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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breakfast in the Valley: Applesauce Edition

Dahlia centerpiece

Breakfast is on the Tualco Valley Grange this brisk fall morning and I’m wishing I had rummaged around in the closet for those wool gloves as Gladys and I wobble along in the chilly Valley air. We’re headed for some of that good fall applesauce with pancakes, scrambled eggs, and ham on the side. Yes, today’s the fall edition of the biannual Grange pancake breakfast. (Back in June I posted about the strawberry edition of the Valley pancake fest.) I tuck Gladys around back where she and her shiny new bell will be quite safe and head up the stairs to meet up with breakfast. 

I open the door and immediately go blind. Nothing to do with the inviting medley of breakfast smells or the buzz of the responders to the First Call to breakfast: just my glasses reacting to the warmth of breakfast cooking after that chilly ride down Valley. Someone extends a friendly greeting. Sounds like Alan Barr. I remove my glasses. Yes, it is indeed Alan Barr . “What do I owe you this morning?” I ask. “Five dollars,” Alan says with a smile. I try to inject a little before breakfast humor: “Is that with my Senior discount?” “That’ll be six bucks, then,” Alan replies. Pretty quick this morning, aren’t we, Alan? You must be one pot of coffee ahead of me.

I take a seat in section 6 and look around. A pretty light crowd this morning, but then I’m early. After all it’s Saturday; no need for folks to rush around. Again, there’s the feeling I’ve walked into a Norman Rockwell painting: Wally Armstrong manning the pancake machine; Betty, who is Johnny on the spot (and “Strawberry Betty in the Spring; “Apple”Betty in the Fall) with my coffee, bustling around, her hands full of plates; breakfasters talking up the morning, sharing Valley news…. But it is fall and there are subtle differences. My glasses steaming up, for one…the dahlia centerpieces for another (fall flowers, dahlias).

Betty rushes up to my section carrying a tray loaded with dishes of applesauce. “What’s that pink stuff?”I ask and point at a dish that looks strangely out of place among the other golden heaps of “sass.” “Cinnamon,” she says. “Not for this guy. I like my applesauce straight up and chunky, Betty.” None of that pureed, bland, watery stuff fit only for  babies—and in utero at that. And pink? Unless it’s meat, food just shouldn’t be pink. Chunks are what I want, chunks of apple, lumpy confirmation that what I’m about to consume actually grew on a bona fide apple tree somewhere. Betty places a bowl heaped golden on my placemat.Good and chunkySoon she brings breakfast and with it my second cup of coffee. Two pancakes, a serviceable portion of scrambled eggs, and the obligatory slice of ham. Consistency is what you get at the Grange breakfast, consistency and friendly service.

Nothing goes to waste of that breakfast. I offer to take my plate to the kitchen just as my mother taught me, but Betty takes it, says it’s part of the deal. Alan Barr is still exacting tribute from the newcomers but is between customers, so I wander over for a chat. “How long have you been doing this?” I asked. “Years and years,” the reply, and I think of the big sign on the Grange wall, an accounting of the decade of the ‘60’s year by year: Peace, Love, and Livestock. and pancakes Wait a minute…livestock? And then like I’ve been tazered, I get it. Grange humor! 1969, the summer of love…WOODSTOCK. I wonder if Alan made that sign, as well. Two pots of coffee at least for that one.

“Didn’t see you here for the strawberry breakfast,” I say. Alan glances around the room in a guilty sort of way. “We were in Hawaii… the whole family went…the trip of a lifetime,” he whispers. I let him off the hook by saying his absence just meant more strawberries for the rest of us.

Alan’s son Scott was there for breakfast, too. He was showing around a pretty fancy homemade sign. “Firewood Cellars”it read. “Is he selling wine or firewood?” I asked Alan. “…because I’m in the market for both.” I learned Scott had been dabbling a bit in winemaking…some rhubarb, a bit of Concord grape… and was establishing a little home winery. I wish him luck with his oenology efforts and hope he comes up with some good, marketable vintages. The area could use another nice homegrown beverage—especially after my experience with Kufnerbrau years back, a home brewed beverage so convenient the bottles actually opened themselves if you waited long enough.

With my pancake breakfast well packed away, I retrieve Gladys and we sidetrack by Werkhovens’ silage bunker, now under wraps and doing a little fermenting of its own, for a photo update. Back on the road and heading for home, I reflect a bit on my breakfast, try hard not to let my thoughts wander off to those Grand Slam breakfasts at Denny’s (soooo NOT-Rockwellian) and return instead to those earlier mentioned subtle differences… that slice of ham, for instance…wasn’t it a bit thinner than usual? Seemed more like a sliver this time than a slice. But the applesauce…now it was prime!

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1 comment:

  1. Wish I could have joined you for a bowl heaped golden. :(