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A Black Iron Haven

Memories Born Out of Simplicity (Cast Iron Traditions)

Posted by JT McCubbin

Saturday morning arrives and the house is still quiet, save for the single clacketing disruption as I grind the morning’s coffee beans. If I manage this one disturbance without waking the household, peace returns and the kids sleep another hour until their internal cartoon clock beckons them for the morning’s programming. This is enough time to get Tradition underway.

A few years ago, as a father of two toddlers, I rebelled against any notion that I should have to get up on a Saturday morning and make breakfast for the family. It was the only day in the week when sleeping-in was plausible. Rising early was required the other six days of the week; why could I not have this one day to experience that simple exhilaration--that one joyous moment--when one wakes up without external prodding.

Amidst my whining and self-complain--because the only one who listens to my complaint is the self--I started to become more reflective. I began to justify my resistance by considering how breakfast was not that important to me when I was a kid. Well, except for breakfast at Grandma’s. The smell and sizzle of ham in the skillet and the eggs--brown eggs from the chickens in the back yard, made-to-order, scrambled or sunny-side-up. Oh, and the toast, with homemade jam and jelly, three or four flavors made from the fruit trees right outside. Waffles, butter, syrup, of course this was only tradition in the sense that we visited Grandma and Grandpa’s one or two weeks out of the year.

It wasn’t only the food, but also listening to the conversation of adults as a child. Grandma shared the neighborhood gossip, recalling early years with siblings, and reminiscing about farm life--the good ol’ days.

That’s one thing about childhood memories: we all have them, and our children will have them too; but it is up to us to influence what positive emotional value they might have. In my reflection I realized I wanted to create some of these memories for my children. Memories born out of simplicity, which my kids could look back to and gain insight about their father, and of traditions they could continue and build upon.

Will I get up early and make breakfast for my kids? Yes, of course I will, and I have nearly every Saturday for the last six years. The Saturday morning event has, along with my recipe for pancakes, undergone a few tweaks as time has gone by. A few months ago I eschewed the anodized-aluminum in favor of a cast iron skillet (just like Grandma’s), and more recently implemented a cast iron griddle. The cast iron probably enhances the memory aspect more for me than for my children. Only time will tell. But for me it connects me to the way my mother and grandmother prepared breakfast and many other meals.

So, every Saturday begins with pancakes and sausage. As a family we aren’t purists about “organic,” but in this one area I try and maximize the organic content if for no other reason but the simple pleasure. While not organic, our local grocer carries a store brand of breakfast sausage with no MSG, so that is the sausage of choice. The eggs are brown of course, just like to ones from Grandma’s chickens. The most recent add-on to our pancake practice has been the use of a cast iron melting pot to warm the real maple syrup and melt some butter into it. So, just like the recipe (and its variations), I look forward to someday passing on the cast iron to my children. Maybe they will prepare pancakes and sausage links for their children in the same cast iron cookware.

I become reflective again. Is this really making an impact on my kids? Do they take comfort in the ritual? Is there security in the knowing of what to expect when they wake up on Saturday? Do they care? Every once in a while I get a glimpse of a connection. One Friday evening as the kids were headed off to bed, perhaps in a mental lapse, my daughter asked, “What’s for breakfast tomorrow?”

I was almost hurt. “What do you think is for breakfast,” came my retort.

“Oh, tomorrow is Saturday--pancakes and maple links. Yes!”

A smile emerged on my face--she gets it.

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And watch for JT’s Saturday morning pancake recipe in an upcoming post.