It was simply one of those nights. The day was spent lazily nursing a winter’s cold, sitting home alone with books for hours, and finally accepting that my beloved feline was also seeming ill. As the Rochester sun sank in the sky, I sat sadly for a bit: partly for my cat and partly for the lack of someone to bring me a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup and remind me that everything is going to be okay. I allowed my mind to turn on these thoughts for a while until decided that I needed to both feed myself and cheer myself up (for was only 5pm and there was no going to bed just yet). After mentally scanning the contents of my fridge and acknowledging my minimal desire to repeat my lunch leftovers or chop vegetables for a new dish I remembered that there was a perfectly simple and adult dish I could prepare myself for dinner: Pancakes.
And I’m not talking about potato pancakes or kimchi pancakes or some other savory dinner pancake. I’m talking about a stack of flap jacks with old fashioned maple syrup and butter. Soft, golden, and filled with wheat flour, eggs, and milk. Now don’t get me wrong, I can groove on other pancakes varieties. On special occasions the addition of blueberries or chocolate chips makes for a delectable treat. I love kimchi pancakes with barbecued cauliflower and would never dream of passing up latkes with applesauce or sour cream. But there is nothing in this world that can rival the homely and cozy that traditional pancakes. And pancakes for dinner!?! It’s a child’s dream of dreams! (After cake, I suppose, but only until you realize cake for dinner actually does make you feel awful.)
We have this pancake recipe in my family that we’ve made for as long as I can remember and quite possibly longer. My mom says she may have gotten it from Betty Crocker or some similar 1950s era source. It is a recipe that lives in the depths of my heart and mind. Making it is like swimming or riding a bicycle: you just never forgot how it is done.
There are few kitchen techniques my family and I agree on these days but when if comes to pancakes we all know exactly what to do without ever having to discuss or dig out a recipe card. 2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk, 1/3 cup of oil, 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix all together in a bowl. Pour them onto a hot buttered griddle, wait for them to bubble, and flip. And there you have it: breakfast.
Over the years, as my cooking and baking skills grew and improved, I started to modify, tweak and adapt that recipe to fit either the constraints of my pantry or my own whimsical impulses. Some of these adaptations were disappointing failures: thin, dense, or gummy flap jacks that were eaten purely for nourishment. Some of these experiments, however, were amazing successes: sweet flavor, puffy insides, and perfectly golden brown freckled surfaces that were consumed with joy. Different grains quickly began to come into play: rye, cornmeal, buckwheat, and many different varieties of wheat of course. Extra sourdough culture also became a staple pancake ingredient, adding a lovely sour tang to the hot cakes. Varying amounts of eggs and different forms of dairy(a yogurt-water mix is my favorite thus far) also played their roles.
My introduction to cast iron added a new and tricky element to the game. Having grown up using an electric griddle and perfectly distributed heat I realized I had much to learn about the thermodynamics of a skillet over a gas flame to heat just right. It wasn’t long before I realized that the circular skillet distributed heat in such an unfortunately even manner that daring to make more than one pancake at a time was a fool’s errand. Then, one day, a magical gift was placed in my hands. A dear friend had discovered his mother in the process of discarding a cast iron griddle that perfect spanned two stovetop burners! The possibility for perfectly even heat distribution was now in my grasp. I still had a leap of learning to accomplish in using it properly but, even after the first cook, I was beyond excited with the results. Suddenly I could crank out 3-5 pancakes at once and have them all be evenly browned and consistently timed. The griddle has since obtained a shallow crack, just on the ridged side used for grilling, but I indeed to keep it cooking pancakes as long as I can for it is one of my most beloved and prized kitchen tools.
Food is important to me. Considering I was able to spend four paragraphs going on about pancakes (and could probably go for more), you may have already ascertained this fact. The importance of food is so deeply rooted in my being that I didn’t understand just how sacred it was to me until I found out how mundane it could be for others. I may not be professionally trained but I was working along side my parents in the kitchen well before I was tall enough to reach the countertops. My high schools friends and I had potlucks and I helped a handful of college friends learn how to prepare nourishing meals. A brief foray with vegetarianism I opened my eyes to our sorely broken and industrialized food system. I joined a work-owned food business that strived to connect people with their local farmers and offer them an ample variety of clean, safe food. I’m a farmer, a baker, a community member, an artist, a cat mom, an avid reader, and a curious human. It’s been a dream of mine for sometime to share my experiences and my relationship with food. I’m creating this project as both a practice for myself in writing and communicating and as well as a means of spreading the good word about our farmers, about how to prepare our food, and about those beautiful moments that connect each of us. That being said, I’m Allie Push and I love pancakes.