She woke up early, often before the sun was up, stoked her coal stove (yes! she cooked on a coal stove into the 1980s), and made hearty breakfasts for Grandad and my uncles before they tramped out for their irrigation turn or to lead the cattle to new grazing land or to cultivate the alfalfa. As soon as they left and she had washed the breakfast dishes, she started on dinner, the midday meal. In my memory, it was always a huge affair, with meat and potatoes and relishes and vegetables and fresh bread or newly-baked biscuits and preserves.
After we all ate together at noon, Gram did the dishes and then, finally napped for a few minutes In the late afternoon, she cleaned house and did laundry and organized her Home and Garden Club, but by evening she was back at the stove, prepping supper. The next morning, early, she would be at the stove again, making sourdough pannies or Swedish ebelskivers, and starting the whole daily routine over again.
Recently my husband brought home an ebelskiver pan. “It reminded me of Gram,” he said. He’s heard me rhapsodize often about my fond memories of her pillowy Swedish pancakes.
The pan has resided in my cupboard for months now. Friday night it snowed and when we finally rolled out of bed, halfway to noon, we felt cozily snowed in A perfect ebelskiver morning, I decided. I heated up my electric stove with the flick of a dial, and started cooking ebelskivers. By my third batch, the pan had gotten a little too hot, and when I flipped one of the ebelskivers, I could see that it was just this side of burnt. Almost instantly after I saw it, I could smell its dark caramel, beginning-to-burn smell, and I felt instantly flung back to Gram’s kitchen. I could feel the slick oilcloth cover of my chair and see Gram leaning over the stove. The suddenness and specificity of the memory took my breath away.
And it also made me wonder if Gram was as great a cook as I remembered. Apparently, in addition to making heavenly sourdough pancakes and delicious biscuits, she must have struggled with burning ebelskivers. How else could that smell have been so familiar? But in my memory, her failures have faded. All that’s left is the homey coziness of being fed breakfast by Gram.