Breakfast is my favorite meal. When I was growing up, my dad would often make breakfast for dinner, which we loved. Usually, he would make eggs in toast. You know, where you butter both sides of a piece of sliced sandwich bread, cut a hole in the middle with a glass, place it in a hot skillet and then crack an egg in the middle? I’m sure there are many names for it, but we went with the obvious one. The buttered circles of bread cut out from the middle were almost the best part, especially after dad had fried them with some salt. No matter what we made, breakfast always felt comfortable, like an old beloved sweatshirt, loose fitting and warm. Sonora, my hometown, and the one I’ve spent a lot of time in lately, feels that way to me. Although it has changed quite a bit since I left over five years ago, I have never lost that feeling of familiarity and kinship when I climb up out of the valley into the tree lined mountains on the only highway into town.
I can’t tell you how much I love the town that was home to me during my growing up years. Like any place I guess, it made me who I am, and taught me to enjoy life with a particular fervor that I have rarely seen elsewhere. In the foothills, the pace of life is much slower and more intentional, people respect one another and hold common courtesy in high regard. You would never just hurry through a cross walk as a motorist waves you through without a wave and a loud “Thank you!”. That is a cardinal sin, and something you just don’t do.
A strong sense of community is evident there, even in the small things. No one locks their doors at night and they don’t worry that someone may come in and steal from them while they are sleeping. They trust one another and celebrate one another too. Every year, on mother’s day weekend, they show their appreciation with a giant parade downtown. It’s the second largest parade in California, and it’s dedicated to the women who have made the sacrifice of motherhood. It just doesn’t get sweeter than that.
The parade is a big deal. Nearly the entire town shows up. The streets are completely packed, so you have to get there early if you’d like a front row seat. People have learned that the night before is the best time to stake out a good spot.
The Golden Regiment Band, which is the band belonging to the county’s largest high school, always kicks off the start of the parade. They come down the opposite way so that they can also be the last ones through. Everyone looks forward to seeing them, especially since they mark the start of a weekend of exciting festivities.
The parade is only the beginning of what will be a weekend full of small town fun. Following the parade, the county hosts a professional rodeo for two days. I bet you’ve never seen more cowboy hats, pick up trucks and cans of bud light all in one place. As you can imagine, it’s my favorite activity of the year, and it’s a great way to see every person in the entire county all at once. It feels like literally every single person is there, drunker than usual and infinitely more jovial.
Since I’ve moved to the bay area, I have convinced my little sister Anna (the gorgeous one smiling from ear to ear, appropriately dressed in cowboy boots) to move here with me. Having her here with me has made such a difference. My sisters are my best friends and having one here fills my heart to the brim. At the same time, this privilege also makes me acutely aware that Laura (the bombshell at the top) seems so far away. I miss her terribly and look forward to late night talks over bean dip and crunchy salted chips around her table whenever we visit.
I’m sure it goes without saying that the man in the middle has stolen my heart and keeps it with him until I come home to see him. My dad makes me laugh harder than anyone and when I’m away I miss his laugh so much. When he really gets a tickle, his laugh is unparalleled. You can’t fight it, it’s contagious.
The woman of the hour, the reason we celebrate, is not pictured here, but this waffle is for her. She has spent nearly half her life wrestling with us, feeding us and doing her best to mold us into respectable human beings. I’m not sure what her opinion is, but for the most part I think she has succeeded in all of those things. Lord knows she has wrestled with us more than one should and although we might have too many tattoos, I think all three of us have turned out pretty well.
On Sunday, we spent the morning sharing a meal with mom, in a crowded little place with dishes like the “Henny Penny Breakfast” and “Havoc in the Hen House”. I usually order a normal two egg breakfast with home fries and bacon, but as everyone ordered, I was at a loss and could not find something that sounded remotely enticing. With the waitress staring me down, tapping her pen on her folded white pad, my sisters pointed out the bacon waffle. Everyone at the table, suddenly wide eyed, pleaded with me to order it. I couldn’t refuse. Who could?
It turned out to be amazing, most likely the best breakfast in all of Tuolumne County. Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to egg in toast, but really, nothing ever could.
Because my husband was unable to join us for the weekend of festivities, and mostly because I couldn’t stop talking about this waffle, I had to make one at home for him to try. Well, I made more than one, more than I should have really, but I’m not entirely sure you can have too many bacon waffles hanging around. I used a favorite waffle recipe from Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book. It’s a yeasted batter that sits over night, which makes the prep in the morning almost non-existent. If you can crack a couple eggs and plug in a waffle iron, you’ve got waffles. Insanely good waffles. Here, I do add the extra step of cooking bacon and crumbling it over the batter right before you close the waffle iron, but I’m sure that little bit of extra work will not deter you from having an epic waffle breakfast, because I know you better than that.
Since you probably have a great mom too, remember that it doesn’t have to be mothers day for you to surprise her with something special. On a day when she leasts expects it, whip up a batch of these crispy, salty, almost soufflé like waffles for her. You know she deserves it because you of all people know what she had to endure to make you into the great person that you are!
adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
makes 8 waffles
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) dry yeast
- 2 cups milk, warmed
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 16 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and broken into small pieces
- Using a large mixing bowl, combine the water and yeast. Let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour to the yeast mixture and beat until smooth with a stiff whisk or hand blender. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
- Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs and baking soda, mixing well. The batter will be very thin. Pour about 3/4 cup batter into a waffle iron set on high. Sprinkle with a handful of bacon pieces and cook until crisp and golden. Serve with maple syrup.