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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

Eat a Better Breakfast

One cannot think well or move fast
Without a hearty breakfast.
My Mother

Unless you know what it is to awake in an icy room, the outdoors obscured by windows veiled in frost, you do not understand what morning chill-out really is. You force yourself to throw off the covers and put your feet on a floor that feels like an ice rink, grab the closest warm over-garment you can find and stagger into the bathroom. The water is frozen in its pipes, the toilet forgot how to flush and the mirror, thank God is covered with frost. The expression on your frostbitten face would be anything but comforting to you and in any case your eyes are crusted with ice.

If you manage to eke water from the faucet, you brush your teeth in ice water, splash the equivalent of a chipped glacier on your face and force your muscles to work just enough to clothe yourself. You stagger downstairs for anything hot enough to thaw your insides, but the gas pipes have burst, the wood is sodden and won’t burn in the fireplace and you are doomed to letting your own organs try their best to circulate your blood.

It is in times like these that omitting breakfast is not an option. You need that steaming platter of anything hot, that boiling beverage and the heat in the kitchen to thaw yourself out and get your fluids running once more.

In my hometown, mornings were below zero on good days all winter long. Most of the time, the 6 a.m. thermometer (if it hadn’t cracked) registered several degrees below zero and was usually embedded in so much snow and ice that you couldn’t read it anyway even if you had wanted to know the chilling truth. I believe it was deliberately hiding because of a misguided humanitarian impulse to prevent suicides.

During World War II, we had rationing and all the good breakfast foods like eggs, butter and kippers were rare treats. We saved our sugar coupons just to sweeten our Rice Krispies and watch them do their dance. We would tap our fingers to the rhythm of their snap, crackle and pop in the vain hope we would encourage some digital movement

That was the year my cousin Richard was born and my Aunt Tick hired a Swedish nurse named Anna to take help her take care of the baby. I loved to stop at her house on my way to school to tickle the baby and if I was lucky taste some of Anna’s unique cooking. She was the master of original comfort foods never seen on this side of the ocean. “In Sveden vere I vas from,” she would say, “Food has to stick to da ribs or you freeze to your deat. “

My aunt’s home was filled with the aroma of meatballs, thick potato soups, stews filled with huge chunks of meat, herring casseroles and a fruit soup so thick you could use it for wallpaper paste. Sunday mornings, Anna made breakfast for the whole family and I never missed one of those gigantic meals that calorie filled year she was at my aunt's. I would bundle up in my snowsuit and mittens at eight that morning. I stuffed my thickly stockinged feet into on my stadium boots and wrapped a muffler around my nose before I dared to attempt to break my way out of our frozen house. I had to chip away the ice that sealed the front door before I could bounce down the ice-crusted steps, and slide and coast the half block to Aunt Tick’s house. The smell of that wonderful breakfast was actually discernible the minute I opened the front door and it became strong and more exciting to me with every snowdrift I hurdled.

As soon as I entered that kitchen, my stomach, now thawed and ready to be filled, did its usually ecstatic flip flop at the thought of the treats to come.

It was never disappointed. Anna always made the same breakfast for us but to me, each Sunday, it all tasted brand new. “Sit down, Lynnie Rute!” she would cry. “I have made for us Svedish pancakes like my mama made for all of us back in the old country.”

I have often thought that Anna missed her calling when she became a baby nurse. Instead she should have patented those pancakes as environmentally friendly fuel that could get anything from a frozen snail to a Mack truck revved up no matter how cold the weather, or how bitter the wind.

These are the pancakes Anna served to us:

1 C unbleached flour
1 t sugar
1t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 ½ C milk
½ C half&half cream
3 eggs separated
6 T softened butter
Safflower oil or butter for cooking

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly and beat in milk and cream. Beat yolks and blend into batter. Whip egg whites until they are stiff but not dry, fold into batter stirring gently to incorporate whites. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Stir in the melted and cooled butter. Brush griddle with oil and heat it to 400 degrees. Pour ¼ C batter for each hot cake. Cook until bubbles form on top of the cake and lift edge with a spatula. Be sure the edges are browned. Flip the pancake. Let brown a few moments.
Serve hot with powdered sugar and maple syrup or warmed applesauce.

Remember: It has to be very cold outside to do these magic cakes justice.

One need only see a plate of pancakes to overindulge in his heart.

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