Cooking in the time of COVID-19: The Pancake Smile.

It is the second week of lock-down as we try to stop the spread of COVID-19. I woke to more bad news of it’s impact around the world and I was disappointed to learn there are still people gathering in large numbers, refusing to heed the advice of medical officials, begging them to stay at home.

MIAMI BEACH, FL – MARCH 17: People eat at a restaurant along Ocean Drive on March 17, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida in spite of warnings from government and medical officials worldwide. Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Opening up the curtains in my kitchen, I looked up at a perfectly blue sky; white wispy clouds like puffs of cotton drifting by. It is business as usual for Mother Nature as spring blooms. I could see shoots of my annuals pushing skyward from the earth, little chickadees popping in and out of our birdhouse and a pregnant robin and her mate, perched on a nearby branch of the massive Russian Olive tree in my yard. Yep, that’s my girl, Mother Nature, the greatest force, doing her thing in spite of the pandemic that is raging through every country on the planet.

I may be disappointed in mankind, but I was uplifted by the beautiful day and wanted my family to wake up to something welcoming. So, I decided to make pancakes. The recipe is etched in my mind after watching my mother make them for us every Sunday for years. I remember she would set up her special Teflon pan. It was a Sun Beam and it had it’s own power source and stand and she had special cooking utensils she used to prevent the surface from scratching. Seems like she had that pan forever – I think it may have made the trip up to Toronto when our family migrated. That pan is a significant part of my childhood memories and I liked that it was a big deal, even though there is nothing easier than making pancakes from scratch. I remember her telling me that making it from a boxed mix took the same amount of time than making it from scratch and why would one want to sacrifice taste and texture by a heavy box mix? Oh Mom, you are so right and I am so happy I have never made pancakes from a box or poured my family’s dinner ready-made out of a can. Thank you for extending your sweet hand to both your girls and just so you know, it is a pleasure for us to cook alongside you. This recipe I am about to share I have also taught to my son, Logan and I have to say, they guy makes a damn good batch of pancakes, ensuring that granny’s recipe is still being extended through the generations.  My mother always had a smile on her face when she made pancakes for her family because she was making them with so much love. I wanted to smile today in spite of all that is unfolding around us, so I gathered the ingredients on the counter and got to work.

Since there is no school or sports to get to, I decided to make a smaller batch that yields about 20 mid sized pancakes. Usually, I can make about 30 to 40, so this morning, this will be quick. Sift 1 1/2 cups of unbleached flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of brown or white sugar and mix. Throw in a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon if you have it and mix again. By now, you should be smiling.

 

Next, add a tablespoon of olive oil (or vegetable of whatever oil you have available), a splash of vanilla and an egg to the dry ingredients.

   Measure out 1 cup of almond milk or regular milk (we use lactose free milk) and add to the other ingredients. Mix well with a whisk, adding a little more milk or water if batter seems too thick.

 

Place a seasoned pan on stove on high heat for about a minute. As mentioned in a previous post, I like The Rock line of cookware because food never sticks to it and it is so easy to clean. I usually use the Rock mini griddle pan for pancakes but I think it grew legs and left the house, so today I am using a big frying pan which means I’ll be done sooner because I can make 3 at a time if I want to.

(A seasoned pan is a pan coated evenly with butter or olive oil. Pan must shine without having excess oil that could change the consistency of the batter)

    

Once the pan is hot, lower burner temperature to medium/low heat. Place a small amount of batter in pan and wait for it to bubble before flipping it. This is the runt pancake.

    It will either be too light and look under-cooked or it will be too dark and spongy. Such is the plight of the runt pancake which used to be called the “doggie” pancake when we had a dog. The runt pancake is very normal. It happens every time. The next pancakes come out perfectly – they rise a bit, are nice and tender and are are a nice medium brown colour with a lighter brown, smooth underside.

  

Continue to spoon the batter into the pan, wait for all the bubbles to appear then flip.

  Repeat this until you run out of batter. The kitchen will have a gorgeous inviting smell and I guarantee you will catch yourself smiling, especially when it comes time to plating and serving it to your family.

   If you have fruit of any kind, now’s a nice time to serve it up. I usually have frozen raspberries or frozen strawberries or pitted cherries.Today, I decided on raspberries, so I took them out of the freezer before I started making the pancakes, so they thawed and juicy by the time I was ready to plate. Like my mom, from time to time I like to make a small production of the presentation of my pancakes.

As you can see, I served the pancakes with a few raspberries on top, a drizzle of maple syrup and a light dusting of icing sugar to make it a little special with some sliced banana on the side.

The pancake scent wafted throughout the home and soon, I heard the thundering of feet up the stairs bringing hungry bellies to the table. With smiles on their faces, the only words said were “Pancakes! Thanks, Mom.” They were smiling, I was smiling and there was a feeling of warmth, comfort and love inside my home this morning in spite of the harsh reality of the pandemic outside.

During this time of isolation, make comfort food for your family, check in with each other and try and enjoy this time as we slow ourselves down, hunker down at home and contribute to the efforts being made to bring this virus down. Stay at home, leave only for supplies and limit your time in public. Wash your hands, wipe down and clean all surfaces and do all you can to stay healthy.

 

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