Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meanwhile, Over At The Griddle.......

One of the benefits of getting older is that cooking provides more than just sustenance.

For example, whenever I make a pot of gravy (the Italian spaghetti sauce kind, not the brown mashed potato sort) I can almost see and hear my maternal grandmother. Even though she was of Irish descent, she was outstanding at cooking Italian food. Not surprisingly, I make my gravy using her recipe.

Meatloaf, pot roast, and fried chicken all remind me of Mom. Meatloaf in our house was actually meatloaves. Mom made them two at a time as we got older. One for dinner, the other for cold sandwiches the next day. Her pot roast was legendary in our family. There wasn't a one of us who didn't love it. It was served with a savory sage and peppery brown gravy with mushrooms and lots of onions. Most times for me, it went right over the mashed potatoes. I'm pretty sure that in her lifetime Mom fried at least one farm's worth of chickens. She did it the old fashioned way in a well seasoned flour and fried crispy. In Summer she allowed it to cool completely prior to dinner. That allowed both Mom and the small galley kitchen we ate in, time to cool off. Fresh Jersey corn, sliced Jersey tomatoes, and cucumber salad were most often the side dishes.

This morning, as usual, I woke up early. The kitchen was still a bit of a mess from yesterday. Christine's family had to reschedule a holiday get together due to inclement weather over the holidays. I volunteered to make a pan of lasagna and cook down a turkey breast for hot turkey and gravy sandwiches.

Factor in Christine making a bunch of "Buckeye" candies and you can imagine just how rough the kitchen looked when we were finished.

It didn't take too long for me to get it under control. With one large pot left to clean soaking in hot water, I decided to make some breakfast. I went to the refrigerator and pulled out a block of scrapple.

Scrapple is a long time family favorite in my family. Everybody liked scrapple, and everybody liked the way Dad cooked it. He'd slice it medium thick, about 1/4 inch thick. With the cast iron pan over medium heat, he'd throw just in a small dollop of bacon grease, swirl it, and lay the scrapple into the pan.

Anybody who knows anything about scrapple knows it doesn't need any extra grease. However, this is the way Dad's mom made it, therefore the way he made it.

Scrapple is full of sage and black pepper. As soon as it hit the skillet and bacon grease, the kitchen filled with a wonderful aroma of spice and smoke. Cooking weekend breakfasts was Dad at his best. It was a "chore" he really enjoyed and I could tell. The intensity of his work week seemed to melt away. It was something I wouldn't understand until I got much older.

I broke out my cast iron griddle. I prefer using the griddle over the pan because the low sides make getting a spatula under the scrapple a lot easier. Just like Dad I set the stove temperature to medium and let the pan warm slightly. In a slight deviation from family tradition, I opted not to use the bacon fat.

This morning's blood pressure: 130/79. No reason to screw with that any more than just having scrapple.

For those of you who have never seen scrapple, it looks something like this before frying:

It's a thing of beauty.

What are those big, buttery chunks you see floating in there?

Who knows?

It's scrapple after all.

Could be a chunk of liver fat, some cooled rendered fat from the boiling process, or even a mystery chunk.

In the name of science, and morning hunger, I took it to the skillet.

Twelve minutes, and two turns later I had my answer.

It was a chunk of cornmeal that hadn't been blended completely into the batch.

Not aesthetically pleasing to some, but not a deal breaker to a hungry guy.

In five short days it will be thirty years since Dad passed away.

The last time I had scrapple that Dad cooked would be thirty years ago earlier this month, just before I left to go back to college.

Yet, as I get older, I find I can have scrapple with him anytime.

All I need is the cast iron, the bacon fat, and the scrapple.

Love ya and miss ya Pop.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

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