A few weeks ago I asked everyone to write out their favorite food memory. Winner gets an autographed copy of Paul Gerald’s new book, Breakfast in Bridgetown: the Definitive Guide to Portland’s Favorite Meal.
We sent all the entries to a group of judges and though almost every piece had at least one vote, the five listed below were clear favorites. Now it is your turn to give us your opinion. You’ll find a place to vote at the bottom of this page.
Thanks again to everyone who entered. It was a lot of fun reading them!
Looking for the winning entry? You’ll find it here.
By Jessica Roberts
Growing up, my mom did most of the cooking. But one of my dad’s few but magnificent specialties was fresh buttermilk pancakes, which we feasted on every Saturday morning without fail. The rules were simple:
1. No pancakes until you’re dressed.
2. First one up gets the first pancakes.
When I was young, the pancake trick was a huge motivator. When I was a teenager, I traded the first pancakes for a few more sweet minutes (OK, I mean hours) of sleep…but as long as I got dressed eventually, I still got my pancakes.
Most of the time we had ‘regular’ syrup, but every once in a while we would wake up to discover a bottle of Smuckers Boysenberry Syrup on the table. Never raspberry, or apricot, but always boysenberry. And if were really, really lucky, the old-fashioned Belgian waffle iron came out…yep, the cast iron kind that had to be heated on the stove before using. To this day, my idea of heaven has to involve deep, crusty-yet-tender squares of waffle with plenty of butter and boysenberry syrup.
But my fondest memory of my dad’s pancakes has nothing to do with eating them.
We had chickens, and all the food scraps went to the chickens. My dad would take any extra batter and cook it up before throwing it to the chickens. But on one particular Saturday, he decided he’d had enough with making individual pancakes. From that point on, he would dump all the batter into the pan, and make one giant “chicken pancake.” I joined him on the trip to the chicken pen, and he let me fling it over the fence and into the yard. Imagine my surprise when one hapless chicken eagerly positioned herself underneath the aerial feast…only to have the “chicken pancake” land squarely on her head! She couldn’t see a thing, and couldn’t understand what was wrong, so she just staggered around the yard until her pancake hat became a poncho. As you can imagine, this was a huge hit, and we began to request “chicken pancakes” every week (or at least until the hens got wise to the trick).
So, dad, thanks for eighteen years of Saturday pancakes, gallons of boysenberry syrup, and one beautiful “chicken pancake” morning. And thanks for still making me pancakes when I come to visit!
By Pesto Gal:
The sun, sinking lower and lower, reflects off the crystalline water a million times a second. Red fades into orange fades into pink fades into blue fades into finally black depths. The castle keeps sentinel over the tiny town this evening, just another night watch in its schedule of thousands over the centuries. A man peeks from within the fortress, which now provides the town with a different form of comfort. From his perch, he tosses stale bread into the glistening sea. It begins to churn white as hundreds of small fish battle for a crumb or two. Slowly the bread dissipates, and when it’s gone, the waters calm. Peace returns and just the hypnotic lapping of waves is audible like there was never any disturbance at all. A nearby fisherman, his face leathered but content watches the scene for a minute, then returns his attention to his pursuit. He reels in a small prize and calls out to his companion. “Gatto,” he says melodically, almost in pitch, and the cat ambles over to examine his dinner. He bats at the fish a few times, as if to inspect its quality. Satisfied, he sits and dines like a king. The sun acquiesces and disappears into the water, leaving traces of muted colors. They too fade, and all is quiet.
By Grape Dog
My mom moved the 3 of us kids in a U-Haul truck from Los Angeles to Oregon in the late 1960s after my dad ran off for good. We had very little money and my mom was somewhat overwhelmed with the transition from stable family to a single-parent household. She was lucky enough to find a source of free USDA surplus cheese, powdered eggs and powdered milk, a trinity of ingredients that became the backbone of all our meals for a while. Breakfast was always scrambled eggs with lots of black pepper and a tall glass of reconstituted milk. Occasionally, we’d get day-old bread from the Oroweat outlet store in Salem for toast. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep us going and as a family, we were doing ok even though it was quite different than what the other kids at school would eat every morning. Today, whenever I have scrambled eggs for breakfast, I think back to those times, reflecting on the past 40+ years of life and feel great knowing that my brother, sister and mom had our own unique way to start each day.
By Rick Hamell
Some of my earliest (and best) memories involve breakfast at the Grandparents.
Their farm is near Coos Bay on the Southern Oregon Coast. Driving from Portland we’d arrive there fairly late at night. The last twenty miles of the trip would be through heavily wooded forests and farms that were homesteaded 100 years ago. Dinner was most likely a late stop at the A&W just outside of town, or more often cheese, crackers and peanut butter consumed on the drive in.
But in the morning, without fail buttermilk pancakes would be cooking. The recipe handed down in the family came across on the Oregon Trail. Or maybe the back of a Bisquick box. The origin changed, but they were always cooked from memory.
We’d eagerly wolf down a dozen of the silver dollar sized cakes each. Smothered in syrup and peanut butter then washed down with a glass of fresh milk no one left the table until stuffed to the gills. Of course, there were always leftovers. Rarely did we even make a dent in the plate.
The grandparents could never say no to any animals given to them. Living on a farm it just felt natural, so breakfast would be finished off by feeding the multitude of animals. The dozen or so dogs would line up expectantly, and we’d take turns throwing leftover pancakes to them, more would be given to the pigs and chickens as part of their breakfast. Some would even be left for the cats, although more frequently the raccoons got them first. Dishes would be licked clean by both children and dogs then washed and put away.
Afterwards was the excitement of starting in the daily farm chores. Breakfast like that made even the youngest of us feel ready for them, no matter how dreary and rainy the weather was.
Almost thirty years later, those pancakes still appear on the table every morning. Secretly, they remain the highlight of breakfast and will elicit a “quick” 400+ mile trip to get some. We could make them ourselves, all the grandkids have the recipe. But none of us ever will.
By Granny Moonstar
Breakfast, when I was a kid, was a weekend event – cold cereal before school didn’t count. And every weekend it was pretty much the same thing. Daddy would get out his cast iron skillet, place it on the gas stove and start frying. Always eggs. Sometimes bacon, occasionally ham – and if it were fishing season there would be freshly caught rainbow trout from his 4 am jaunt on the lake.
But the thing I remember most was his fried potatoes. If I were really lucky he would grate them, then dump them in the hot grease and make them oh so crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I’ve tried forever to duplicate that. 4 out of 5 times I almost get it. That 5th time is heaven. Makes my arteries harden just to think about it…
Daddy grew older and ended up having a triple bypass. But he never lost his love of fried potatoes. When he reached the age of 88, I moved to Tucson and lived with him and my stepmom. Over the course of 16 months, I perfected the fried potato. Not the grated wonder that my dad turned out; but a thin sliced, perfect circle of crispiness. With a soft center that melted in your mouth.
I would get up at 6 am when Daddy came out of his bedroom to get the newspaper, and we would have a cup of coffee together while I peeled a couple of small potatoes. Then I would slice and fry them up – using that same cast iron skillet and a gas stove. When I served them to him in his recliner, he would eat them with his fingers – savoring every bite.
My stepmom always said that I was spoiling him. But I like to think that I was feeding his spirit – transferring the love that he gave his baby girl right back to him, by way of a fried potato.