The First Thing I Ever Cooked: Buttermilk Pancakes
Shauna – aka Gluten-Free Girl – tweeted over the weekend about a fun project she thought up for today. She invited food bloggers anywhere and everywhere to post about The First Thing They Ever Cooked. When I saw her tweet, I smiled and sent myself a reminder email titled, “Buttermilk Pancakes!” (That’s what I do these days, email myself reminders, sigh.)
As if I’d forget about pancakes! I spent the first nine years of my life completely obsessed with the little butter delivery vehicles, and while I don’t eat them so often anymore, they hold a warm, fluffy place in my heart.
While my mom, my stepmom Susanna, and my Grandma Meyer taught me how to cook – or even better, let me learn how to cook – my dad was actually the pancake maker in our family. He flipped pancakes most Sunday mornings on a big electric pancake griddle. In the winter he’d make them in the kitchen, but in the summer he’d set up the griddle outside on the patio, and Stacey and I would chow down at the picnic table, hair bleached from living in the Lakefield swimming pool, mosquito-bitten legs dangling from our favorite summer pajamas (that’s me with the short hair). The skillet would ping as it cooled down, the perfect accompaniment to the carbs flowing into our veins. Those were nice days.
When all the Meyers would gather at Dickerson’s Resort on Lake Florida, my dad would make pancakes for the crowd. I was an annoyingly picky eater as a child, with a small appetite, but pancakes, yeah, I would always eat pancakes. My dad would hand me a stack and I’d get to work tucking butter slices between each layer, all the way to the top. After a generous pour of Aunt Jemima syrup, I was ready to dig in, melted butter and thick syrup pooling together in a sweet, glossy frame. Mmmm…
One year I made the mistake of eating 20 pancakes in one sitting. I was utterly, disgustingly stuffed, but that wasn’t the problem. My error was packing that many away in front of all of my cousins, man, I’ve never heard the end of it. My grandma said, “She’s about to grow,” and she was right (of course). I shot up four inches that summer. The Power of Pancakes.
The recipe my dad followed was on the back of the Bisquick box. The first version I made, however, The First Thing I Ever Cooked, was from The Betty Crocker Cookbook. I was up early one weekend morning, and hungry for pancakes (shocker), so I decided to make them on my own. My dad had let me flip them before, and my grandma had let me crack eggs and measure flour for cake batter. I felt ready to fly solo. We were out of Bisquick, so I leafed through the cookbook and found a recipe for buttermilk pancakes. There was no buttermilk in the fridge, but there was a note in the recipe about how to create a buttermilk substitution by adding vinegar to milk. Worked like a charm. I made several pale, crinkled cakes before I got brave enough to 1) turn the griddle heat high enough, and 2) flip the pancakes with some confidence, but I eventually found a groove. After I’d amassed a passable stack, I started tucking butter, pouring syrup, and digging in. They were good.
And I was off and running. I taught myself to stir in chocolate chips and other goodies. I liked them really thick and fluffy…until I discovered crepes. Lovely, eggy crepes, filled with berries or bananas, or nothing at all (but a pat of butter). I made pancakes so often that I finally got tired of them. True. And a little sad.
These days, I still make pancakes for myself and for my son, but I don’t tuck butter slices between each pancake. I stir whole grain flour and flaxseeds into the batter, and often add a scattering of blueberries just before flipping. Sometimes I layer the hotcakes with cottage cheese for added protein and staying power (very tasty, I highly recommend). If I use syrup at all, it’s real maple syrup – sorry Aunt Jemima. I still love pancakes, but I guess that learning how to make them myself ended my obsession.
Although this version, from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham, threatens to reignite my passion. These pancakes are tender, fluffy, and completely delicious. Despite the whole-wheat flour, they are light as air, yet sturdy enough to hold blueberries or nuts if you’re so inclined. I spooned on some of the strawberry-rhubarb compote I had in the fridge, which I wouldn’t have touched as a kid, but I added maple syrup too.
And a pat of butter on top, for old times’ sake.
What’s the first thing you ever cooked? (Note: here’s the compilation post that Gluten-Free Girl put together, listing the entries of everyone who responded. Excellent reading, there are so many talented writers out there! And lovely food memories…)
From The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Makes 14, 3-inch pancakes
Note: The batter holds well in the refrigerator for several days.
1 c. buttermilk (I use a bit more, more like 1 1/4 c.)
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 c. all-purpose flour (or 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour, 1/4 c. all-purpose flour)
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Put the buttermilk, egg, and melted butter in a mixing bowl. Stir briskly until the mixture is smooth and blended.
Stir the flour, flax seeds (if using), salt, and baking soda together in a small bowl so they are well blended. Stir into the buttermilk mixture only until the dry ingredients are moistened – leave the lumps.
Heat a skillet or griddle to medium hot. Grease lightly and spoon out about 3 Tbsp. of batter per pancake. Spread the batter with the back of the spoon so it is thinned out a little. Cook until a few bubbles break on top. Turn the pancake over and cook briefly. Keep pancakes wa
rm until enough are cooked to serve.
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