Monday, May 5, 2008

Thoughts of Food and Marcie (Breakfast)

A friend recently asked me to recall the foods Marcie loved to eat and those she preferred to not. I have been trying to sit down and write it, but what I realize is that just about everything I eat every day had a mark on it from Marcie, from enthusiastic approval to distaste and dislike or hatred bordering on fanaticism. There was little in between with her.
So, this recent request has me evaluating everything I eat through that lens of Marcie's tastes. It's sometimes very telling about the impact she has had on me. Rather than just spit out a list, I have decided to post for a bit about Marcie's food tastes as I live my life, and eat, without her.

Yesterday, for instance, I went with some new neighborhood friends to Rosie O'Grady's for Sunday brunch. We had a variety of egg and potato dishes, some soda breads and sides. I thought of Marcie's breakfast tastes the whole time.

Ham had to be thick and delicious and from a ham steak, not a pressed can. She preferred bacon thick and crunchy, not thin and greasy or crispy. Marcie loved Spam, but she would get ham first, if possible. She liked sausage cooked in some water, the thick links if possible, occasionally she made patties from ground tubes.

Marcie loved breakfast, but she was picky with her preparation. Scrambled eggs had to be fluffy, not greasy, not overdone and not hard. She liked over easy eggs. Omelets were to include mushrooms and cheese of any variety would do. Marcie's  favorite way of cooking her eggs was in the pan used for the breakfast meat, draining the excess fat (mostly) first, but not scraping the pan. I once commented, early on. She lectured me as she cooked, then shooed me out of the kitchen

"There is no way I am letting all that flavor go down the drain or into the grease container," she said once. "If it's not healthy, too bad. I like it, and that's healthy enough for me. It's ridiculous that people agonize over every little detail when they eat, it just takes away from the whole experience."

I never brought it up again.

Potatoes either had to be roasted or home fries, deep- or pan-cooked. "I hate, absolutely hate, mushy potatoes and greasy, soft hash browns," she commented once at a restaurant.

Marcie always had some fruit with breakfast. Strawberries were always welcome, and she occasionally liked to make an entire fruit salad from whatever was in the house. But Marcie squeezed orange juice fresh or avoided it.

"No matter how expensive or good it is supposed to be, it always tastes like tin from a carton," she said. "It's like I am drinking part of the orange juice factory with every gulp."

She had coffee black, no cream, no sugar, or would take a caramel macchiato as a treat with a light pastry as a whole breakfast.

Marcie loved oatmeal with raisins and loved making biscuits, hand-dropped from scratch or Bisquick, occasionally using a cookie cutter to make round ones. She was a baker and, from time to time, made scones, cinnamon sugar for me and chocolate chip for both of us, cranberry or dried cherry and almond for herself.

Marcie, oddly, was not good with French toast, but she loved it. I would make it for her, using Texas toast if possible, and serving thick, crispy slices of bread dipped in some sugar, egg wash and cinnamon, then doused in maple syrup and melted butter with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.

For me, Marcie made waffles. I could make them, but she liked to make them for me, as one of my favorites and as a little way of telling me she was happy, because she herself preferred pancakes. In fact, she bought a large griddle just to make pancakes on, which is in its box, clean but well-used.

She loved crepes, especially fresh from the Hillcrest Farmer's Market, but she did not make them herself.

Basic Marcie breakfast rules were:

1. Butter, real butter, is always the only butter.
2. Similarly, the only syrup is maple, even if it is not pure.
3. Eggs done fast, bacon done slow.
4. Potatoes are firm or crispy or sometimes both.
5. Waffles are just browned, like pancakes.
6. Juice is fresh, or not at all.
7. Fruit will be had if fresh juice is not. Old fruit makes good salad.
8. The meat residue is a flavoring, not a health hazard. Cook the eggs in it.

That is about all I can recall for now. Live by these rules and by her diet, and you live her joy for cooking. I never realized how much I missed those elaborate Sunday mornings until yesterday. It's hard to think about.