Fancy breakfast trifle
"Everything in moderation."
Grandmothers' most oft-repeated lifestyle advice
It was a principle that worked well for the petitely proportioned women of our grandmothers' generation. In the 1950s, when "everything in moderation" was the only dietary advice widely dispensed, the average dress size was a 6. By 2003, it was 14 and rising.
There has never been so much dietary advice so readily available and yet America has never been so fat. Could the solution be as simple as tuning out a multi-billion dollar industry's messages and taking Nana's advice?
In this day and age, not quite. Back when "everything in moderation" was helping Nana cut a foxy figure in her skin-tight clam diggers "everything" did not include 42-ounce sodas, French fries served in paper grocery bags, doughnuts that pack 20 per cent of one's daily calorie requirement and bacon-cheeseburgers served on said doughnuts (a specialty at a St Louis ballpark).
In Nana's era, a girl looking to indulge might have enjoyed a little pie or a strawberry milkshake. And that milkshake would have been served in a glass. Back then it would have been impossible to buy food by the bucket unless it was for livestock. Now, buckets frequently constitute a single serving and ordering the smallest bucket is considered moderation.
Move upscape beyond the outrageously unhealthy end of America's foodchain and it's still very easy to be immoderate by Nana's standards. Compare, for instance, the dessert plates currently made by the even the finest porcelain houses with pudding bowls from the 1950s. I inadvertently did that this week.
In the market for new dessert plates, I'd been coveting a number of them in a kitchenware store. But during an unexpected trip to the outer suburbs I was drawn to a glass pudding bowl at a local thrift store. It reminded me of a set of such bowls my grandmother used to own and just how daintily proportioned they were. I suspect if Nana were to encounter dessert plates circa 2006 she would believe them to be serving platters.
I christened my new thrift-store pudding bowl by making a modern, morning-friendly take on trifle, a dish that was fashionable in Nana's era. The breakfast version combines thick, skim-milk yoghurt with wholegrains, ground almonds and an ingredient far more fashionable in years gone by than now - stewed prunes. (I make mine using Orangette's stewed prune recipe.)
Despite their reputation for being largely the domain of the elderly or those with a digestive disorder, prunes are absolutely delicious. And, health-wise they've got way more going for them than just being high in fibre, coming in at number nine on the United States Department of Agriculture's list of the 20 foods with the highest concentration of antioxidants.
Of course, if one is not a prune fancier some other variety of stewed, poached or even canned fruit could be substituted. The breakfast trifle concept works with whatever fruits, nut meal and rolled grains or granola you may have on hand. One of the great things about it is that it's best prepared the night before - perfect for people who are in a hurry most mornings. And it can even be made in a plastic tumbler with snap-on lid for a busy-day power breakfast at your office or health club.
Filled to capacity, my new old-school pudding bowl accommodated only about half the quantity of fancy breakfast trifle I'd usually make. I guess that's one of the reasons women's average dress size in the 1950s was about half what it is today.
Fancy breakfast trifle
Plain, thick skim-milk yoghurt
Rolled oats (or mixture of oats and other rolled grains such as rye, barley and spelt; or granola)
Ground almonds (or another ground nut or seed, such as hazelnut, walnut, flaxseed)
Stewed prunes (or any other stewed, poached or canned fruit)
Layer the yoghurt, wholegrains, ground nuts and fruit in a glass or a glass bowl, finishing with some fruit on top. Cover the trifle tightly with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. The grains and nut meal will absorb liquid from the fruit and yoghurt, softening them and making the yoghurt even thicker and creamier.