REAL COOKING Breakfast Club savored food, talk

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
With the onset of school schedules, volleyball and football practices, piano and dance lessons and the tilling of wheat ground, summer-at least for our family-is officially over. I hope in a short time we will all adjust to the earlier mornings, consistent bed times and checking to make sure that homework is completed and ready for the next day’s classes.

For now, it seems the entire family greets the morning with bleary eyes and uses grunts and snorts as our language of choice.

I have returned to Hillsboro Elementary School for another year of serving as a para-educator with the Marion County Special Education Cooperative. Once again, I will help with the youngest children in our school district and am looking forward to working with my supervising teacher, Kathy Koop, and other members of the staff.

But even though I’m excited as the new school year begins, I can’t help but wish that summer had lasted just a little bit longer. I think I added up that over the summer holiday we actually only had about 10 days that weren’t tied up with ball games, weddings or other obligations. And we used five of those days to go on vacation.

So a little more time, a week-possibly two-might have given me the opportunity to have accomplished some of the things I had on my summer “to do” list. Or maybe I could have taken a few more naps. And for sure, I could have attended a couple more “Breakfast Club” meetings.

Oh, the Breakfast Club. It makes me smile just to think about it. This summer, some friends and I decided we should meet once a week for breakfast. Over the last few years, what I’ll call the “core group” had met sporadically when time and schedules had allowed. But for this summer, we made a pact to meet every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. and to invite other women to join us.

And the place to be for breakfast was the Main Street Cafe in Durham. In making our plans, we knew the food had to be as good as the conversation, and the Wedels and their staff never let us down.

Plates full of flaky biscuits with the restaurant’s specially blended sausage-in-cream gravy, tender cinnamon rolls straight from the oven, thick slabs of french toast or plate-sized pancakes dripping with homemade syrup.

(Wait…I need a moment to compose myself. Oh, Main Street’s syrup -that sweet elixir that must come directly from heaven because it’s too good to be of this earth. Well, just thinking of that syrup makes me weep.)

OK, where was I? Oh, yes. Omelets filled with ham-or cheese-or ham and cheese and peppers and onions. Crispy, golden hash browns, sizzling sausage and fresh eggs served scrambled or over easy, all washed down by quarts of orange juice and gallons of hot coffee.

The Breakfast Club breakfasted well on all of those entrees, but the star of this summer’s early morning feasts was the bacon. I don’t know if it’s the brand they use, the supplier they get it from, or the way they cook it, but I hereby announce that Main Street Cafe puts out the best bacon in the world.

“I would like one egg scrambled, one french toast with the homemade syrup-of course-a side of bacon, a small orange juice and a black coffee. And could I have a pound of raw bacon to go?”

That’s right, by the end of the summer, many of us were literally “bringing home the bacon.”

But our summer Breakfast Club was more than just a time to eat. Over mugs of steaming coffee and glasses of juice, the women who had gathered dished and chattered about the ebb and flow of life. The laughter could be uproarious.

But just as often, the conversation would turn to the serious matters of family, our churches and the fragility of marriage. We talked about movies and books and politics. We shared about the struggles we were having in our faith walks and how others were-or were not-contributing to our spiritual lives.

Viewpoints often differed; but that was to be expected from women who varied in age, occupation, conviction and background. But there was always an underlying sense of trust, of support and of respect.

Each week brought a new blend of women to the tables that we would push together into the center of the dining room so everyone would have a place to sit. Sometimes our daughters would join us, and once-just once-Keith stuck his head through the front door of the cafe to say good morning and to see “just what was going on.” He wasn’t invited to stay.

At our final breakfast club of the summer, we decided that what we had going was too precious to let go. It was resolved that one Saturday morning a month we would meet at the Main Street Cafe for breakfast. For it seems that as June turned into July and July sped into August, a sisterhood of sorts had been formed. New friendships had been forged; old friendships had been deepened.

So now that we all slip back into the routine that school time brings, I’ll just have to settle for bowls of cereal and cartons of yogurt for breakfast. Maybe I’ll have Keith pick up some bacon from the cafe when he goes to farm our land that lies just outside of Durham. And maybe, just maybe, Wendell will sell him some of that glorious syrup.

My mouth waters from the thought.

* * *

A good salad for the last days of summer. Great with homemade croutons and Main Street Cafe’s yummy bacon.

BLT Salad

1 pound bacon

3/4 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing like Miracle Whip)

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. black pepper

Salt to taste

1 head romaine lettuce-rinsed, dried and shredded

2 large tomatoes, chopped

2 cups seasoned croutons

Cook bacon until evenly browned. Drain, crumble, and set aside.

In a blender, combine mayonnaise, garlic powder and pepper. Begin to blend and add milk (no more than 1/4 cup) until you get the dressing the consistency that you like-thick or thin. Combine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and croutons in a large salad bowl. Toss with dressing and serve immediately. Serves six.

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