Breakfast, the most important meal of the day; so said Lenna Cooper in 1917. Since then though, that slogan’s been hijacked by the likes of Cap’n Crunch and Fruit Loops. I will say though that when I was raising my boys, breakfast was the ‘most memorable’ meal of the day.
I’ve written about our famous annual breakfast trip to the Preble County Ohio Pork Festival at the crack of dawn (link) and how it’s one of my favorite memories. What I tried to capture in that story was a feeling. Anytime I think back to those trips, my focus goes directly to a feeling of love and pride; love for my boys and my stepfather Joe, and pride not only for just having taken the initiative to make those memories, but also the pride I feel for just being a father who’s always tried to do right by my boys.
I don’t remember breakfast ever being a special time on Prytania. What I do remember is nine kids all getting ready for school at various times, furiously fighting for bathroom time. Oh and good luck with that with five sisters. Hell, I don’t even remember eating breakfast then although I’m sure I did. (I know for sure it wasn’t Life cereal) (link). The only breakfast I can remember at Prytania came in a pouch that required the addition of milk; good old Carnation Instant Breakfast (strawberry was my favorite).
But after becoming a parent, breakfast, indeed became the most important meal of the day for me. Kim and I both had day jobs of course and the kids went to school so on weekdays we usually fed the kids intravenously in the car while one of us drove them either to school or daycare. Personally, I’ve always been a ‘2 meal a day’ guy so I normally skipped food in the mornings. Oh but I always made up for it over lunch and dinner. And then of course I invariably would always eat something for a late night snack, (like a half gallon of ice cream).
The weekends though….ah yes, the weekend breakfasts! I always made sure we had the typical breakfast ingredients – eggs, sausage, bacon, etc. I’m a sausage guy. There aren’t too many sausages I don’t love. So many times, I’d get up earlier than everyone else and I’d let my wife and kids sleep in while I made breakfast.
I had a cooking routine, everything timed perfectly so all the food finished together. The first thing I’d do would be to make the pancake batter. When I was cooking for all the boys, I’d use 2 cups of Bisquick, 2 cups of buttermilk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 eggs and some vanilla. Once I had the batter made, I’d set some pans out. Then I’d cut up the sausage for patties, place them in the iron skillet and let them cook on a very low heat. If I was doing bacon, I’d do the same thing in a separate pan. Then I’d get the skillet heating up for the pancakes. I had a preferred method for placing and spreading the batter on the skillet and usually the sausage would finish shortly before all the pancakes finished. Many times, that would be enough but often I’d also make a small batch of scrambled eggs, or maybe a fried egg for Kim or Mitch. Before the eggs though…I’d yell up the steps – BREAKFAST IS READY, COME AND GET IT!
And boy, did they!
Sometimes though, maybe once or twice a month, I’d ask if they wanted to go out for breakfast, especially when Kim worked weekends. She was a nurse and people didn’t have the common courtesy to not get sick on weekends, (the nerve of them). That’s when it would be just me and the boys.
So on a lot of weekends, I’d walk upstairs and wake the boys, asking if they wanted to go out for breakfast. They almost always said yes. We usually had one of two destinations; Cracker Barrel or Frisch’s Big Boy for their breakfast bar. My choice would almost always be Cracker Barrel but I always let the boys choose. Usually they would choose the breakfast bar. That was ok with me as Frisch’s had great coffee and I loved their hot cinnamon apples.
The boys loved their breakfast so much that they’d even eat it out of their laps – just kidding. Once Corey, #2 son, dumped his plate of food in his lap. On another visit, Mitch, (#1 son), picked up a plate in the bar line and immediately dropped it on the floor. Apparently it was too hot to handle. Number 3 son? He loved coffee. We would take one of those tiny liquid creamer containers and fill it up from our cup. He was only three but he’d sip it down and give out a cute “ahh”. At the end of breakfast the boys would tease me as I’d continue to sit there enjoying my multiple cups of coffee. Many times they could all be overheard whining, ‘oh no, he’s having another one…c’mon Dad, 100 cups of coffee is enough!’
But what they didn’t realize at the time was that I was soaking up the moment, planning one day to share my mornings with you, dear reader. So pull up a chair and pour yourself a nice cup of coffee. Enjoy the morning memory with me.
My boys are all grown men now and I’m living what I hope are the early years of a very long and happy retirement. I’m glad to have them out of the house; I did the best job I could and I’m proud of the men they are.
But I still miss making those pancakes, still miss that early morning drive to the Pork Festival, still miss eating that good Cracker Barrel sausage and still miss watching my boys fill their plates in the Frisch’s breakfast bar line. I hope they think back with fondness on those times someday when I’m no longer around, that they had their own ‘Growing up on Prytania’.