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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Valley Serves Up Breakfast…

Pancake alert!

No bowl of soggy Grape Nuts to start off the day this morning. Today I will be breakfasting at one of the Valley’s finest eating establishments: the Tualco Grange. In these latter days of June Valley strawberries are at their peak, both time and berries ripe for the bi-annual Tualco Grange pancake breakfast. The sign at the corner of Tualco and SR 203 announces the traditional spring repast. It will be a strawberry breakfast, the first of two annual breakfasts hosted by the Grange. The second, the applesauce breakfast, will be served in October .

This morning, the twenty-sixth of June, I am taking my environmentally-sensitive friend Nancy L. out to breakfast. Gladys and I are scheduled to meet her at the Grange at nine o’clock sharp, but we are scarcely out of the driveway when I see someone pedaling my way along the shoulder. I can tell by the distinctive weave of her path, it is Nancy L. She must be hungry and anxious to get at those pancakes—has even, I soon discover, brought her own fork. The breakfast crowd at the Grange is in for some stiff competition from Nancy L. But a lucky crowd they are this morning: Nancy decides to opt for the Grange silverware and stows the fork in her car.

Nancy L and fork in the road

We arrive at the Grange parking lot to find it nearly full for the morning’s third seating. Our sprint to the Grange has certainly whetted our appetites. Now if we can just find a place at the table. I pose Gladys for the bi-annual photo op by the sandwich board. Then we park our rides around back and head for the entrance.Pancakes for Gladys

When we open the door, the smell of coffee and griddled pancakes pushes back. The place was a’bustle: the breakfast crowd humming with Valley chit chat; the kitchen staff in a dither as if they were the ones on the hotplate. Cooks at work A scene, it was, Norman Rockwell-ish, (without the aroma of coffee and griddlecakes, of course; and the wait staff would have presented as blurry brush strokes).    

Breakfast crowd

A gentleman at the pay table looks away from his plate long enough to take my money: ten bucks for two plates, an inflated tab over years past when I seem to remember two, then three-fifty a plate. (Those were the days that father and daughter would breakfast at the Grange together, a little quality time over hotcakes and sweet strawberries.) From the looks of the crowd, we were all the late risers, the weekenders. The farmers had taken the first seating, most likely had a herd of cows milked and a few acres plowed by now; breakfast lingering as a memory beneath their belts; lunch poised on the horizon.  

No menus at the Tualco Grange strawberry breakfast, no decisions to make; everyone is served the same fare in the same portions, regardless of child Child's portionor senior: a mini cup of orange juice, a heaping spoonful of scrambled eggs, a slice of ham, two hotcakes—and the main attraction of the spring, a bowl of fresh, sliced Valley strawberries. And my coffee cup never seems to empty. All this served up to Nancy and me by the vivacious Betty, all cheer and smiles.Betty servesBetween bites Nancy L and I chatter about this and thatNancy L worries a pancake. Just light topics, though; the pancake breakfast is just not the proper forum for things political. This delicious breakfast needs to settle gently.

Now over the years I have spent considerable time in the kitchen and am always on the lookout for some handy gadget to make my efforts at the kitchen range more efficient and pleasurable. And for that reason I couldn’t help but notice the fellow on the pancake detail and his batter helpmate. What a slick little gizmo he wields over the griddles (yes, there are two griddles dueling away in the Grange kitchen this morning). Chef Wally A push of a plunger and a pancake-size dollop of batter drops in a perfect circle on the griddle and sizzles there. Griddleman Wally demonstrates, tells me the device originally was put to task as a doughnut maker. Pancake gizmoNow it serves a higher purpose and with Wally at the plunger, this practical appliance follows the pancake breakfast circuit in the Valley and the local Senior Citizens’ center.

At Swiss Hall Gladys and I, breakfast-sated, part ways with Nancy L  and wobble our way homeward, Gladys packing a bit more weight than when she was outward bound. Well, she has her thoughts, I’m sure. And I don’t need to know them. Me? I’m already thinking about those Fall pancakes and that delicious applesauce.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post Dad! I have fond memories of those pancake breakfasts! I'm jealous Nancy L got to be your date. Maybe I'll try and shoot for the next applesauce breakfast...Nancy's still welcome, of course. :)