“'When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,' said Piglet at last, 'what's the first thing you say to yourself?' 'What's for breakfast?' said Pooh. 'What do you say, Piglet?' 'I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?' said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. 'It's the same thing,' he said.”
- A. A. Milne ‘The House at Pooh Corner’
We got a late start leaving the west side of the mountains, due to a variety of circumstances. My husband kept reminding me that at least we weren’t at work, but all I could think about was all the moments of daylight we were burning. In my opinion, every nanosecond of vacation time is precious, and should not be squandered. I did, however, make it through the afternoon with a limited amount of huffing, puffing and whining.
Over the mountain, through the woods and sagebrush, to our first destination we went. We had already determined a few days earlier that our first stop would be in Mitchell, the gateway to the Painted Hills, where we would stop for the night. What’s in Mitchell you ask? Not much really. It is one of those tiny blink-and-you-miss-it type of places. We had been here once a couple of years ago, on a prior visit to the area to see the aforementioned Painted Hills on our way home from Fossil where we dug for, you guessed it, fossils.
|Day 1: Sandy to Mitchell 168 Miles|
Map courtesy of ODOT
Those that know me well, or, heck, are even just a casual acquaintance, know I love food. I love to cook it. I love to eat it. I love to read about it. I love to watch it being prepared on TV. All the better if it involves any type of pork product. Little did I know, this is a genetic trait that can be passed down to your children.
Sage, my 10-year-old daughter: “So where are we going?”
Sage, screaming: “Biscuits and gravy!!! Yes!!”
Yes, Mitchell may not have much to offer other than a general store, a gas station, and a couple of small and simple hotels. Henry the Bear, the main tourist attraction in town, has since moved to retirement on a ranch somewhere outside of town. There is one thing about Mitchell, that hasn’t changed, they have the BEST BISCUITS AND GRAVY ANYWHERE and my tween daughter will be the first one to tell you that!
The entire way to Mitchell all Sage could talk about was biscuits and gravy. Would they have them for dinner? Would the restaurant still be open when we got there? If they are open and serve them for dinner, could we have them again in the morning for breakfast? When we stopped for provisions in Prineville, she kept rushing me through the grocery store, because we had to hurry up and get there before they closed. The tune playing in her head was stuck on repeat.
Finally, we arrived in Mitchell, and the Sidewalk Café and More (though I haven’t figured out completely what the "more" is) was closed up tight for night. We proceeded to the town RV park (or rather, the gravel parking lot next to the city park) to endure a box of macaroni and cheese for our dinner and turn in for the night.
At dawn, I was awoken by my daughter’s smiling face. She had awoken early and dressed already, ready to conquer the day and take in the beauty of the Painted Hills. Well, not really.
“Good morning” I said.
“Biscuits and Gravy!”
“Okay, let me make some coffee and we will get dressed and go.”
“Then, biscuits and gravy?”, hope shining in her eyes.
“Well, I guess I can skip the coffee and we can just get some when we go to get biscuits and gravy.” I said, and a look of relief spread across her face, eyes still shining for the one thing she had to have.
We got down the street and to the café before it opened. She waited the 20 minutes as patiently as she could, but if you know many 10-year-olds, she really couldn’t hide her enthusiasm well. Finally, the open sign switched on and we entered the restaurant.
This is a small family run place. The owner/waitress/cook greeted us. Sage looked at her and repeated the same three words she had been repeating non-stop since we left Sandy: “Biscuits and Gravy”.
I calmly (well, as calmly as I could, truth be told I was just as excited for them as Sage was) explained that we had eaten here a couple of years ago and were quite convinced that this owner/waitress/cook standing in front of us made the best darned biscuits and gravy in the land. I told her that we raved about them to anyone that would listen and wouldn’t be needing menus because that is all we would be having. Her response: “I sure hope you still like them. There was a guy in here the other day complaining because he didn’t think I put enough sage in it. They always come out a little different every time.” We assured her that we would think they were spectacular.
After what seemed like a forever wait, our nirvana was served to us on mismatched plates. Every bite was like a treat to our tongues.
|I had to eat some before I could even stop to take a picture.|
I tried to get her secret out of her. She insisted it was just sausage, milk, and flour. I asked what she seasoned it with. She said just sausage. I asked her what kind of sausage she used.
“Oh, I make my own. I get fresh ground pork in Prineville and add my own seasoning.”
Aha. Now it was all starting to make sense.
“So what do you season the sausage with?”
“Oh, that. Well, I am not going to tell you that. It turns out a little different every time. Don’t think I ever make it exactly the same way twice. I just dump stuff in there. Been doing it this way for 45 years.”
All cooks should keep their special recipes secret. I told her I wouldn’t try to get it out of her, but, once again, they were just as wonderful as we remembered. Though, I mentally noted she slipped earlier when she mentioned the sage she put in it.
We finished our breakfast, chatting with “Gravy Lady” and a local guy sitting at the counter drinking coffee. They offered us some great advice on what else to see in the area, most notably a drive they called “the loop” through Service Creek and Spray.
After leaving a huge tip (after all, she was the cook and the waitress and I don’t think anyone else could have taken better care of us) we headed out with full, happy bellies to go explore the Painted Hills and whatever else the day may hold for us……