Dad’s Apprentice – by Hoyt

My father had four mainstays in his kitchen repertoire. As a young boy, I could easily identify Saturday and Sunday mornings by the location of the electric skillet. Saturday mornings, Pop would place the electric skillet in the middle of the table and cook pancakes with each round timed to arrive on everyone’s plates when the previous round had been eaten. The first two rounds didn’t need any oil because he cooked a strip of bacon per person first, and the grease was all that was needed to loosen the first two rounds of pancakes. We were a family of four, and a square, electric skillet conveniently cooks four pancakes at a time. Summer was special because the pancakes would be decorated with blueberries. The whole dynamic changed when he got his first waffle iron circa 1986, and pancakes practically disappeared from the house.

On Sunday mornings, Pop would set up the electric skillet in the kitchen and saute four brown’n’serve sausages before frying up a little batch of scrambled eggs. The pan had to be cleaned right away though, so it would be dry when we got home from church. Sunday lunch was usually clam chowder and grilled cheese, and Mom cooked the grilled cheese sandwiches in the electric skillet.

Since we grew up in world barbeque capital of Kansas City, the deck was an honorary part of the kitchen, and Pop used his Weber charcoal grill throughout the year. One of the first things he taught me how to do before I had even hit my double digits, was how to set up the grill for grilling steaks and hand-pressed hamburgers versus how to set up the grill for barbequing whole chickens. One of the greatest moments in my life was when he first taught me how to cook on the grill which didn’t happen until I had spent at least two years helping with only setting up and lighting the fire. I still grill and barbeque on my own Webers, and my older brother caught the bug to such a degree that he’s now on a national championship barbeque team.

Back in the kitchen though, Pop was the spaghetti master. When he made his sauce, the batch was big enough to freeze three dinners worth of it for future use, and the sauce only got better with age. He uses ground beef and Jimmy Dean sausage plus a bunch of spices that I will not reveal here. 🙂 As toddlers, to keep my brother and me occupied as the sauce was cooking, we would receive bare, cooked spaghetti noodles straight on our high chair trays. There’s no better way to train a child in fine motor nerve control than to have them try to pick up a flacid spaghetti noodle from a flat surface with their unassisted fingers. I still make a version of his spaghetti sauce today; however, I substitute the sausage with ground pork since my wife doesn’t care for sausage. Ironically, we now live in the sausage capital of the world: Germany. 🙂

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