Brunch?
“It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.” – Jacques, Marge Simpson’s bowling instructor, and romantic interest

This Western post-Sunday church service phenomenon may have started in England, but Jack’s personal history of the ritual comes from his mother who never was a church goer but would have brunch with her lady friends often when Jack was growing up. Jack wouldn’t be surprised if his mom still did it. It was a bit of a mystery to him. It seems like a Red Hat Society kind of thing. Jack could count the number of times with one hand he went out for brunch, but soon he may need more digits!

You see, Jack was checking out a new restaurant that popped up in his neighborhood recently. Selland’s is an excellent and pricey restaurant here in Sacramento. The original location in East Sac is a little out of the way and is always very busy for Jack’s liking. So while he was waiting in line to place his dinner order at this shiny new Selland’s, he noticed in the to-go menu a Sunday Brunch section that looked great despite the COMING SOON in large faded text beneath the menu items. He was instantly filled with delight. Sunday Brunch, just like Mom used to do (or still does). The dishes looked absolutely yummy, and Jack absolutely hates the word “yummy”!

There’s Breakfast Pizzas and Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches. Even the stuff that he usually wouldn’t order looks promising: Breakfast Tartines and Breakfast Benedicts. Finally, there is a build your own “American Breakfast.” “Now, we’re talking,” Jack accidentally blurted out in line. It was as if the Selland family’s distant cousin from the planet Vulcan jumped through Jack’s window one night and surreptitiously did a mind meld on him.

Most of the items on the Sunday brunch section cannot be found in any variation on the regular menu. This is a good thing considering what the ever-quotable Anthony Bourdain has said about brunch menus in his bestseller Kitchen Confidential:

“Remember, brunch is only served once a week—on the weekends. Buzzword here, ‘Brunch Menu’. Translation? ‘Old, nasty odds and ends, and 12 dollars for two eggs with a free Bloody Mary’.”

I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time, chef. This stuff should be fresh. Jack will find out when the restaurant opens for Sunday brunch. In the meantime, he’ll look forward to teeth cleanings, dermatology appointments, x-rays, MRIs, and for the next time something in his house breaks.