Last night for supper, I made buckwheat and pecan pancakes with grilled apples. With one fried egg. I didn’t bother to make the pancake batter from scratch, since I very much like the buckwheat mix made by Krusteaz. Chopped the pecans and stirred them into the dry mix, then sliced an apple very thinly. While the pancakes baked on the electric griddle, I let the apples, sprinkled with nutmeg, carmelize on the other side, and just when it was all nearly completely finished, fried the egg.
The egg was fresh, the apples not too sweet, the buckwheat hearty and nutty. Wonderful! It made me start thinking of pancakes.
Pancakes have always been one of my big favorites. When we were children, my parents sometimes took us to IHOP and we’d all go insane over the choices—blueberry! No, chocolate! No, silver dollar pancakes, those adorable little things, that came neatly stacked in piles of ten. My favorite was always buckwheat, which I liked for the flavor and color, but even more because it astonished adults that a girl, a little girl liked them. That astonishment made me feel clever, intriguing, mysterious–Who is that little girl there, the one who likes buckwheat instead of chocolate?–but mainly, I just loved the hearty smell and flavor, the substantial depth of a buckwheat pancake on my plate, in my mouth, hot and solid in my belly. In France last summer, I feasted on a buckwheat pancake near the Normandy beaches and they set up my passion for them again. I’ve been making them a lot.
Pancakes are given short shrift, I think. The very first thing I ever learned to cook was pancakes in the shape of letters and animals, out of my Betty Crocker’s Cookbook For Boys and Girls (how adorable they were! Bears and C’s and little faces!). As a college student, I often took my books to Denny’s and studied over a supper of pancakes and endless cups of coffee. It was a treat, a way to be alone and not alone, eating something that gave me comfort while I crammed for finals.
When my boys came along, I cooked a hot breakfast for them every morning. Now, this was not some self-sacrificing obnoxiousness on my part. They were very picky eaters. They needed to have a good breakfast because sometimes I knew they didn’t eat school lunches at all. And it is also true that I am a naturally early riser. In those days, I was often awake and moving by five, so by the time I needed to get them up for school, it was no problem to have breakfast ready and hot. (I’m also not, for the record, one of those people who think eggs are suspicious. They’re a power food, packed with nutrition, and a really great way to feed children.)
I cycled through a small selection-scrambled eggs and broiled cinnamon toast; French toast with vanilla and cinnamon, and pancakes. My younger boy, the pickiest eater on the planet, didn’t like fancy pancakes, but the older one loved sophisticated offerings like a recipe I found in Martha Stewart magazine for pancakes with carmelized pears in the middle of them-they were so lovely! (Who is that little boy who likes the grilled pear pancakes?) I’ve actually lost that recipe and would like to find it again, if anyone knows it.
Happily, Christopher Robin also enjoys breakfast for supper, and he was delighted by the buckwheat, apple, and pecan pancakes when he came in late and tired and ready to relax.
As I washed up the dishes, I thought of how much I love pancakes, and I ask you:
Do you have a favorite pancake or pancake story? Do you have a family pancake recipe that’s to die for? What did you pick at the International House of Pancakes when you were ten?