Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Pancake Girl

We made pancakes this morning. Or, as is usually the case, Cathy made pancakes with her enthusiastic munchkin assistant while I hovered about in anxious anticipation.
According to Alan Davidson's mighty Penguin Companion to Food (written with the "intention that browsing through it should be a pleasure," and it is!), it was the English who did the most to advance the griddled brilliance of the pancake as we in the West have come to know it. "An English culinary manuscript of about 1430," Davidson writes, "refers to pancakes in a way which implies that the term was already familiar, but it does not occur often in the early printed cookery books. It seems to have been only in the 17th century that pancakes came to the fore in Britain." If only for this, I am a dedicated Anglophile. Thank you for the pancakes!

When I was a child, a few years older than Abby is now, my Dad would take me along on Saturday mornings to bum around the sawdust and Formica scrap strewn rooms of the family business. For lunch we'd walk a few blocks down to a restaurant run by a Greek couple who served breakfast all day. When we'd enter the owner would receive me from behind the counter with a warmhearted salutation of "It's the Pancake Boy!" And of course that's what I'd order, marveling that such a place existed where pancakes were no longer confined to the tyranny of the morning hours.
A Vietnamese restaurant is there now. Their cinnamon beef ball soup is said to be quite good.

Not just pancakes with strawberries, but bacon too! The salty, redolence of bacon on an early autumn morning is life affirming. Writing Alexander Donald from Paris, Thomas Jefferson, heavy with the burden of his times said, "I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give." Of course, he's lying. Try as he might, Jefferson couldn't resist "the most splendid post" of the presidency and he was both petty and fiercely tenacious in his quest to claim it. And he loved pancakes as much as bacon. Still, relaxing in a modest cottage with good friends, some books and bacon while the world rolls on by sounds mighty nice. I'd add a few bottles of wine though. And a badminton net.

Abby has begun humming again while she eats. She did this for many months but it abruptly stopped not long after her first birthday back in December. The hum returned a few weeks ago though. It's the hum of foodstuff approval. A hum to accompany the delicious, both savory and sweet. It's not subtle, this hum, but emphatic and assertive. She hummed through each and every bite of pancake and bacon this morning. I'm glad it's returned.

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