Saturday, September 24, 2011
There aren't very many people still alive who remember my dad and his pancakes, but I've got one remaining aunt alive who does. In the next generation there are a few cousins near my age who do - Shirlee, Nancy and maybe Sharon, and then my brother and me. Everyone else is gone.
My dad did a lot of cooking around our house. As I've noted in other blogs, mom wasn't a very good cook, and although she was the primary cooker of the regular family meals, my dad took over for all the specialty meals.
And while he was especially good on the meats to be served, his real specialty was pancakes. For us, pancakes weren't so much a breakfast item as they were for a Sunday night dinner. Back in the days when I grew up, there weren't many prepared "mixes," so daddy made his pancakes from scratch. At that time our family was composed of my mom, dad, my sister and me, and our Uncle Bill. My brother wouldn't come along until I was 14. Daddy would whip up a bunch of pancakes, mother would fry some bacon, "Unc" would tend the percolating coffee and that would be our Sunday evening dinner. We little kids and mother, not being big eaters, usually ate a single pancake, and the men usually had two and on occasion three. That was just about how many daddy's batch made.
My dad had only one sibling, a sister who lived with her family in Pueblo, Colorado. One year Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Chuck and my cousins Nancy and Kenny, who at that time were young teenagers, came to visit us and Daddy fixed a pancake dinner for them. This meal turned out to be one that set a record for pancake eating: Kenny, a growing young boy probably 12 years old, ate 13 pancakes! My sister and I were stunned. Never had we seen anyone eat like that, and even well into our old age my sister and I would refer to the time that Cousin Kenny ate 13 pancakes! It surely made history in the Dobbins family.
When my sis and I were little kids, our dad always made Mickey-Mouse shaped pancakes for us. He knew just how to do it, complete with eyes and a mouth - little squiggles of batter dropped in exactly the right places before the larger pancake batter "head" and "ears" were put on top of them. When I was doing some babysitting for my two youngest grandchildren, Olivia and Justine, I always made them Mickey Mouse pancakes for one of the breakfasts we had - but I certainly didn't inherit my dad's batter artistry. Mine were identifiable as mice -- but barely!
My mother had lots of brothers and sisters who lived not too far from us in Long Beach and daddy would often suggest that they all come over for a pancake dinner. He was good that way; he was the oldest of all of them and after he and mother married they shepherded her younger brothers and sisters through the tail end of the depression, often loaned them money when there was a need, and in general just made sure that they were all okay. Having them over for a Saturday night pancake dinner was his pleasure too. Around the table would be Uncle Sam and Aunt Marie with daughters Shirlee and Nancy, Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty with kids Karen and Steve, Uncle Hugh and Aunt Betty with Sandy and Susan, Aunt Margie and of course our own family of dad, mother, Ginnie Lou, brother Steve and me. After everyone was sated with yummy pancakes, the women cleaned up the kitchen and the men set up the dining room table for poker, using wooden matches for chips. Those with smallish children might head for home, and the older cousins might sit on the floor playing their own types of card games - Fish, War, and Old Maid.
Dad and his pancakes became a legend in our family history. Dad's own father died when daddy was 8, leaving his mother and older sister Dorothy, both of whom had to go to work to support the family. There were no social programs in place then to provide support for widows. Dad did a lot of the cooking while he was young; as he got older he started doing some surveying with companies looking to locate mining operations and he did some cooking out in the field then. So it was natural that later, being the breadwinner in a household of females, he, and Unc to a lesser extent, would pick up some of the cooking. (Unc was the "coffee man.")
There are lots of things we all remember about our childhood. I'm guessing that made-from-scratch pancakes for dinner is one of the more unusual memories a person can have. To this day I think of my dad when I see a stack of pancakes. He died in 2001 at the age of 93.