by Islam Mohamed from Kelowna, British Columbia
Sep 21, 13
Sunday was always Pancake Day at our house. Mom prepared her pancake batter from scratch, while my younger brother grated cheddar cheese and I beat the eggs for the cheese omelets. Each person got their own tri-folded, two-egg, cheese omelet to accompany their pancakes.
Once the cast iron skillets were hot enough, I ladled out the first batch of pancakes. Dad read the paper in the living room. He’d save much of Saturday’s Globe and Mail for Sunday morning, keeping abreast of stocks and options and parliament and Moscow and the situation in the Middle East—there was always a situation in the Middle East. Both my parents emigrated from Egypt in the 1960’s largely to elude its proneness to ‘situations’.
When the first batch of pancakes was ready, I’d serve myself and my brother, and then abandon my post. Dad got the second batch. Mom continued preparing pancakes and cheese omelets as fast as we could consume them. Only when the last batch was done would she sit and join us. Then Dad would regale everyone with stories from the world of science, of his job at the technical college, of the political arena, or of a genre I can only describe as modern fairy tales. Like the one about the fireman emerging from the burning mansion clutching what turns out to be a beautiful, life-like doll in a jumble of swaddling, while the doll’s greedy, petulant owner remained trapped inside.
Around our Sunday morning breakfast table I heard about the Doppler Effect and the Tissue Plasminogen (plaz-MIN-a-gin…min line pin or win) Activator, years before I heard about them in school. And I devoured the tales as earnestly as the pancakes.
In fact, I used to gobble up the blurbs on any product placed on the kitchen table. As a result of Canada’s language laws, I am proud to say that I remain fluently bilingual on the subjects of cereal, milk and contest sweepstakes.
Most Sundays I favoured Aunt Jemima’s table syrup. On some occasions, however, a flask-shaped bottle with shoulders and a bulbous neck appeared on the table. It was filled with berry or peach syrup that made your knees buckle. The label said it was made by a company called Summerland Sweets.
The syrup bottle said the exquisite nectar came from Summerland, British Columbia. It seemed a magical place to me as a child. A place where the sun shone bright and hot. Where you could wake up, wander out to your very own peach tree, pick a fist-sized peach, and bite into its glistening flesh, warmed by the morning sun. It seemed about as far away from Edmonton, where I was born and raised, as I could imagine. As I grew into an adolescent, I continued to believe the place was fictitious, and scoffed at the Pollyanna whose unchecked optimism could have named a company—let alone a place—‘Summerland’.
More than a decade later, I am now the patriarch of my own young family. On Sundays, my sons get the first batch, my wife gets the second, and I don’t abandon my post at the Teflon skillets any more. I’ve discovered maple syrup. My five-year-old, Denzel, laps up anything he can read within the range of his sharp eyes and keener mind, including cereal boxes, Theo, his younger brother, sticks to the pancakes, omelet, and conversation. Sometimes, the food sticks to him.
Today, my wife Janet brought a flask of Summerland Sweets Black & Raspberry Syrup to the table, and I smiled as I dribbled it over my pancakes. And, in light of what I now know, I shook my head at the naïveté of my childhood and the arrogance of my adolescence. Summerland is real. In fact, Summerland is forty kilometers away from where we live, just beyond the similarly improbably named Peachland. We moved to the arid Okanagan Valley nearly two years ago. We live among orchards and vineyards, irrigated oases among the grass and scrub. Of course, the sun is blazing as I write this.
My favorite time of year is August, when I can walk out my front door and pick a fist-sized peach from my very own peach tree. Somebody pinch me. On second thought, don’t.