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Roll-ups for breakfast


Watching Mom make roll-ups was a study in motion and efficiency. With two pans on a medium-hot fire, she’d ladle the batter, swirl it in the pan, flip it in a wink and serve them to the nearby kitchen table.
In a half hour, she could turn out dozens of the breakfast treats. She had to, I could eat a half-dozen myself, and Dad and my siblings weren’t far behind. Plus there could be extended family and/or friends bellied up to the kitchen table.
In other parts of the world, the sweet treat might be called Swedish pancakes or even crepes. But to us, they were roll-ups because that’s what you did to them.
Mom would chirp, “Who’s ready?” Waving one of the delicacies on the end of her spatula. My brothers, Dad and I would cheep in return, “Me! Me!”
Once on the plate, you’d squirt a large circle of syrup around the edge and then add eyes, a nose and a smile. The pancakes were mostly egg and flour, two of the least expensive commodities around, so you could eat them until you foundered. Syrup, on the other hand, cost a pretty penny, so those were the only facial features allowed. Try squirting in ears or a mustache and you might get clopped on the back of your head or worse, lose your syrup-squirting privileges.
The syrup, by the way, was probably Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima. This was in the day before generic or store brands, and those were the two trademarks commonly available. Our favorite was the one for which Mom had a coupon.
Did you know Aunt Jemima came with a back story ginned up as a marketing ploy, developed in 1889? It played to the sentiments of the antebellum south which still romanticized over the good old days of slavery. The plantation she cooked for was renowned for its fine dining and everyone loved Aunt Jemima, she was such a happy slave. Early advertisements used an Aunt Jemima paper doll family as an advertising gimmick. With her husband, Rastus, they had five children: Abraham, Lincoln, Dilsie, Zeb and Dinah. Buy seven bottles and you got the entire family, authentically dressed in tattered clothing and bare feet.
Makes me wonder how the crowd going around trying to remove statues of Confederate soldiers missed Aunt Jemima syrup. For the record, I get their point to an extent. The Confederate Flag is a rallying symbol for racism, much like the swastika is for fascism. They have no place in our society other than in museums.
But at the same time, the movement has gone too far, even become a little goofy. Here in Iowa, for example, the county board of supervisors is considering changing the name of Johnson County.
Trivia question: Who was the ninth vice-president of the United States? Answer: Richard M. Johnson, who apparently Johnson County is named after. I never even thought about it until Supervisor Rod Sullivan brought it up. Until then, I guess I thought, or at least hoped, it was named after Arte “very interesting” Johnson of Laugh-In fame.
Either way, I think the protesters would better spend their time registering voters.
But I digress.
After the drawing of the smiley face, you slipped the tine of a fork under the masterpiece and rolled ‘er up.
There were two schools of thought on how to proceed. One camp liked to use only the fork, using it to lop off a chunk, the syrup oozing out of the layers. Then, using the same utensil, you’d stab it and pop it in your mouth. The other camp went for a knife. In short order, the roll could be sliced into a dozen bite-sized morsels and the forking could begin.
In short, it was slice eat, slice eat, slice eat, versus slice, slice, slice, eat, eat, eat.
I liked the latter method. By my estimation it was slightly more efficient, allowing you to devour a roll-up in nine seconds, rather than 10.
I’ve been accused of many things in my life but slow at the dinner table was never one of them.