My family’s quirkiest holiday tradition is chocolate breakfast. On Valentine’s Day, each child is served a stack of chocolate chip pancakes, surrounded by chocolate candy clusters, orange wedges, fresh mango chunks and berries. The plates are garnished with stuffed trinkets, love notes and select bits of more chocolate. It’s a veritable feast, a morning meal of decadence only a Scrooge could despise.
My family of five has multiple food sensitivities and lives in a world of significant don’ts. We have to be careful, particularly when we leave our home, as eating out can be a risk. The rigors of a special diet are especially challenging to my children, who must scan ingredient labels of Halloween candy for gluten or dairy and find satisfaction eating an apple or banana at school parties and soccer get-togethers when their friends are digging into pizza.
So once a year, we throw caution to the wind and embrace silly extravagance. We plan for it, look forward to it and savor it. There is nothing impulsive about chocolate breakfast. In fact, it is calculated to teach my kids to enjoy life while making good choices.
I know—and so do my kids—that it’s not healthy to eat chocolate for breakfast (although with dark chocolate, it’s scientifically arguable). But by letting go of propriety and letting loose at breakfast, my children see that even lavishness can be measured out with intelligence and thought. Expected to eat fruit and protein that morning, along with the chocolate, they learn to balance a good splurge with common sense. And they actually end up eating less chocolate than you might imagine.
An added benefit is they’re sent to school satiated with ‘safe’ treats so they aren’t tempted with what the world may throw at them the rest of that day.
One of my mottos is: Everything in moderation, including moderation. Extreme edges run the risk of backfiring. In the world of special diets, kids want what they shouldn’t have. When you take away the taboo, you remove the allure. And so it is with chocolate for breakfast.
The night before Valentine’s Day, my husband and I shoo the children out of the kitchen and prepare for the festivities. On the morning of February 14, weekday or weekend, we don our red shirts as we finish the decorating. The children scuttle down the stairs and run to their places at the kitchen table. Set in a vision of red, white and pink—all accented with dark chocolate—the table beckons like a tree on Christmas morning.
The other day, I asked my youngest, age 10, what was his favorite holiday. Was it Passover? Thanksgiving? Halloween? Nope, he said, it was Valentine’s Day and chocolate breakfast.