Fridays in my family got to be referred to as “Fend for Yourself, Friday”. This was because my parents tended to go out for dinner after my dad closed his dental practice for the week. They went for “Fish on Fridays” being the quasi-observant Catholics they were. Old habits die hard, afterall. That meant myself and my sisters were left up to our own devices in getting to have an evening meal. One of my favorites was when my oldest sister, Maureen, would treat me to having breakfast for dinner.
The family had a magnificent cast iron pan back then. It had been passed down through our family. Rumor was it had come from Ireland with my dad’s family. His mother had it and passed it down to my dad given he was her only child. That pan was so seasoned from the years of use that you could just smell and taste the deliciousness it was going to provide to anything you chose to fry in it. Breakfast for dinner could mean Maureen’s mean mushroom and cheese omelets, grilled cheese or pancakes! God I loved pancakes done up in that iron pan.
Butter was in vogue back then. Gorgeous butter by the tablespoons melted into that hot pan, browning just slightly to let you know the pan was hot and ready for the batter. The great sizzle that filled the kitchen area as Aunt Jemima batter collided with the golden liquid butter. Even better was getting to have blueberries in the batter. Back then it was a treat because you had to wait until the berries were in season. Can you smell the pancakes? I can. That smell, the sounds of the pancakes cooking. They’re etched into my early memories.
I loved the first pancake the best. Because of all of the melted butter, the first pancake tended to be the nicest blend between crispy on both the edges and the center. It was so nicely browned and glistened in an overall coating of the butter. AMAZING!! Oh and I’ve forgotten to mention the size of the thing. My family didn’t do no silly silver dollar pancakes. My dad believed in whoppers of pancakes. Those things were the size of the pan when he cooked them. Since we learned how to cook pancakes from his example, our pancakes were huge too. Nowadays, I can’t conceive how we each ate several. But it also explains having needed to lose weight as I grew up. But back to the flying saucer sized pancakes, no buzzkill here about weight and cholesterol. Syrup…Syrup! Real maple syrup! Growing up in New England meant real maple syrup from New Hampshire or Vermont. Lovely, amber sweet nectar that attempted to blend with the butter glaze of the pancakes. Sometimes you had to just float the pancake in it if it couldn’t soak in over the crispy outer layer. Oh heck, I was a kid and I just wanted more syrup. Who’m I trying to fool!
Ahhh! Let me have a moment here…I miss those pancakes. I miss that dang pan! You see the cast iron pan is MIA. My parents moved to Florida back in the late 1980s. Mom decided to NOT TO TAKE the pan. She always thought Maureen had it. Sadly, she was informed awhile back that Maureen didn’t. Its whereabouts are unknown. You may risk to suggest at this point, dear reader, that I could just go out and invest in a new cast iron pan. Don’t. It just won’t be the same. That pan had years on it. It had history and some great stories attached to it. Like the time my great grandmother threw it at my father’s head and it missed him but not the kitchen wall. He really must have done something amazing to earn that. But I’ve also been told she had one heck of an Irish temper! That pan had a life. That pan provided many great meals in it. I miss its pancakes for dinner.