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Porridge to gruel

5 years ago, when I worked in London I would cycle to the office, make a bowl of porridge, pile on the fruit, nuts, chocolate, yogurt and eat it at my desk. Just like everyone else.

When I moved to Paris I continued this pattern. Cycling from the 2nd to the 16th arrondissement along the Seine, with a crescendo uphill finish to Avenue Kleber, wearing my helmet and high vis vest over a puffer jacket (I've always aspired to be the Michelin man on a bike). I would arrive at the office drenched in sweat, there were no showers, I would get crammed into a small lift servicing the luxury watch groups and lingerie brands and receive odd looks. You see the demure French girls, don't cycle, they don't sweat, they wear beautifully cut black or blue Channel clothes and they don’t have a bangle out of place.

I would mop my sweaty brow and head to the kitchen to make my porridge. But with no microwave and no company milk - the French don't drink milk - I got used to eating cold porridge with water, otherwise known as gruel. There I would stand with mascara halfway down my face and clumps of wet hair sticking to my scalp and eat my gruel whilst my well-groomed French colleagues sipped away at their tiny little cafes, drawing those precious 3 sips out over a good hour. The coffee machine is the heart of any French office, they say silos are broken down around the coffee machine. Occasionally someone would bring in a bag of croissants to share and the hour at the coffee machine would become two, more silos were broken down on croissant days.

Over time, I just stopped eating gruel and almost without knowing it I started to emulate my French colleagues. Every morning I started to eat a quarter of a baguette before starting on my bike ride and then a coffee on arrival. It’s odd how the habits of others eventually rub off on you and you comply to their ways. Maybe it just becomes too difficult to constantly fight the grain and go against the norm.

After I met the beautiful boy, my breakfast habits changed again. He, like many French, drunk only a coffee in the morning, so I started having a coffee and skipping the whole breakfast affair. Over the course of a couple of years, therefore, I went from being a religious believer of porridge with all the trimmings to consuming a small black coffee every morning. Strange non, pourquoi? Environmental change. It feels extremely primal that we can be influenced so much by our surroundings and other human beings. No matter how independent and alternative the person, I believe we all have an embryonic desire to want to fit in and be accepted, so one abandons one’s previous habits, previous knowledge and just drops what was before and mimics what is ubiquitous and present.

Or maybe life is complicated enough, and we are all in one way or another subscribing to the Obama school of thought - eliminate as many decisions as you can, wear the same thing, eat the same thing. Could it be with so many breakfast theories and options today ‘decision fatigue’ has led me to my simple cup of morning coffee?

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