Adventures in pancakes batter

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Posted Thu, Dec 2, 2010

To misquote Ross Perot, “A billy goat ain’t no coyote, and box pancake mix just ain’t Mom’s scratch.”

When I was 10 years old, Mom tried to shuffle, stack and deal off the bottom of the pancake deck without anybody being the wiser.

I’ve always been a picky eater, and had proudly spent the first 10 years of my life saying annoying things like, “I don’t like that icky stuff.” Or, “This food tastes bad.”

And on this particular Saturday morning in 1965, I didn’t know how right I was about icky foods. My mother ran out of pancakes’ main ingredient – flour. Mom, unbeknown to me, reached into the cupboard and did the unthinkable – the old switcharoo.

Meanwhile, I was doing what I still do best. I was sitting in front of the television set watching Saturday morning cartoons until Mom called me to the dining room table.

I could smell the pancake aroma all the way into the front room where I was sitting. As I sat down, I didn’t have to worry about buttering the steaming stack in front of me – Mom always took care of the buttering detail. I just had to pour on a more-than-generous helping of maple-flavored Log Cabin Syrup.

As I happily dug in to the soft mound, my mother left the room – to wash the dishes, I guess. As my fork cut into the third pancake, my rapid chewing suddenly stopped. My taste buds went to Defcon-4.

When my mother returned, she noticed that three of the pancakes with divots sliced into them were pushed over to the edge of the plate.

“What’s wrong with those?” she asked.

“They taste funny,” I replied. “There’s something wrong with them.”

Mom didn’t say a word for a couple of seconds. But she realized she had made the fatal mistake. She always cooked from scratch: cakes, pies and biscuits Therein lay the problem.

My tastebuds act as sensors, guarding against such green nasties as spinach, Brussels sprouts and okra. On this morning they were put to the test.

Pancakes – which she still makes for me frequently – are always fresh and lively, for lack of a better word. Box mix is always stale and synthetic, just like the man-made eggs they serve middle and high school cafeterias.

Mom confessed. “You have to have flour,” she said. “So I just whipped up the Hungry Jacks, because pancakes are pancakes – to some people.

For those who know that pancakes aren’t just pancakes, try the following made-from-scratch pancake recipe from my mother. It was given to her in 1947 by her father, Oscar Usry. She remembers him as being a good cook, at least when he was sober.

Mom’s Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking power

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

3 cups milk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Add egg, milk and vegetables oil to dry ingredients. Beat well. There should be small lumps in the batter.

Heat pancake griddle, oil with vegetable oil and a dry paper towel. If griddle is too hot pancakes will burn. Turn heat down to medium.

Drop batter from large cooking spoon on griddle. Turn with pancake turner when pancake bubbles. Remove from griddle when pancake stops steaming. Butter pancakes as you stack them on plates. Serve with a good syrup. Makes about four servings.

About Laurence Washington

Laurence Washington is an award-winning writer and journalism professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

View all posts by Laurence Washington

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