February 14-20 is Pancake Week and February 16th is Pancake Day. On this occasion, we’d like to explore the history and culture of this underestimated dish.
Pancakes are hard things to define because every time you try and nail them down, some culture finds a way to break the rule, especially when pancakes cross over into flatbreads. The Oxford Companion of Food defines them as, “a pancake is made from a batter of flour, eggs and milk and fried in a shallow pan or cooked on a greased griddle.” John Mariani’s Dictionary of American Food calls them, “flat cakes cooked on a griddle and browned on both sides.” They can be made with or without yeast, from corn or wheat, with or without eggs. The only constant about pancakes is that they pack a lot of flavor and meal possibilities into a very simple recipe.
Pancakes are served anytime, anywhere and can be stuffed or drizzled with any topping imaginable, though we Americans tend to eat them as a breakfast or dessert covered in fruit and syrups. The first printed recipes for modern-style pancakes appear in the 16th century, though they date back to the dawn of man with appearances in every culture in the world. The ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius, includes a recipe served with pepper and honey. Many cultures throughout history have used them for religious purposes as well, including today, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. The reason is simple: Pancakes are simple. A little batter fried on a flat surface can be accomplished by anyone, including settlers using campfires and hoes (hoecakes).
Whether you decide to stuff your crêpes rolled and stuffed with fruit and topped with ice cream, your Meetha Pooda with pickles and chutney, your chataamari with meat and eggs on top, your okonomiyaki with seaweed, bonito flakes, brown sauce or mayonnaise, or your flapjacks with maple syrup, savor your pancake and enjoy your connection to history and to the world.
The following recipe comes from the The 1774 Inn in Phippsburg, Maine.
Cranberry Walnut Pancakes
You Will Need:
1-1/2 C white flour
1/2 C whole wheat or graham flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 C buttermilk
1/4 C canola or vegetable oil
2/3 C cranberries (coarsely chopped)
1/3 C walnuts (chopped)
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl, beat eggs, then add oil and buttermilk; beat together; set aside.
Preheat griddle or pan to 400 degrees.
Combine wet ingredients and dry and stir just until mixed.
Fold in cranberries and walnuts
Drop onto hot griddle by 1/3 cupfuls.
Flip pancake over when light brown on the bottom.