Pancakes, Bacon and Practical Jokes On the Side

PancakesIt is 1987.

My father has recovered from his first stroke. He hikes into the wilderness with wrist crutches. Sunday mornings he makes pancakes for everyone in the Forest Service tent cabin.

My father is a practical joker from waaaaay back. He and his brother, Bill, have jokes they regularly play on each other that started in childhood.

Dad finds a strand of silicone insulation from a window that is being re-glazed. It is long and green and shiny.

One other thing – lateralized sensitivity is a stroke thing. After my dad’s stroke, he can’t feel his right nostril. People are always telling him to wipe his nose.

One Sunday morning, he announces the pancakes and bacon are ready, turns to the famished hoard holding the platter with a pile of pancakes on it, and a long, green, slimy strand of construction-grade snot making like a pendulum back and forth just above the top pancake.

It is 2001.

Dad’s second stroke. He is depressed and angry. He has given up. He wants to die.

After rehab, I move him around the corner from me. I read the news to him in the mornings. In the afternoons, I come back to ask him questions about what we read. Memory exercise.

He can’t remember the word ‘remote’, as in ‘remote control’.

I read that the brain can make new pathways and it could be remembered a different way.

“Dad,” I say. “What do they call the thing they dig around a castle?”

He thinks about it a moment. “The moat.”

“And if they dig it a second time, they have to (wait for it) re-moat the castle.”

I do this a couple of times. He gives me dirty looks.

I sell my place and move with him to our house in Idyllwild. One day we are sitting in the living room. He reaches for the remote control but it’s just a little too far away. He looks at me like a child, pleading, and he asks me: “Steven, can you hand me the moat?”.

I look at him in horror. What have I done? I am ‘moatified’.

My father smiles. It is the first time he has smiled since his stroke.

He smiles at his little joke.

The Galloping Gourmet to the Rescue!

It is 1978.Galloping Gourmet

I am invited to a dinner party – my first – hosted by my friends, Valerie Riordan and Noelle Harris. They live in a duplex in a nice neighborhood near Cal State Long Beach. I’m excited about going to a dinner party.

I knock and Val and Noelle open the door. They are stunned.

“You are an hour early,” Val tells me. They seem very stressed.

I’m embarrassed. How did I make such a mistake?

They are not happy. At first I think they are not happy with me showing up early.

Then they look at each other. Something is communicated between them silently. They both turn back to me.

“Can you make crepes?” Noelle asks.

I am somewhat taken aback by her question. Then I realize why they are so stressed.

“Yes. I think so.”

I’ve never made crepes before in my life.

“Why do you think you can do it?” Val asks. They wave me in.

 “I watched Graham Kerr do it once on the ‘The Galloping Gourmet’.”

 Val and Noelle look at each other, shrug. Back to me again.

 “The kitchen is this way.”

For anyone who grew up in the 60s – 70s, Graham Kerr was the host with the most. He cooked and drank his way through afternoon television, his catch phrase going to commercial “Now it’s time for a short slurp!”.

I loved watching him cook. I saw many, MANY episodes of the show. I don’t remember anything else. But I remember him demonstrating a technique for cooking crepes. I remember it because it was so weird. He cooked the crepes on the BOTTOM of the pan.

On the kitchen counter is a bowl of batter. Beef Stroganoff is ready to be put in the oven nestled within the as yet unmade crepes. I ask to see their pans and find one of suitable size and without a coating inside the pan. I butter the bottom of the pan and light the burner.

I burn the first two. But after that I make a steady stream of crepes. Val and Noelle take them as fast as I can make them, rolling up the beef and putting them in a large baking dish.

When the doorbell rings, the smell of cooking Stroganoff crepes greets the other dinner guests.