Just ask any member of the Punxsutawney Pennsylvania Groundhog Club about the little fellow's record for predicting weather. They'll tell you it has been 100% accurate since 1887 (despite a scientific survey of one 60-year period that alleged the groundhog had been right only 28% of the time).
Slumbering Groundhog Lodge members in Quarryville, Pa., also will vouch for the animal's ability. Since the first Groundhog Day observance in 1908, every Feb. 2 members seek out a burrow and await the animal's appearance. The lodge's chief executive officer then announces to the world whether the groundhog did, or did not, see his shadow.
The custom of groundhogs observing the weather on this particular day to forecast the future came to America with immigrants from England and Germany. In theory, if the animal comes out of winter quarters on Feb. 2 and sees a shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather.
Much attention is paid to Groundhog Day in the East and Midwest. It isn't taken nearly as seriously here in Southern California, perhaps because the winters are so mild nobody is really all that concerned. Or maybe it's because there aren't any of the animals living in a natural environment to observe. According to U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Bill Brown, groundhogs are not native to Southern California.
Even if it isn't possible to witness the event, it's still fun to hear reports on the groundhogs' activities. Since Feb. 2 falls on Sunday this year, take advantage of the opportunity and serve a brunch honoring the occasion-- maybe even outdoors if the weather is mild. They probably won't be able to do that in Punxsutawney.
GROUNDHOG DAY BAKED PANCAKE
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup flaked whole grain wheat cereal, crushed
Place 1 tablespoon oil in 9-inch glass baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees while preparing batter.
Place eggs in small bowl of electric mixer. Beat on medium speed 30 seconds. Continue beating while adding milk and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Gradually add flour and cereal, mixing until combined.
Remove baking dish from oven. Pour in batter. Return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with fruit and yogurt. Makes 6 servings.
Note: To prepare batter in food processor or blender, place eggs in container and process just until blended. With motor running, gradually pour in milk and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add flour and cereal. Process just until combined.
SHADOW CREAMED EGGS IN PATTY SHELLS
1 (10-ounce) package frozen patty shells
1 cup cooked ham, cut in julienne strips
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
Prepare patty shells according to package directions. Brown ham in butter in saucepan. Add green pepper and green onions and cook several minutes, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender.
Add flour and cook, stirring, until bubbling and smooth. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth.
Add eggs and asparagus and heat through. Spoon into hot patty shells. Makes 6 servings.
FORECASTER'S PEAR-FILLED POPOVERS
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon oil
Butter or margarine
1 (12-ounce) jar apricot or strawberry preserves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine eggs, flour, milk, oil and salt in blender container. Blend until smooth. Pour batter into 6 (5- to 6-ounce) generously greased custard or muffin cups. Place on baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees 50 minutes or until puffed and browned. Remove from oven. Pierce each popover several times with fork or skewer. Return to oven for additional 10 minutes. Remove popovers from oven, loosen immediately from cups and place on wire rack to cool.
Heat preserves over low heat until bubbly. Quarter and core pears. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
Split each popover in half and place in individual dishes. Fill each with 2 pear quarters and top with generous spoonful of hot preserves. Serve with remaining preserves. Makes 6 servings.
WINTER'S END PRALINE BRUNCH TOAST
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 (3/4-inch) slices French or Italian bread
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Thoroughly blend eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and vanilla. Pour half of egg mixture into 13x9-inch baking pan. Place bread slices in mixture. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Place butter in 13x9-inch baking pan and melt in 350 degree oven. Stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar and syrup. Sprinkle with pecans.
Carefully place reserved bread slices on nuts. Pour any remaining egg-milk mixture over bread. Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 35 minutes or until puffed and lightly brown. Invert to serve. Makes 4 servings.