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A Great Breakfast

January 1, 2006

My husband brought a thirty year old waffle iron to our marriage. I brought a set of china egg coddlers, given as a wedding present when I first married (someone else) in the mid-sixties. I also had two little egg cups for holding eggs and a egg clipper. Neither of us wanted to part with these objects. Not because they were the watch fob and beautiful hair of the famous tale, but because we were going to use them.

In truth, my husband used the grill part of his waffle iron (the heavy metal plates, both top and bottom, held in by heavy clips, reverse from waffle iron to grill) for his grilled banana and peanut butter sandwiches. The grandchildren vie for him to make them. They also love waffles.

That’s where the rub came in. In my opinion, the waffle iron part of the heavy electric machine had ceased being of value. It stuck whenever it encountered a batter, I suspect because it didn’t get hot enough, and someone had scrubbed it raw in the holes. There is nothing more annoying than having nine grandchildren look at you while you scrape away little pieces of waffle from a blistering-but-not-hot-enough waffle iron. Its even more annoying if you forgot to flip the plates until it was heated up and had already burned yourself.

So, just before Christmas, I purchased an inexpensive waffle maker that had a non-stick surface. When waffle-making time came, I presented my husband with a pre-made batter and said, sweetly, if his waffle maker was so perfect, he could make the waffles. Within half an hour he switched to the new waffle maker. I am now planning to buy a second waffle maker in order to make two at the time. We are keeping the old waffle iron to continue using as a grill, only. (Some things never change.)

What is it that makes us crave waffles and pancakes and sturdy breakfasts in the winter? Their stick-to-it-iveness, I suppose, making us feel full and sated before a hard days work or play. Certainly, for me, spending several weeks a year in Vermont, where I am getting my MFA, adds to my yearning for them. We are served waffles every day at the dorm in Vermont, with maple syrup to douse them in. When I come home, laden with varieties of syrup purchased at the airport, I want waffles for breakfast.

I have no illusions about the grandchildren. They see waffles primarily as a crisp vehicle for holding maple syrup. It is amazing how much syrup can be used – and ingested – if one pours syrup in every hole in a waffle. (I’ve not forgotten sorghum syrup, it is just harder for me to find.) Pecans are a plus.

But what about those coddled eggs? I used the coddled egg holders and the soft-boiled egg holders until about twenty years ago. I have to admit, it was time to use them or lose them. So we’ve started having large weekend breakfasts, or, barring them, breakfast for dinner.

I’ve found the egg coddlers a hit. Not so the egg holders, but first to the egg coddlers. The coddlers are well insulated china, in my first wedding pattern, June Garland, a relatively insipid pattern. I have them in two sizes. One barely holds one large egg, and the other will more than hold one egg. Each has a metal screw top, with a little ring on the top for hauling the cup up out of simmering water. The resulting eggs may be soft or hard cooked, depending on how long you cook them and how you want them. They stay warm after cooking because of the insulation.

The egg cups and clipper take a dexterity of which we are not capable in the morning. The egg sits in the cup, the clipper is picked up, put on top of the egg, and squeezed. This is supposed to remove the top, enabling the eater to spoon out the soft yolk and white. It doesn’t work so easily, and after making several messes, we have decided we will give them away. I am reminded that all the pleats in a chef’s toque symbolize 100 ways to fix an egg. It doesn’t indicate that we know how to eat them elegantly, or that we have to do them all.

Pancakes are always a hit. They are good holders for blueberries, like pecans, maple syrup, Karo syrup, just plain butter and sugar (my favorite), or any number of other variations.

Both pancakes and waffles freeze, and may be reheated in toaster, oven, or microwave, so they need not be a burden during busy days. Home made is still better than store-bought.

Bacon is a must. The easiest way to make really good bacon is to bake it, flat, on a non-stick pan in the oven. It comes out crisp, and stays crisp. I cook it at 350 degrees, but a little hotter will do too, for fifteen minutes. Somewhere in there I carefully drain off the grease. (This has become a bit of a problem. I don’t use the coffee cans my mother did, and don’t have a lot of jars, either. My mother used to keep bacon fat on the back of the stove, but I don’t do that, either. The best solution I’ve found is to pour it into a heat-proof small bowl, let it cool, and then put it in the garbage. On no condition should grease be poured down sink or garbage disposal. Cold weather will cause it to clog up the drain.)

Accompanied by fresh orange juice, our winter breakfasts have become a cozy treat, ready for tray for outside or bedroom when time allows.

Layered, fluffy, feathery, silky, soft, and velvety biscuits all come together in Southern Biscuits, a book of recipes and baking secrets for every biscuit imaginable.
The magical combination of shrimp and grits, whether for pre-dawn breakfast on a shrimp boat or as an entrée in the finest New York restaurant can be deliriously wonderful.
A beautiful book, winner of the James Beard Award for Entertaining, that will help the novice and the experienced alike.
The best of traditional Southern cooking, as well as innovative, new cuisine.
This book will be a keepsake for anyone with Southern roots, and a practical book for those who like to cook! A winner of the 1994 James Beard Award.
Master index to all of Nathalie's cookbooks

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