Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bacon and Eggs and Memories with Daddy

Classic breakfast: Bacon, eggs, and toast!
Photo by Pam Stephan
Dad was the family's breakfast chef. Mom didn't like to get up early, and she never took us to school. That suited Dad fine, as he got up early to go to work anyway. He'd knock on our bedroom doors to wake us up, then head for the stove.

Rewind in Time:
My Dad and his brother grew up in a house where their father did the breakfast cooking while the mother got ready for her job at Williamson Dickie's clothing factory in Ft. Worth. In their family, breakfast was always a hot, cooked meal. Breakfast was never pastries or cold cereal or donuts. No sir! Real Men grew up on bacon and eggs and Mrs. Baird's white bread. My grandpa used a cast-iron skillet and most likely did his frying on a gas stove. In the early 1920's, as newlyweds, Dad's parents had joined a group of migrant cotton pickers. They signed on as the cooks for the crew, so they lived with the chuck wagon and provided meals for all the workers, moving from job to job as the crop was harvested. Grandpa made biscuits and gravy and Grannie fried bacon and eggs for about 25 pickers, a boss, and themselves. Coffee was always supplied with breakfast. It was hard work, but they had grown up on dairy farms and were used to long days in the outdoors. When the Great Depression hit, and cotton crops failed to do well, they moved to the city with their two small boys. Grandpa became a mechanic and Grannie became a seamstress. Dad and  his big brother attended school and found jobs in the city, in the years leading up to World War Two.

Dad, age 34, on a trip to Disneyland
Photo by Mary Simons
Fast Forward: My Dad comes home from WW2 and marries the girl who lived 2 blocks away. 10 years later, I am born. Once I graduate from baby food, my Dad introduces me to The Real Breakfast. This becomes the breakfast we kids eat most of the time until we get to senior high school.

Making Bacon and Eggs
When Dad made his school-age daughters The Real Breakfast, he made it the same way his father did. He put two slices of toast in the toaster - or refrigerator biscuits in the oven - and got those started. Then he warmed up the cast-iron skillet while he lined up the bacon and eggs and milk on the counter top. First, he cooked the bacon, keeping all the grease in the skillet and draining the bacon itself on paper towels. As those cooled, he would crack a pair of eggs and slide those into the bacon grease. Using a metal spatula, he would carefully splash a bit of hot grease over the eggs and cook them until done. When everything was ready, he put 2 slices of bacon, 2 eggs, and 2 pieces of toast on each plate and invited us to "dig in!" Dad did this for us faithfully for many years, both at home and on vacation.

Turn-About Time
Now Dad is 88, has dementia, and lives with me. After he retired and he and my mother started traveling around, they ate out for most meals, including breakfast. After Mom passed on and Dad come to live with me, he still wanted to eat out. I usually take him out for his favorite breakfast. But he if he is unwell or if it is Sunday morning, we dine in. Now I have taken up the mantle of Breakfast Chef. My husband helps, but some days it is just Dad and I. We head for the kitchen, I pour him some coffee and bring in the newspaper. While he reads, I get out the eggs, milk, bacon and toast. Now the meal has been updated: turkey bacon instead of pork, whole wheat bread instead of white, fewer eggs, and no bacon grease! Coffee is decaffeinated these days - thanks to the cardiologist - and is drip grind instead of percolated. When all is ready, I bring the loaded plates to the table, say the blessing and we "dig in!"

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