is a nutritionist
and since as far back as I can remember she has been four-square against drinking
, smoking, doctors, prescription drugs
, and breakfast cereal
I gave her the name Mimi when I was about two and since I was her first grandchild, and therefore the trail blazer of the grandchildren that would follow, they were obliged to refer to her as Mimi as well. In fact, everyone in my family, my dad, aunts and uncles, even my buddies and girlfriends I have brought home to meet her call her Mimi.
For some strange reason everyone in my family lived in the same house when I was little. My aunts and uncles, my cousins, my dad, my sisters, Mimi, and me. It was one big happy family and Mimi would take care of the grandchildren while everyone else went to work, or school, or both.
Mimi grew up during the great depression and so instilled in us at a very early age a sense of self-reliance and a set of frugal ideals. Any type of food that a company could freeze-dry, package, and sell, she could make in the oven a hundred times cheaper and a hell of a lot better- the exception being macaroni and cheese. Her macaroni and cheese isn't any good but I have never had the heart to tell her that.
When I was growing up, breakfast usually consisted of omelettes made with our own homegrown eggs, ham and onion, bell peppers and mushrooms, and of course a pound of cheese. We drank raw milk from the cows in the barn, mixed with blackstrap molasses, which looked a lot like chocolate milk, and Mimi had convinced all of us that that was exactly what it was.
Breakfast cereal was a forbidden in our house, and she wouldn't allow any of it past the front door, let alone into our bowls. Refined sugar, empty calories, junk she called it. Worthless junk.
"You don't put sand in the gas tank of your car and expect it to run do you?" She would ask us, "Well, your body is the car for your soul and you can't put junk in your body and expect to go very far..." She would read us the ingredients in breakfast cereals when we were at the Hilltop Market and would tell us what side-effects they caused and that medical doctors loved people who ate that junk because they were always sick and had bad teeth.
I have never eaten Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, or Cocoa Pebbles. I did have some Fruit Loops when I was in basic training, but I felt guilty after the first bite. Mimi would be ashamed.
We did have cereal though, but it wasn't anything that came out of a box, or from a store. She cooked it herself and kept it in a huge jar on top of the refrigerator, right next to a giant aloe vera plant she used to soothe sunburns.
It was a jar of Ape-nuts.
The mornings that I woke up and didn't smell frying onions and ham coming down the hall from the kitchen were mornings that I didn't even want to get out of bed. It meant that she had been painting or playing with her pet squirrel the night before and had gotten up too late to make a full breakfast. Those were the mornings that we would have Ape-nuts.
Ape-nuts wasn't Mimi's name for the cereal. Since it looked, smelled, and tasted just like Grape-nuts cereal, she called it that and it was horrible. Worse than the macaroni and cheese. It felt like gravel in your mouth, looked like munched birdseed at the bottom of a birdcage, and tasted about the same. We would try to make it palatable by pouring gobs of honey all over it, but that only made it taste like sweetened cardboard mash. I usually ended up not eating even a quarter of mine, and Butch, my dog, wouldn't eat any of it.
Mimi called it Grape-nuts, but my dad, being the problem-child, rowdy truck driver that he is, would come in from the barn and give a disappointed look at the gravely chunks of healthiness in our bowls and proclaim loudly:
"Ape-nuts! It's what's for breakfast!"
This would usually result in Mimi swatting at him with a dish towel, shouting "Danny!" and telling him to watch his mouth while we all rolled with laughter and happily chirped "Ape-nuts!" as he ran out of her striking distance.
He called the cereal Ape-nuts so often that everyone just started calling it Ape-nuts too, after a while even Mimi would call it that sometimes. Calling it a funny name didn't improve the flavor any, but there are some things in life that can't be changed.
Here is the recipe, enough to fill a huge jar on top of your fridge:
12 cups wheat flour
4 cups brown sugar
4 cups buttermilk
8 tsps baking soda
4 tsps salt
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and then spread like a paste onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 300°F until golden brown. Crumble into small gravel-like pieces and allow to dry.
Recipe from Mimi's cookbook