Snail Races

...where even the winners are slow and slimy. It's all a matter of degrees, really. Reality based since 1692.

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Location: Upper Canada

Friday, March 24, 2006

food of my people II

Wikipedia grows ever more indispensible, as it provides this concise entry on the Brown Bobby Doughnut Machine. A junior model now sits on the dinette table at my mum Alta's house, having been passed down from my father's mother Alta. That's right, his mom was an Alta and he married an Alta. I suppose, to be fair, the name was in the top 200 or so when they both were born, but still notable, I always thought...

Anyway, these triangular cake doughnuts were a prominent highlight of any visit to Grandmother Alta's apartment on Armour Blvd in Kansas City in the early Sixties. Growing up and inhaling the hot product with a glass of cold creamy milk that was delivered in bottles to the back porch of her 4th floor apartment - memories don't come much more vivid than those for me. The process consisted of mixing (at least) a double bowl of batter, and then baking them much like waffles, six at a time, for just a few minutes per batch, watching for the steaming to almost disappear before lifting the lid and popping them out. It almost always took several batches of six before the number on the cooling rack broke double figures, but after a couple of hours of sitting in the kitchen, there would be enough of a pile to wrap and put in an old Christmas tin to send home with us.

I have only recently become aware of the entrepreneurial aspect of owning a Brown Bobby. I don't know how she came to have it, alas, and I wish I had heard the story from her directly, but informed by Dad's genealogical research and the info about how Brown Bobby was marketed, I can imagine that a woman such as herself, twice divorced before 30 and with two young boys, would have been keenly interested in the idea of a home business. I wonder how it worked out for and her sisters.

I used to think of Grandmother (explicitly not Grandma) Alta as a Mary Tyler Moore-esque career woman, as she worked well into her seventies as an ambulance dispatcher at a hospital. Tallish, slim, and brunette, she wore the same polyester fashions that Mary could have worn, or maybe Rhoda, even though she turned 70 in 1973, as she travelled the world through her retirement.

Since Bobby Lightfoot liked it so much, here is a flashback to a holiday visit from 1957, with Grandmother and me.

Haven't looked lately, but there has been a lively market for the machines among collectors and I wouldn't be surprised if it was worth Cdn$1,000.00. Staggering, really.


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