Dear pancake friends!
I couldn’t resist writing you on Shrove Tuesday. The designation goes beyond the marketing trend of giving each food it’s day to be saluted on the calendar, but like Christmas piggybacked on Pagan holidays, National Pancake Day is piggybacking on history, too. Back when people gave up dairy and fats for Lent, now was the moment to use up all of these rich ingredients in your larder in preparation for 40 days of meager eating. I can’t even imagine giving up pancakes! When I was a kid and still went to church, I gave up emotional things, like bad feelings about my siblings, rather than putting a boundary around food. Kids who gave up chocolate, well, they were made from stronger stuff than I was.
I’ve written a lot about pancakes, such as this story about the recipe for Aunt Jemima pancake mix and how it shows the centralization of grain farming and processing in America. Here is a great recipe (mine) for pancakes, and my guide to making perfect whole-grain pancakes. I haven’t written yet about the beyond overdue name change of Aunt Jemima pancake mix, but here’s an article from NPR that tells the story. Here is a video and recipe for cornmeal pancakes, one of my favorite savory approaches to this meal. I would be silly to not mention the booklet I wrote about the topic, The Pancake Papers. You can get a PDF or print copy from my website.
One last pitch for pancakes: these truly are the best vehicle for test driving local flours and getting to know their flavors. I hope that if you don’t already adore them, you will give them a try soon!
Happy pancaking, and by way of goodbye, please enjoy this poem I wrote my family for Christmas one year.
Pancakes come from the sky.
Everything falls and falls
and sometimes we catch something –
rain in buckets, thoughts in ears
pancakes on plates.
Tilt your head sideways
and look up. Squint and maybe you can see
the little slits where beautiful things
begin to become, begin to come down,
diving and blooming.
Bloom and dive and find.
The world opens and we receive.
Those who say don’t bother the gift horse
are not friends with curiosity.
Around here we wonder and stare at the mouth
of the sky. We are seeking.
Who knows what cliff the rain jumps from
to find my cheek? Who is making my
batter, and who is grinding my flour and
if there is enough wind to run the mill?
How does the wheat grow in the sky?
Like a beard on heaven? Do the stars shine
through the fields? And do maples march forever,
lines drawing sap to a big vat over a bigger fire
where a giant is always making syrup?
I keep looking, hoping for the moment
when I can see the baby rain begin.
Begin to fall. But all I catch is pancakes.
Your pancake pal,