Friday, December 9, 2005

Breakfast at Nana's (or Breafix for the Northeasterners)

This morning things became worse for Nana.  She has been in the hospital for almost two weeks now but on Wednesday of this week her conditioned worsened and she became unresponsive.  Since that time, there have been a few good moments, but it has become slowly worse.  However, that is not the point for this entry. 
For those of you who might not know Nana she is world famous.  There are people in many states across this country, in foreign countries, and at one point or another, in every corner of the globe who know who Nana is and her name is synonymous with "breakfast."  If you have not had Nana's Breakfast (or Nana's Breafix as it is known in the Northeast) then you do not know what a real breakfast can be.  Sure there are places like Cracker Barrel that we stop by from time to time, but they do not hold a candle to Nana's.  It is the only place I know of where breakfast is served in courses and this was the every Sunday thing to do.  It wasn't that Brother Grant's sermons were ever boring (and my wife tells me that it wasn't that mine were either years later), but after a meal like this it was just too hard to keep your eyes open in church, but we tried. 
You also need to know that on any other time it was Nan and Papa's house, but on Sunday morning, it was Nana's.
So back to the spread.  Here is Sunday morning at Nana and Papa's house.  You come in the kitchen door (yes there are other door at there house, but I'm not sure what they are for).  Papa will be sitting at the counter or by the heater (regardless the time of year).  "Howdy, look what's coming there" was the equivalent to good morning.  Nana would be standing at the stove keeping watch over her feast and would always pause stirring the gravy or checking on the biscuits or preparing the chocolate gravy to come over and give you a hug.  She would always tell you that she didn't want to get your clothes dirty, and she never did, but she always gave you that hug.  Grandchildren I am convinced always got longer hugs and grandsons, well the only grandson was always reminded that he was bigger than the week before and soon he would be taller than Nana, even after she fit easily under my arm in that morning embrace. 
But you didn't stay in the doorway long.  There was always someone else to eat with.  When family was home Maldon always already had his seat at the table and if fried apples were on the menu then Deana and Danielle were already up and ready.  Then cam the battle for the stools.  In Nana's house the kids get the big table and the adults sit at the shorter one.  We gathered around and it took two tables to hold all the food (every Sunday).  There was the first course I like to call the meat and gravy course.  There was always bacon and sausage but the third meat switched from Sunday to Sunday.  Sometimes country ham, sometimes fried chicken, sometimes pork tenderloin or pork chops, and then on that rare occasion, and I always got first dibs though I'm sure Papa did before I got there, was scraps.  If you've never butchered a pig in Albany, KY you may not know what these are, but let it suffice to say that 1) there is no better piece of meat on the hog, 2) no one cooked them better than Nana, and 3) there were never any leftover scraps.  The biscuits were simple and homemade and were never under or over done.  They, like everything else she prepared had no real recipe.  Nana just said she wanted to cook this and there it was.  Biscuits were always a treat though.  If you were old and boring, you got the average round biscuit, but if you were young and exciting ( a.k.a. a grandchild) you got starfish, horses, dogs and airplanes for biscuits.  And she always had Papa show you how to fly them.  The gravy was always brown and always perfect for almost everyone.  Of course Papa would have to add his black pepper (and grandchildren would mimic this even if we didn't like it just because Papa did it), and if you did it without Kara seeing, then you got red-eye gravy on top of that (the real stuff). 
The next course was the fixins course.  Don't worry, Nana had the average size plates, but you piled it high enough to need extra rounds.  In this course came the fried apples, eggs (always cooked at least two ways and the best sunny side up ever), fried sweet potatoes, hash browns, potato cakes, and all of these were not rotated, these were every Sunday.  Milk was on the table, but you saved it till the very end because you didn't want to fill up on it.  But just a side note here:  Nana's fried sweet potatoes deserve a place in a hall of fame and glory somewhere, and I am sure when she gets to heaven she may have a first question for God, but His first question for her is if she will help fix the breakfast table in heaven with biscuits, fried sweet potatoes and chocolate gravy.
This leads us to the dessert.  Yes, at Nana's breafix you had dessert.  Now there may have been a few more in there (like fried apple pies when Maxine sent her apples), but there were three staple desserts.  The first one was the mix-it-yourself-unless-you-were-a-grandson-and-then-it-was-mixed-for-you butter and something.  This could be butter and strawberry preserves, butter and grape jelly, butter and homemade blackberry preserves, butter and syrup, butter and honey, or the all time best was butter and homemade molasses, especially that first Sunday morning after we made them.  Along with this you would have oats.  Never in my life or travels have I ever had oats like Nana's.  They were more like candy thank anything else and you just put in a dab of butter, a crumbled up biscuit and you had the closest from of Paradise ever held in a bowl.  However, my sister would have to disagree, and it is a valid argument to make too.  Her preference was the chocolate gravy.  Yes, I know what you are thinking, two words that just don't go together.  Well, that is what a whole MOT team from Trevecca thought until they had Nana's breakfast.  And since then they have been in agreement with Marsh that this is goodness in a bowl.
Oh yeah, I can't leave this out, the bowl.  Just in case you are ever over at Nana and Papa's house for breakfast, in the cupboard there is a little glossy tan bowl with a handle on it, in the silverware drawer there is also a shorter spoon with a nice round cup to it.  If you come across these, don't mess with them.  They are reserved for KIDS ONLY.  And from Sundays where I was important enough to have my oats and biscuit from that bowl and with that spoon, I learned everything I could ever need to know about being loved, about being special, about being Nana's grandson.  I had to share, Marsha got it, Deana got it, Mikayla, Marcus, Moriah and I am sure that some day soon McKenna and Grayson will eat from it to, and I want them to know Nana loves you.  She loves us all so much.  She loved us with hugs, with meals, with aggravation, and her way of pickin'.  But she loves each of us special, especially with a bowl and a spoon.
I  love you, Nana...