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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Grandma and her Corn Pancakes

My grandmother was sitting on my shoulder last night. Images of her kitchen with its 1930’s glass front cabinets and red linoleum counters jarred my memory. There are dishes that are hard-wired into my psyche that she made those hot New Jersey summers when we would drive Back-East from Iowa. Meals were hot and served in an even hotter kitchen. But there were rewards for eating roast pork and sauerkraut in August. There was her sublime lemon meringue pie with its secrets laid to rest with her. There were German pancakes that I learned later were actually Crepes from a different country. But last night, my grandmother and I, made corn pancakes.

I don’t know where they came from- other than that they were a result of leftovers. We used to have them as breakfast after a night of more hot meals and corn on the cob. But having retired from breakfast duty, they became dinner for me. Everything Grandma did was economical and frugal. I’m sure she never planned leftovers as I do, looking forward to the second meal almost more than the first. Ah, but those pancakes were special. You see my Grandma had (what I thought was unique until recently reading Stand Facing the Stove about Irma and Marion Rombauer and the Joy of Cooking on page 242-243 where they mention the same technique) a special way of whipping egg whites. It was the only kitchen task that she did sitting down.

Resting on her lap was a smallish chipped platter. Egg whites sloshed together on the plate. With her right hand she grasped a fork and rhythmically beat the whites into perfect peaks. You should have seen her biceps! They turned from a flaccid mass under her arm to a muscle that could arm wrestle the trickiest white into full bloom. To this day I remember watching her with childhood eyes and listening to the sound of fork against china. As you can see it was a mesmerizing experience.

The pancakes are quite simple. I add ingredients as if I am making a crepe batter with least wet to most wet additions. Before I worked in the restaurant trenches, I also sat down and whipped my whites as she had done. My puny biceps ached as I beat the whites into submission. Now knowing the ways of copper and a balloon whisk I whip in the French method creating tiny tight white bubbles of air. I’m sure my grandmother would approve of this “modern” convenience.

I savored the pancakes as if I was young once again sitting on the grey painted wooden chairs with my feet swinging. My sister and I were in sugar high delight eating late summer’s bounty as a magical Pyrex coffee pot turned liquid from clear to brown as it brewed percolator coffee on the electric stove.

When my NSSP called from the Other Edge and I told him I was having corn pancakes, he sighed at the loss. These aren’t pancakes from his past but from our culinary collective stew. He knows that I eat them with Grandma and wishes he was there to indulge. When he comes back I will buy extra corn and we will share in my late summer celebration.

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