Kally Rubin Kislowicz

Breakfast of champions

Every Friday morning, we find the antidote to the unpredictability of life at our local café
Illustrative. An Israeli hotel breakfast spread. (Courtesy, Grand Hotels)
Illustrative. An Israeli hotel breakfast spread. (Courtesy, Grand Hotels)

My husband and I have a standing Friday breakfast date at a local cafe. This started years ago, when we moved to Israel and Sunday betrayed us and became a work day. Suddenly, the weekends felt painfully short and unsatisfying. One Friday morning, after we dropped the kids off at school and were proceeding towards the 600 errands that are the inevitability of every Friday, we wandered into a bustling greenhouse cafe, and learned that sunny-side-up eggs and toasted rolls are the perfect balm for betrayal. From then on, every week, from 8:45-9:30, in that beautiful moment when the work-week has ended and the errands have yet to commence, Friday is the new Sunday. 

Over the years, we have developed some best practices for Friday breakfast. While we first explored the options like novices, we finally settled upon the perfect menu item and we now order it every week, because Friday morning breakfast is a sacred, stress-free, no-decision-making zone. In fact, the only high stakes choice that should ever be made before 9:30 on a Friday is whether you want your coffee hot or cold. 

Even my attire remains relatively constant from week to week — ’90s band T-shirt, long skirt, well-worn bandana, black fleece.

We have been known to stop on the threshold of the cafe to finish a stressful conversation so that we can proceed inside to talk about matters of less consequence: interesting stories from work, funny things our kids did (funny is the new stupid!), and snippets of op-eds, podcasts, or social media posts that resonated during the week.   

Some people mock the sameness of this custom as lame and unadventurous. To them, I say lame is the new adorable. But I say it with my mouth full, because there is no time for haters on Friday morning. 

In fact, it is the delightful predictability of this routine which enabled us to achieve a long-held life goal: One morning, in early 2020, we walked into the cafe and sat down. The server ran over to us, grabbed the menus that were laid out on the table, and said “You don’t need these, I already know what you want,” and she proceeded to recite our order verbatim, even remembering to hold the olives. I get chills just thinking about it.

Alas, we were abruptly demoted from our status as official regulars by the COVID pandemic. We went months without Friday morning breakfast, and we finally returned to a new wait staff that had to be taught from the beginning that olives are gross, and that my husband likes his Americano black (like my band T-shirts). It was a setback. But we persevered. 

And we have been clawing our way back ever since. Showing up every Friday, like champions, to win back our rightful place at this cafe where no one knows your name, but sometimes they remember your order. And sometimes they add an extra croissant to your basket, and you purposely ignore the fact that everyone got an extra croissant today so as to continue with the illusion that you are a favorite customer.

We are not the only Friday morning regulars. In addition to the bite-size brownie that comes with our order and the plants and knick-knacks that line the shelves, it is the other patrons that give this place its charm. Every Friday, the tables are full of couples like us who are enjoying themselves after a long week, grandparents who are indulging their grandchildren with waffles piled high with whipped cream, groups of friends who are catching up, and tired parents who are valiantly neglecting their toddler as he rapidly approaches a meltdown. We exchange pleasantries with those we see often. A woman who was pregnant a few weeks ago walks in with a newborn and I wish her a mazal tov and tell her that I have been hoping to see her. I give a knowing smile to the parents as they quickly finish their breakfast and wrestle the crying toddler back into the stroller.

I imagine that on the rare occasion when my husband and I miss a week at the cafe, our fellow diners wonder quietly where the poorly dressed woman with the encouraging smile might be. Despite not knowing their names or their history, these are my people. I intuit them to be hard-working, life-loving individuals who understand that Friday morning breakfast is the antidote to the unpredictability of life. It is the elixir that widens one’s bandwidth, enabling us to rise to the challenge of the coming week. I love these people, and for 45 minutes every Friday, I am honored to call them my peers.

During the first weeks of the war, the cafes were closed or had limited capacity. They soon opened as usual, and we took a few more weeks to decide that it was okay to enjoy the luxury of breakfast at such an awful time. Having thoroughly convinced ourselves that the economic boost of our breakfast would surely help Israel to defeat Hamas, we headed out this past week to fulfill our patriotic duty. 

The cafe was full — my people had implicitly understood that eating breakfast is the new honoring your country. And while it was bittersweet to see so many people in uniform, home for the weekend or about to leave after a 24-hour break from the front, I was sad to see that many of the regulars were not there. To add insult to injury, a server mistook us for newbies and handed us menus. 

And just as I started to wonder if my cafe would ever regain the lovely sameness that has brought me so much joy over the years, a woman who I vaguely recognized came up to us. She smiled and said, “Tradition is tradition. I’m here with my daughter this week instead of my husband, but he wanted to say hi to you from the field.” She held up her phone and we facetimed with this guy, a Friday morning regular, while he was stationed somewhere up north defending our right to breakfast.

These days, we are all doing what we can. Some don uniforms and climb into tanks, some organize fundraisers to provide our troops with vital gear, some make nourishing meals for the families left behind, and some pick up their fork and knife and sit in cafes to be nourished. Not all heroes wear capes — some wear band T-shirts. 

About the Author
Kally grew up in Pittsburgh, and made aliyah from Cleveland to Efrat in 2016.
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