My husband, Clif, and I enjoy feeding family and friends. Our daughter Shannon and her fiancé, Mike, frequently come for dinner, and once or twice a month, we have friends over either for an appetizer night or a meal. In the summer, we love to be outside on our patio, and we entertain out there as often as we can from June through September. But this time of year, until the weather is really warm, we like to host Sunday brunches. Few things are cozier than to invite some friends over, set the dining room table, put on jazz, and haul out our little “waffle table,” which we place next to Clif’s seat. Onto the waffle table go the ladle, waffle iron, and batter bowl. Onto the big table go the maple syrup, butter, and homemade blueberry syrup and caramel applesauce. Also, an earthenware pitcher of sweet apple cider from a local orchard.
Soon comes the buttery smell of home fries, made from cold potatoes cooked the day before. But the brunch revolves around Clif’s waffles, made fresh, one by one, at the dining room table, and passed around so that guests can help themselves to a section. Simply put, Clif’s waffles are soft, tender, and utterly addictive. I know this is bragging, but I can’t help it. His waffles are so good that it seems senseless to go to a restaurant to have breakfast. (His thick yet fluffy pancakes aren’t to be sneezed at, either.)
Waffles fall under the category of simple food involving a little extra preparation that takes them out of the category of everyday food. After all, what’s in a waffle? Flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, salt, and oil. That’s about it. But there is something special about sitting at the big oval table and watching Clif as he pours the thick batter into the waffle iron, closes the top, and then waits. In turn, we all wait in eager expectation for the golden hot waffle, and in the beginning, Clif cannot keep up with our appetites. The waffle plate goes around, and it comes back empty before the next waffle is ready. But eventually, aided by home fries and, say, a quiche or chili eggs, the time comes when the waffles pile on the plate faster than we can eat them, and then finally we can eat no more. Clif continues cooking the waffles until the batter is gone, and there will be toasted waffles for breakfast for the next week or so. What a wonderful thought!
Last Sunday, our friend John Clark came over for brunch. Unfortunately, his wife, Beth, was working and couldn’t join us, but their daughter Lisa was visiting from New York, and she came with John. There are few things nicer for middle-aged folks than to be graced with the company of a young adult. I might be getting old and soft, but it seems to me that younger people just shine, and how nice it is to bask in their glow. Lisa teaches school in the Bronx in New York City, and she spoke of the joys and the challenges of teaching children raised in a tough, gritty neighborhood. John, who is the librarian in Hartland, Maine, is also a scrounge extraordinaire, and he finds treasures at the local transfer station to add to the library’s collection. He also swaps, via the Internet, to get books, DVDs, and CDs for the library, and as a result, the shelves are pretty much full. I am a sucker for scrounging stories where resourcefulness, cleverness, and creativity are employed so that what would once be thrown away becomes something useful and of value. If more people were like John (and his daughter Lisa, who is a chip off the old block, as the saying goes) then the world would certainly be a much greener place. And a better one, too.
Our friends Dawna and Jim Leavitt also came over, and they told us about their photography projects. (Dawna is working on an “Our Town” project, and she brought me some lovely photography cards she took of Hallowell, surely one of central Maine’s most photographic towns.)
Then, as late morning turned to afternoon, the talk went from the personal to the political and the societal. Clif made the insightful comment that nowadays, “Stuff is the opiate of the masses.” Who could argue? Our country is awash with cheap stuff, which in turn seems to pacify people who labor in low-paying jobs that offer no benefits. (Maine has a service sector economy, and many Mainers work in such jobs.) However, soothed and buttered by waffles, quiche, and home fries, we couldn’t really whip up ourselves into our usual state of progressive indignation.
Maybe what the world really needs, is brunch, sweet brunch, to make it a mellower place. And, of course, a little jazz to go with it.