Friday, October 8, 2010

An empty margarine tub and a fork in a kitchen in Kansas

An empty margarine tub, an (all new to me) non stick pan on a (new to me) gas stove, a few farm fresh eggs (YIP, they still had dry poop on them), some flour, water, salt and baking powder, a fork and a stronger forearm later... we had pancakes!

Today was the first time I made pancakes in America. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but trust me, it is.

America uses their own customary measurement system (ounces for liquid, ounces for weight and miles). South Africa (same as Europe) uses the metric system (litres, kilograms and kilometres). For now, for me, cooking is NOT just cooking; it borders on rocket science. I’d be lost without the internet to do conversions. Lucky for me this recipe is very simple.

It used to be my grandmother’s recipe. I remember my dad teaching us to flip pancakes when I was still in primary school; I could barely see over the side of the pan back then. My dad used a gas bottle with a screw on cooker top. It always made me think of camping.

Traditionally (in SA) pancakes are often baked when it is cold or rainy out. It is a beautiful Autumn day in Kansas, but I don’t care; I’m finally giving that old trustworthy recipe a go; like taking a vintage car for a drive around the countryside.

America doesn’t understand the meaning of a cup the way I do, i.e. 250ml. I used to use one of my coffee mugs (in SA they mostly came standard in 250ml); no problem. A cup is all I need, really. After looking around for the smallest mug I could find, I noticed it hanging on the side of the cupboard: a set of measuring cups and spoons. It doesn’t have “1 cup (250ml)” printed on it. It just says “1 cup”. Strangely, it looked a bit small... haha. Oh well, here goes!

Mixing the ingredients together well is one of the secrets to good pancakes. I used to have a mixer with a bowl, designed so that when you let the mixer down into it, it would spin the bowl for you, allowing for everything to be mixed thoroughly. Before that I used to mix it with a whisk and some elbow grease, and before that my (then) husband and I took turns whisking it with a fork and some elbow grease. You get tired after a while. A fork sufficed nicely today, with some elbow grease, of course, but today I didn’t take turns with anyone; I did it a-l-l by myself. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered it, or maybe I’ve just grown stronger :)

Years ago I had the recipe jotted down on an old torn open envelope. Today I know it off by heart (with a note of it in my computer of course... just in case). On the envelope my husband made a foot note just below jokingly stating that he gets to have all the flopped ones. He loved my pancake that much; he wasn’t too lucky too often though; the recipe is just THAT good! :) Trying it out today, I thought of that; maybe today he would have gotten lucky. Whether he would have liked it or not... that was an entirely different question.

I couldn’t find a suitable mixing bowl... Oh no, then I wouldn’t be able to make the batter. Then I spotted the empty margarine tub. It was easy to determine that it was the perfect size. Hey, who needs a mixer if you have a lid? Isn’t mixing the same as shaking something about, just faster, more vigorously? I would soon find out, wouldn’t I?

Cooking on a gas stove is also a more new experience for me. I have done so before, but only a few times. Other than that I am more used to electric appliances. I have, however, been pleasantly surprised at how easy I had become used to it. You learn to judge the heat you need by the size of the flame, and it doesn’t take long to heat up at all! Low heat does not work well for baking pancakes. It is one of those times when you need not be shy about turning up the heat!

“The batter looks a little yellow to me; a little TOO yellow if you ask me,” I thought to myself. This was confirmed to be a problem when my pancake took on the texture and slight smell of scrambled eggs; Scrambled eggs with sugar and cinnamon...? Never!! Scrambled pancakes haha

Today there is no “by the book” way of doing it. It is just me, the batter, my gut and years of experience (and a pinch of courage to step out and try something new – I-M-R-O-V-I-S-E!)

A little bit of water, a dash of oil (in the pan and in the tub) and a bit of sizzle and three flops later we had PAN-CAKES IN AMERICA, ladies and gentlemen; courtesy of me! :)

Guess what we’re having for dinner, honey?


Cindy said...

Oy! The email notification system seems to be a bit dicky ... when did you go to KANSAS??? *Cindy trots off to look back over Lee's blog ...*

Liane de Witt said...

Hey Cindy :) I've been in Kansas since late August this year. Met a nice fellow and got engaged :) Not quite as easy as marrying someone from the same country, so we are currently going through the legal motions. Hope you are doing well :)

I'm sorry about the e-mail notification "thingy". Maybe I'll try to do a test with it for myself this morning... see if I can figure it out :)