Isn't it amazing how a seeming eternity of memories are built on the slightest sound or smallest taste? Maybe for my mom and sister the clank of cast iron skillets on the stove, or a gulp of orange juice made from frozen concentrate takes them back to Sunday mornings at our house. This may sound odd, but for me, the NPR Weekend Edition theme song brings back those endless Sundays. Just those few bold notes conjure up memories of my mom whisking batter in a stainless steel bowl as the heavy iron skillet heated on our electric stove. My sister and I set the table that butted up against the breakfast bar, while my dad lay on the old army cot in the living area with his legs propped up, reading the paper. After breakfast and clean up, my sister and I would lay belly-down on padded exercise mats, reading the comics and Dear Abby before our weekly walk in the neighboring glen.
Sunday brunches are among my favorite memories and continue to be one of my favorite meals. We couldn't always eat dinner together as my mom worked an evening shift at the local public library, but we were always together for Sunday brunch. In an article by Barbara Kingsolver (Good Housekeeping Jan 2008), she notes," Kitchen-based family gatherings are cooperative, and, in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful." I couldn't agree more. Family meal times are the foundational plate onto which all of the spices and flavors of each family member blend, and sometimes compete! Though the meals varied--you might find our plates loaded with cream of chipped beef on toast, fried Spam and eggs, pancakes with honey and berries, or omelets--our routine never varied, giving me a profound sense of comfort.
One of my favorite dishes was schmarrn, a Tyrolean egg-laden pancake, topped with honey and cheddar cheese, that honored my maternal grandfather's heritage. I have yet to cook it myself. I think in part I am afraid that it will not live up to the memories I have of it. In a sense, I want that morsel of food to bring back those Sundays that are no longer possible. I also miss the comfort of having my mother cook for me. If I cook it myself, will it nourish me in the same way? My mom visited recently after the birth of my now 5 month-old daughter. I requested schmarrn. As I closed my eyes to take that first bite, the warmth of the rich and egg-y dough, mixed with the sweetness of honey and the sharp salty bite of cheddar cheese greeted me. I wondered if my fiance and son felt the same sense of satisfaction that I did. I suppose we are building our own memories now--ours include pumpkin waffles, whole grain pancakes, or sausage and eggs. But maybe it's time I include schmarrn in the repertoire. It may not take me physically back to those Sundays, but someday my children will hear the scraping of a spatula on the skillet, or taste a drop of honey on their tongues and will have memories of their own, and a taste of their family history. Guten appetit!
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. white flour
Mix ingredients together whisking well to make a smooth batter, the consistency of a thin cake batter or heavy cream.
Heat a heavy, 12" skillet with 1/8th inch canola oil, or oil/butter mix.
When oil is hot pour in batter. Fry for a minute or 2 then lift frequently with a spatula to allow wet batter to run under. When there is no wet batter left on top, cut cake into 2 or 4 pieces and flip over. Brown lightly and then chop into small pieces, like scrambled eggs. Brown lightly all over. Serve hot with honey or sugar or syrup and swiss or cheddar cheese if desired.