I love making pancakes.
One egg, some half and half, a little flour and a hefty teaspoon of baking soda thinned with water to consistency; this recipe doesn’t use measurements, it uses sensibility.
Some people add a little salt and sugar to the mix, but I don’t see the need for sugar when the cakes are served with a sweet sauce, and the salt, well, we didn’t miss it.
Those of you that know me well enough to say you know me know how I feel about pancakes. I never, ever, buy pancake mix. Not only is it a waste of money and resources, the end result is unpalatable.
Pancakes are a peasant food. Despite their culinary ease, they are a special food – a food reserved for festivals or holidays, or one *glorious* week prior to lent.
At this moment I am reading Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked. He doesn’t talk much about pancakes (so far) as he does about the impact of of cooking grains on our lives. Cooking allowed our bodies to accept more energy as well as opening up our gastronomic adventures to an entirely new arena: grains. This changed everything.
I have heard rumors that the pancake may have been one of the first grain foods ever cooked to eat; its golden aura is, in fact, represented in every country on the globe in one form or another. And when you think about it, why wouldn’t it have been? Soaked grains over a fire? It’s very primitive.
I became curious about the etymology of the term, “flapjack” and found this delightful page which (among other things) explains,
By the early 17th century, the verb FLAP had its usual meaning of ‘cause to swing or sway about, flutter, flop (frequently making a noise).’ So ‘flap’ comes from the process of flipping the pancake in the pan or on a griddle or whatever they used back in those days. And by the mid-19th century one of the meanings of flap was specifically to ‘toss (especially a pancake) smartly.’
The ‘jack’ in ‘flapjack,’ according to the OED entry above does originally derive from the capitalized male name ‘Jack,’ but exactly how we went from that to the griddlecake was never explained by them or in any of the sources I checked. Incidentally, ‘applejack,’ the U.S. apple brandy derives from the male name ‘Jack’ also [according to the OED].
Could it be that the word ‘flapjack’ came from the person making them, the ‘flapjack(er)’ as in the person ‘lumberjack’(‘steeplejack’)? Or maybe the pancake itself came from the ‘jack,’ meaning something ‘small’ (small cake) as in the children’s game of ‘jacks’ (derived from picking up small stones called ‘jacks’), the small drive shaft of a car, the ‘jackshaft,’ and the small weighted leather weapon the ‘blackjack’ – perhaps only the Shadow knows for sure!
So today we chose to make American-style flapjacks, served with maple syrup, scrambled eggs, half a banana and strong coffee. Perfectly smart and sufficient food to hold me through my somewhat hectic schedule today of errands and work. I wasn’t able to eat again until about 9pm, and I ate these at about noon. Not too shabby from the economic position of both money and calorie.
I don’t have much to report on this pancake recipe other than it is consistently delicious, even if different every time we make them. Occasionally, they are thin and eggy, like the Swedes have; Often they are light and airy in the North American style (but not like diner [boxed] pancakes), but always they are worth the five minutes it takes to prepare them.
While I understand the cultural normalcy to buy boxed pancake mix, I hope you just don’t. It’s a waste of money and saves no more time than making them from scratch.