Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Since our goal was to get Akemi to LAX this morning by 6:30 a.m., her breakfast was amounting to some Starbucks steamed milk and oatmeal in the United departure area. So yesterday morning for her last breakfast home for a while, I got out the aebleskiver pan.

Our family fondness for Danish round pancakes dates back to when my brothers and I were very young kids still living in the Downey house. On our way home from a weekend in Santa Barbara, we stopped in Solvang and had the requisite snack advertised for the benefit of us tourists. And like countless tourists before us, the aebleskivers with powdered sugar and raspberry jam were so good that my dad came out of one of the countless souvenir stores with an aebleskiver cast-iron pan. The kitchen always most definitely has been my mother’s domain, but my dad prided himself on his scrambled eggs and pancakes for us, and making these round pancakes represented a new challenge for him in his culinary specialization.

On Saturday mornings, he perfected his technique of turning the partially-cooked batter in the round indentations of the pan to complete the “balls.” Legend has it that the Viking warriors, after battle, returned to their ships with their iron shields dented and battered. Eager to eat, they mixed flour with milk and used their dented shields as frying pans, resulting in “bumpy pancakes.” (I dunno – sounds a lot like how sukiyaki came to be – farmers cooking on their spades in the fields.) The picturesquely-dressed Solvang ladies used knitted needles to skillfully turn the nascent aebleskivers and keep them from burning. My dad used one Japanese chopstick, a hashi with a pointy tip.

Not long after we were married, Bing and I took 101 south from his parents’ home in Palo Alto instead of our usual I-5 route, and we made the same short detour to Solvang that I remembered as a kid. I insisted that we eat some aebleskivers. Bing was not nearly as susceptible to the romance of the round pancake, and he talked me out of buying an aebleskiver pan. Years later, Akemi and I made the same stop but that time I came away with a Teflon-coated pan of my own and resolve to revive this tradition.

Because Akemi’s Saturday mornings always were sprints out the door to Colburn and Sunday mornings remain similar sprints to church, I started making “breakfast for dinner” on occasional Friday or Saturday nights. Akemi and I enjoyed that during her junior high and high school years. But the end of this holiday break snuck up on us, going by far too quickly for both of us, and I didn’t plan far enough ahead to factor in a “breakfast for dinner” before she left. Yesterday morning, I started backing out time for pre-church choir practice, running through the special musical number we had agreed to perform in church, and getting dressed. I figured I had just enough time to make her a “real” breakfast if I hurried. . .and if I woke her up. For aebleskivers, I took the risk she wouldn’t mind.

I hurried a bit too much, and was out of practice besides, so these were not the roundest aebleskivers I have ever made. The saving grace was the delicious red raspberry jam which Donald and Cathy brought us from Ohio this past summer, the real old-fashioned Dutch-style kind that also made the difference with my Christmas thumbprint cookies. But Akemi was gracious, ate them happily anyway, and washed the dishes, to boot.

After she arrives back in Boston, she has tomorrow to buy books, restock her dorm refrigerator, practice, and otherwise gear up for the start of her spring semester on Wednesday. I had ambitious hopes for gardening on this beautiful Martin Luther King Day holiday, but am feeling “chemo punky” and am glad for the extra day to take it easy. I had conveniently forgotten how tired I get on chemo and how, if I’m not careful, I just run out of steam in the midst of whatever, and end up struggling through until I can get back to bed.

It was good to have Akemi home when I wasn’t on chemo so we were able to do as much as we did, and I look forward to visiting her in March and/or May for her spring concerts and recitals. The aebleskivers will have to tide her over until she comes home next, probably for her spring break.

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