WEEKDAY BREAKFAST at our house is more functional than conversational. I suspect it is like that at many households. You get some grub and get out the door.
Last Monday morning, however, was a waffle-making morning. It was different. The weather was unusually warm. The sky seemed brighter. Even the whine of the city trash trucks as they made their Monday morning rounds, seemed less plaintiff, more lyrical.
The household benefited from having waffle batter leftover from a big Sunday breakfast. As I stood in the kitchen, waiting for the waffle iron to heat up and signal that it, too, was ready to begin a new week, I had a few minutes to ruminate on homemade waffles and the great wide world.
I marveled at the simple joys waffles deliver. The aroma of the waffles as they steamed in the iron, the pleasure of eating something warm for breakfast, the surprise of liquid batter being transformed into a stable structure, combined to fill me with a sense of well-being. I looked down at the 16 perfect little squares imprinted in the hot waffle and was transfixed. It usually doesn't take much to make me transfixed, especially early in the morning before I have had a couple of cups of coffee.
The waffles were well-received by the eaters. Only a fragment or two remained on the breakfast plates I served to our sons, 15 and 11 years old. Examining plates is one way I gauge whether the kids like the food they have been served. When they were younger I used to be able to watch the movement of their feet as the kids sat at the kitchen table. Back then, their feet dangled from the chairs, and did not touch the floor. I learned that if their feet were swinging back and forth, all was right with the world. If their feet weren't swinging, trouble was brewing.
Nowadays, their feet are firmly planted under the kitchen table. They wear shoes in adult sizes. And they are learning adult styles of communication, such as not telling everybody everything, especially not parents.
I have found that putting food in front of your offspring generally produces strong feedback. They either like what you have fixed or they don't. Even if they don't tell you that they enjoyed it, their empty plates will.
A crew of boys ate the first batch of waffles, served Sunday morning. Four boys polished off eight waffles. Their plates were spotless. This was a sleep-over crew, the remnants of a larger collection of 10-to-11-year-old boys who had helped our youngest son celebrate his 11th birthday. The Sunday morning waffle eaters had, over the years, spent many nights at our house. As they sat around the breakfast table, I noted how these kids had grown.
I wouldn't say they had developed "palates," but they had definite ideas of what they liked to eat and drink. A few wanted butter and syrup on their waffles, one only butter. Two drank milk, one asked for juice, another requested ice water. Like many boys this age, they devoted a fair amount of time to discussing body parts. You can probably guess which parts. I saw signs of table manners. Knives and forks and napkins were artfully used. One eater even put his left hand in his lap. They said "please" and "thank you," words that turn most adults into putty.
They also plowed through the stack of newspapers sitting on the kitchen table. These 10- and 11-year-olds read the comics. A few read the sports pages. And one boy, who is on the lookout for a dirt bike, even searched through the classified ads to find the listings for used motorcycles.
This made me think of the claim, often uttered by trend watchers, that young people don't read newspapers. It also reminded me of another bit of trend-watcher wisdom, namely that "nobody cooks.
In my experience, these statements are simply not true. I think that reading a newspaper is similar to enjoying waffles, or other homemade food. Once you have become accustomed to it, it is a hard habit to kick.
Our household likes straight-forward, unflavored waffles. Here is the recipe we use, which is a variation of the one found in the 1949 edition of "Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook."
Makes 10 waffles
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cup melted shortening or salad oil
Sift flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into large bowl. In another bowl combine beaten eggs, milk and oil. Then add liquid mixture to flour mixture, stirring with wooden spoon until smooth. Cook in waffle iron following instructions of waffle iron maker.