Thursday, 15 September 2011


Pancakes are easy. You can whip them up in no time at all with a minimum of ingredients and a little elbow grease, and the response you get is so gratifying.

On Sunday, we had no bread in the house, but we did have a dozen eggs, flour, and a liter of sour milk, courtesy of certain family members who can never remember to put the milk back in the fridge. We also had a house full of teenagers, mainly boys, one of whom was already sitting at the table. Pancakes are always better with sour milk. "Want pancakes?" I asked. He said yes.

What a great word yes is. We don't hear it enough in the right context.

So I cracked half a dozen eggs into a bowl and whipped them into a froth after adding some sugar. I chucked in my sour milk and whipped it into the eggs and sugar, then added a few spoonfuls of oil and whipped that in too. Another boy came into the room and sat down. "I'm making pancakes," I told him. "Want some?"


That wonderful word again!

I chucked in a few cups of flour and half a cup of wheat germ, and I beat all of that in.

"Do you want any help?" one of the boys asked, scraping back his chair.

"Yes," I told him. "Keep me amused with your teenage wit."

The boys obliged me.

I peeled and grated some cooking apples and put them in a saucepan with some blueberries we've had in the fridge for a week or so, still good, but looking a bit neglected. While I shaved lemon peel into the pot and added sugar, more teenagers filled the room. They sat at the table and looked expectant.

"Everybody want pancakes?" I asked.

There was only one no and a whole chorus of yeses. Boy, I love the word yes.

So I warmed a stack of plates and added a dash of cinnamon to my pancake batter. I spooned a dollop of batter into my hot skillet and tilted the pan just so until bubbles formed, then I flipped it over and cooked the other side until it too was golden brown. I stacked up pancakes and poured the blueberry and apple syrup into a pitcher.

I served up plate after plate of pancakes, and every time I asked if anybody wanted any more, I got another yes. It was so beautiful I could have wept. Want some more pancakes? I would ask, or Can anybody manage more blueberry syrup? And the answer would be yes. Not just yes, in fact, but Yes, please! and Yes, I can! or even Me please! I've only had two and he's already had five! When I ran out of pancake batter and blueberry syrup, it was all over, but for a while there, it was pure poetry. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. What a great word. More encouraging than Maybe. And infinitely more inspiring and less discouraging than Sorry, but no.

Cooking pancakes for teenagers is highly gratifying. Writing for them is even more gratifying, you just get fewer yeses.


Charles Gramlich said...

now I'm all hungry for pancakes. I haven't made 'em in a long time. Maybe this weekend!

Kit said...

You make it all sound so easy - I need to follow your recipe - haven't made proper pancakes in so long, I've forgotten the knack. I do make little buttermilk ones, four to a pan, a la Nigella, and they disappear as they come out of the pan - also very gratifying!
All very domestic goddess!

Chocolatesa said...

I'm not big on pancakes but now I have a craving for cheese crepes!

Cooking for friends is also really gratifying, rarely do people refuse free food! And it's great when they reply "yes" to any requests for help cleaning up after :)

Lisa Shafer said...

This is the loveliest little pancake tale I've ever read. :)

Vijaya said...

Yes! I would love some of your pancakes, too.

We had a sour batter going for five years in our old place and those pancakes were the best with blueberries. It's actually the only sweet hot breakfast I like (I don't use syrup -- just loads of extra berries and whipping cream).

I thought teenage boys were like golden retrievers -- always eager to eat!

meredith said...

Your writing makes my mouth water :)

Anne M Leone said...

Pancakes? Yes, please!
What a fun story, Mary. And your pancakes sound lovely, with the cinnamon and the lemon... makes me think I should be a bit more inventive with mine!

Kim Ayres said...

And only teenagers can happily wolf their way through as many pancakes without having to worry about putting on a pound :)

angryparsnip said...

Your post today is a hoot !

Japanese family was here for three weeks and the word pancake was spoken often. We went out for them and we had them I swear it seemed every three days...
it was indeed fun and quite tasty!

cheers, parsnip

Mary Witzl said...

Charles -- Good for you. I'm all pancaked out right now, but next weekend, I'll have my skillet out and ready again.

Kit -- Buttermilk pancakes and sour milk pancakes are practically sisters, though buttermilk sounds better, doesn't it? We can't buy it here, so if I don't have any milk that has soured, I sour it myself with lemon juice.

Can you be a domestic goddess with a grubby kitchen table and unvacuumed floors? If so, I'm in!

Chocolatesa -- I love cheese crepes (they stick less because of all the extra fat) and pesto crepes are great too.

Sadly, there were fewer offers of help with the dishwashing, but after all those yeses, I didn't even complain (much).

Lisa -- I think it's fallen a bit flat. :o)

Vijaya -- Using syrup makes these ridiculously sweet; I like the idea of using berries and cream instead. If you cook your own berries, you can control the amount of sugar you put in.

Teenage boys certainly have good appetites, but our girls give them some good competition.

Meredith -- Thank you. That's as good as the word 'yes' -- the idea that my writing has any sort of effect on people.

Anne -- The cinnamon makes them, in my opinion. Now if only I could get someBODY to make them. ;o)

Kim -- Not all of them can, but the ones we had at that table all had hollow legs and were whippet thin. Not fair, is it?

AP -- I miss living in the States where you can go out for pancakes without spending a fortune or traveling a great distance.

In Japan, I remember people calling them hotcakes, or 'hottokeeki', and they were very sweet and came in packages. In my opinion, they're not really pancakes unless they're hot out of the skillet.

Anne Spollen said...

Fun post, Mary! It's so satisfying to cook for folks who don't say how they have to "watch" or "my cholesterol" isn't it?

Very earthy feeling - and yeah, your post is forcing me down to the kitchen. Since it's Sunday morning here, I might make some chocolate chip pancakes!

Bish Denham said...

I LOVE this story! It reminds me of two times my mother cooked pancakes for me and a big bunch of teenagers. She was making them as fast as we could eat them. I hope she had as delightful a time as you did!

Pat said...

What a lovely story!
My boys have just left - I didn't make pancakes and they aren't teenagers but now they've gone it feels as if someone has switched the sunshine off.
And they cooked a brilliant fish pie last night. I can still smell it:)

Carole said...

Sounds delicious. Yes is a great word. So if your not too busy, I'll take some too, with your syrup.

Oh and Thanks.

Lynne said...

my 6 year old would be right there with all those boys wanting pancakes, she loves loves loves them. So glad they put you in such a good mood.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I always say YES to pancakes.. my wife always has fresh or frozen blueberries to add to the batter. Damn they are great that way.

Marcia said...

Oh, Mary, I've been meaning to make pancakes for a couple of weeks now. My husband, the father of all pancake lovers, thanks you! :)

Marian Perera said...

Hey... one person said no, they didn't want pancakes. What did they do when everyone else was wolfing down?

But now I'm thinking I may try to make pancakes this weekend. I only have a saucepan though, no frying pan. Hope they'll still turn out OK.

Anonymous said...

I love cooking for teens! It's most gratifying. They aren't fussy and they are grateful! Fun story. Why did you have so many hungry teens at your house?