Breakfast at the Grange

“The Grange is a fraternal organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well being of the community and agriculture”

It is amazing how a little Vermont maple syrup can make even the most stoic farmer smile. I have this habit of taking my own Vermont maple syrup with me whenever I know I am going to have pancakes for breakfast. My wife and son just shake their head but not long ago, I used to take my son to the buckwheat pancake breakfasts at the Mt. Nebo Grange and always brought my maple syrup. This time of year when the sap starts running(not me running- the sap out of the maple trees), and the northeast starts the process of manufacturing syrup, I take advantage of the buckwheat pancake breakfasts that spring up locally on my way to the ski slopes. It is a rite of passage with spring skiing and in his formative years, I would take my son Jack to the Mt. Nebo Grange before we would head to the mountains. He didn’t quite know what to make of it but when we entered the building, the elder ladies and gentlemen of the Grange would seat us and serve the most delicious buckwheat pancakes. Interesting thing about buckwheat pancakes is that there is quite a bit of preparation which includes making the batches of batter ahead of time and allowing the yeast to do its thing. When you slather butter on them and pour the maple syrup and take your first delectable bite, there is a hint of a brewed substance almost like the taste of beer. Jack was not a fan but satisfied himself with the regular pancake offerings and bacon which brought a smile to his syrup smeared face.

It is curious that when you enter a place like the Grange, all of the members seem to know each other and even though the breakfasts are open to the public, there is this sense of belonging and if you are a stranger, you are given a seat with a wary eye. That all starts to melt when they see a young guy like Jack as they try to make him feel welcome even though we are not “Grangers”. The old farmers would check us out and when I brought out the Vermont syrup, their Log Cabin generic swill started to look pretty average at best. I would see the curiosity in their faces and offer to share my treasured gold with them. They willingly took up my offer and looked over at Jack and me and a crack of a smile came to their rather serious faces. The next thing you know, the table was swarming with curiosity seekers and my syrup suddenly vanished. I learned my lesson on subsequent visits by bringing more syrup and suddenly Jack and I became known as the “syrup guys” and like “Cheers” we all were greeted with a robust “hello” when we entered the building. It was only for a couple of weekends but somehow, Jack and I felt like we fit in to this fraternal organization of farmers or would be farmers which is slowly fading with urban sprawl.

I always made it my business to expose Jack to a lot of events and experiences when he was growing up. I explained the mission of the Grange and although we were not of an agricultural bent, he understood what the organization meant and why it was slowly losing membership as the farms were being sold to developers and the membership of the Mt. Nebo Grange was aging. But to share that experience of home made food, and seeing the culture of the farm life, was a good experience for father and son.

So, if you happen to be looking for some entertainment and good food during “cabin fever” time, look for buckwheat pancake breakfasts near you. They tend to pop up at this time of the year and if you need some syrup, contact and tell Pauline I sent you. We have good syrup here in Pa. but I must admit that I am partial to Vermont Grade A Golden Color with Delicate Taste. That is what you want to order. Thanks for reading.

8 thoughts on “Breakfast at the Grange

  1. Janet Lee McCloskey says:

    It’s fun to remember how much Jack loved pancakes as a little boy and still to this day is his all time favorite breakfast! His Gram made him pancakes ever since he was a toddler & to my amazement he started making his own pancakes! He even left one for yours truly the other morning! Wonderful memories…. thanks Dear! XO

  2. Steven Zontek says:

    I have to disagree Pat, best Maple Syrup ever made was from East Otto, NY. My Uncle would make his own and share with the family. He sold some as well. It was the best smell when we went to the syrup shack as it was called while in production! Unfortunately, he has retired from the syrup business and I’m stuck with inferior maple syrup now…

    I do however, enjoy pancakes with my boys!

  3. Hutch says:

    Nice post Pat! My wife was a member of the “Middle Branch Grange” when she was young. To this day we always go to their annual chicken pie supper every fall. If you ever get up here during sugaring season, i have many friends in the business, and they love visitors! Modern operations are something to behold! And the smell is to die for when they are boiling the sap down. Think i will have pancakes tommorrow morning!

  4. patmccloskey says:

    Can’t live without that syrup Hutch. See you soon. Thanks for reading.

  5. John Steitz says:

    Pat – I think Maple Syrup (NY, VT, NH, ME or Qu), or the lack of it hit us the hardest moving to the west. It took us a while but we have improved the supply lines. Living in ranch country not much different to rural Somerset, Fayette or Westmoreland counties. If the world were full of agriculture folk it sure would go a lot smoother.

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