Cooking With Myra: German apple pancake great for Mother's Day
By Myra Starkey
May 8, 2012 at 12:08 a.m.
I have been a mother for almost 26 years but my Mom has been "mothering" for 51. Her name is Kathryn Ann Williams Mitchem. Most everybody calls her Katy.
She even had her grandkids call her Katie because she thought "Grandma" sounded too old. She lives in Lake Charles, La., with my dad, Miles. She has not had any full-time kids at home since we all left to college almost 30 years ago, but her job as my Mom has never stopped.
I have two sisters, so my Mom had her hands full with three girls. My Dad probably wished that he had at least one son, but he didn't, so as the eldest daughter, he taught me how to fish, clean fish and back up a boat trailer. I forgot what I knew about fishing, I remember that I don't like to clean fish, and I still know how to back up a trailer as well as most guys.
My mom took her job of raising daughters very seriously. She insisted that we had good southern manners. She was diligent in teaching us the art of taking care of a home.
On most Saturdays, that meant my sisters and I had chores to be done before any sort of extracurricular activities could take place. We learned to fold clothes, sweep, vacuum, cook and sew before we were in junior high. By the time I had completed eighth grade, my Mom had completed most of her "home" training for me.
My Mom was crafty and loved to make things. She always had projects for us such as making decoupage serving trays, macrame plant holders or paper mache objects.
She was a wizard with a spray can and could change the look of an ordinary chair in a matter of minutes. When I say chairs I mean wooden kitchen chairs and not our upholstered ones.
I have many memories of her laying out newspapers on our patio in preparation of a spraying spree in order to transform our chairs with new color.
My Mom did not just teach us how to eat properly or wash clothes, she taught us how to be Godly women by her example. Katy was always cooking for friends who were sick or helping someone in need. I never recall her saying that this was the right thing to do. I only remember that she did it and had us help and it made me feel good deep down.
I remember once I had a new doll with moveable arms and legs and when you pressed her back her face changed into a frown. The doll fit into the palm of my hand. I named her Susie Q because I thought she looked like my little sister.
Susie Q, the doll, had a tiny bottle of milk that when turned upside down to pretend-feed, the milk would disappear. I never could figure out where that milk went.
One day, we were dropping off some clothes at a lady's house, and she came outside with some of her children. Although I was young, I could tell they were poor. My Mom asked us to get out of the car so she could introduce us to the lady, and I was clutching my new doll, which I had only owned for a few days.
One of the little girls was holding a naked baby doll with stiff blond hair which looked like it needed a bath. When my Mom introduced us, the little girl looked at my Susie Q with great longing and right then I knew I had to pass her on. To this day, I wonder about that little girl and hoped she loved my doll as much as I had. On the drive home, my Mom told me how proud she was that I was willing to share my toys and it made me so happy.
After I left home and went to college, I was amazed how many of my friends did not know how to wash clothes or even bake cookies. Somehow, they had escaped those domestic lessons.
They marveled that I knew how to make pizza from scratch or bake cookies which did not come in a refrigerated roll. It was then that I realized how much time my Mom had invested in me, and I hoped that one day I could remember all my lessons so I could teach my own daughter. And I did.
Last Saturday morning, Taylor and I got a call that my Mom had been in the hospital with a pleural effusion. This is a condition where fluid collects around your lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. We immediately packed a few things and headed east toward Lake Charles.
The doctor had simply drained the fluid out of her chest cavity and sent her home. She said that this immediately made her feel much better and when we arrived there, she looked like her normal self.
Ordinarily, our trips to Lake Charles are centered around Cajun food, but this trip I concentrated on preparing healthy entrees that Mom and Dad could eat in the next few weeks.
Since Taylor is a doctor, I am sure he is aware of all the diagnoses that might be forthcoming, but the rest of us remained in hopeful, prayerful limbo. She certainly brightened up when we arrived.
On Saturday night, I prepared seared tuna steaks, pearl couscous with onions and bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and tomato torte and a cucumber mint salad.
I am always trying to get my parents to eat healthier as I know it will prolong their lives, but the food in Lake Charles is so good that it is extremely difficult not to succumb to things such as fried crawfish and etouffee. As my Mom's spirits improved, so did her appetite. I promised her a delicious Sunday morning breakfast.
After dinner, we all sat out on their front screened porch and enjoyed the breeze blowing off the bay that is just past the end of their front lawn.
Taylor and my Dad strolled out to the end of the pier after they thought they saw bait fish popping the water's surface. Mom and I sat on the back porch talking about the past and the present, and I realized how sacred time is with parents.
Whatever my mom's future holds in regards to health, be it good or bad, she has lived a rich life and has done her best. She is a good wife, a good friend and a great mother. I am so grateful that I was able to spend this time with her in this season of Mother's Day. And sometimes we talked and at other moments we only sat quietly and enjoyed the warm breeze blowing off the water.
For Sunday breakfast, I relied on a past favorite of Puffy Apple Pancake with a side of sausage and fruit. I prepared this when my kids were little and we would watch in amazement as the pancake puffed above the iron skillet as if by magic.
Serve this sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with maple syrup. This is a perfect Mother's Day breakfast.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.