Tim Van Schmidt | New SCENE
So, the challenge came down recently from a regular reader of North Forty News to write a column about cooking. OK, here’s my best shot:
One of the things that has helped me get through the pandemic is comfort food.
Well, just about any food, really, but on the top of the list, at least for me, is pancakes.
I love pancakes. I love melted butter spreading across the cakes and maple syrup dripping all over the things.
This has been going on throughout my entire life. I can clearly remember my mom making pancakes at our house in Illinois when I was just a little boy. She watched me spread on the butter and pour on the syrup and then asked, “Which part of that do you love so much?”
I said, “All of it”. I still have and use the pancake flipper she was holding that morning.
My favorite restaurant in Illinois was The Cock-a-Doodle, a Midwest chain with the tagline “North, South, East, West, Cock-a-Doodle is the Best.” Their specialty was “silver dollar” pancakes and I could eat twenty bucks worth even as a youngster.
In the Wisconsin Dells, there was a restaurant called Paul Bunyan’s with huge picnic tables for seating. The servers would continually bring out steaming plates piled with food — including as many pancakes as you can eat. I took advantage.
Now, at our house, my wife is the main cook. In fact, I’m not much of a cook at all — I’m more or less a one-trick pony. (I’m a very good cleaner-upper, though.) But my trick is pretty good.
I’ve developed my skill over many Sunday mornings — an unofficial time for dads across the nation to take over the kitchen and deliver something hot and tasty. You can guess what I wholeheartedly make for my family.
It started with just a simple, straightforward pancake recipe. But over the years I have made refinements.
In a cup of flour, for instance, I include about a quarter cup of cornmeal, giving a little extra texture. In the dry mix I put in some cinnamon and in the wet mix, I stir in a little vanilla extract. For filler I use small wild blueberries, usually frozen then thawed — this will turn the batter blue, but the taste is excellent — and crunched almonds, walnuts, pecans, or all three. I usually use buttermilk. And this is key: real maple syrup.
My wife, admittedly, has said she really doesn’t like pancakes — we have stayed together anyway. Even so, she has found some more exotic recipes for pancakes and she makes some excellent ones. Those include cottage cheese pancakes — no, really, they’re very light and tasty — an apple “Dutch Baby” pancake made in the skillet and cooked in the oven, and sourdough cakes that keep me satisfied all day.
I usually make my own cakes, especially during the pandemic, but I have had some great cakes at area restaurants, including perfect diner cakes at The Silver Grill, some creative cakes, with various filling combinations and sauces, at Snooze, and, my very favorite, the banana walnut pancakes at The Rainbow.
This isn’t just my thing. I am proud to say the love of pancakes has been passed down to my two grandsons — they gobble them up, almost as much as Mac and Cheese. I know other pancake lovers too.
And we’re not alone in the world.
The Denver Post just published an article on pancakes.
Go ahead and look up pancakes on Wikipedia. It’s all there — history, their various forms around the world, and lots of photos. I’ll just give you one eye-popping quote: “Archaeological evidence suggests that pancakes were probably the earliest and most widespread cereal food eaten in prehistoric societies.”
With that said, I would like to suggest something outrageous. That is, I think that pancakes are politically neutral. In the US, I think that huge numbers of both Republicans and Democrats love pancakes.
It’s possible that members of Congress would find more success in reaching across the aisle if they would all just get together in the morning and have a pancake breakfast. They all need to start out on the same foot, get a good breakfast and then get down to work, don’t you think?
I know. That’s pretty silly. But to The Senate and The House of Representatives, and to everyone who needs some tasty comfort food — which is just about everybody these days — I say: “Let them eat pancakes”.
By the way, I make pretty good nachos too — but that’s another story.
Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. See his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt”.