Breakfast

boy-cooking.jpgdavidlatt.jpgWhen I was a kid, I was pretty much a geek.  At nine I started to stutter so badly that the school put me into a class for “special” students and my parents sent me to a psychologist.  The approach favored by the psychologist was to withhold talking until I said something.  Since I didn’t want to stutter and didn’t want to talk to him anyway, we mostly spent 50 minutes in silence.

My father was a pragmatist which meant he figured that whatever was was, so if I was socially awkward and stuttered, that’s who I was and he left it at that.  My mother however was an optimist.  She had proudly attended Hunter Model School in New York and felt that she was part of the liberal intelligentsia that wouldn’t rest until the world was cleansed of poverty, racism, sexism, and war.  Reading about the latest armed conflict in the newspaper, she would proclaim with frustration, “Why can’t people just get along?”

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waffle on table1(from the Los Angeles Times)
Russ Parsons wrote this really great thing in the LA Times about waffles – here’s a tiny bit of it.

I’ve got a thing for waffles.

For me, there is no better treat on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I don’t care whether the rest of my time is spent balancing checkbooks and cleaning out the garage, but as long as I’ve had waffles, it’s been a good weekend.

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ihop2.jpg Before there was IHOP, there was Gwynn’s. 

When I was a kid in suburban Teaneck, New Jersey, it was always a treat to go for Sunday brunch with my family at Gwynn’s on Teaneck Road.  Gwynn’s seemed swanky and grown-up to me.  Outside, it was painted white brick, and inside it was cool and darkish, with comfy booths.  My mother would order her coffee, and the cream came in tiny, glass pitchers with little round cardboard pull-tabs on top.  She only used a drop and then gave me the supreme pleasure of letting me drink the rest of the cream from its miniature jar.  Sometimes, if she had a second cup, I got another taste of the thick, heavenly liquid that would contribute to the need for Lipitor years later.  Compared to my very picky little sister, who ate only cream cheese and jelly, I was “a good eater” with a passion for pancakes, waffles and French toast.

chippancakes.jpg Then, in the mid 60’s, across town on Cedar Lane, a new place opened up, part of a chain that seemed to be popping up all over America: the International House of Pancakes.  People were talking about it, and my cousins three towns away had already been to another one and were jazzed.  It didn’t have Gwynn’s sophistication or my beloved mini-pots of cream, but on our first visit, I discovered silver dollar pancakes – a plateful of glorious, child-sized, golden ducats.  I was hooked!  Soon thereafter, chocolate chip pancakes appeared on the menu, and I became an under-age chocoholic.

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honeycombbowl.jpgMy mother prepared us breakfast every day of the week because she was not about to send us off to school on an empty stomach. Yet the only day I really remember eating breakfast was on Saturday. Not because she cooked an elaborate spread, but because we were left to fend for ourselves. It was the one morning my parents slept in – probably only to about 8 or 9, but it seemed like all morning and it was a thrill to be without parental supervision in the dining room. My siblings and I weren’t what you’d call “skilled” in the culinary arts, but we were quite capable of pouring a bowl cereal…and that’s where the trouble started.

These were the days before whole grains, when cereal was “crack” for kids, so filled with sugar one bowl probably exceeded your daily nutritional requirements for carbohydrates. There was no fiber to be found and we LOVED it. While in grammar school, we were allowed to “request” our favorite brand, but my mother had a strict food budget, so we never knew what we were actually going to find in the cupboard. If your choice was on sale, then it was your lucky week and the world was your oyster.

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From the LA Times

dutchbabyI could tell you I love them because they're so easy to make — who doesn't love a dish that comes together in less than half an hour? Or I could say it's because of their delicate texture and flavor — light and airy, but rich and almost nutty to the taste, it's like biting into a delicious cloud.

But honestly? The reason I love these pancakes is because of the way they puff in the oven. They're downright fun to watch.

Call them what you will — Dutch babies, German pancakes, Dutch puffs — they're all about the souffle factor. They're kind of like Yorkshire puddings or popovers, but supersized. Mix together a few ingredients and pour the batter into a hot buttered skillet, then put it in the oven and watch it swell. In minutes, these babies may puff to more than five times their original size.

It's magical. Serve them quickly; like a souffle, the magic begins to deflate once they're out of the oven.

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