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Monday, July 14, 2008

Blue Cornmeal, a Cookbook, and Family Memories

I thought a lot about my granddad tonight. I made pancakes for dinner. pancakes always conjure up memories for me. Below is an excerpt from a narrative I wrote while working on my Masters.

Saturday and Sunday mornings, Granddad was in charge of the kitchen. On Saturday he would make homemade buckwheat pancakes from scratch. Every Saturday he would get out a large chipped bowl for mixing the batter. Grandma would always remind me that the bowl was one of the few gifts from their wedding they still had. He would painstakingly measure out each ingredient for the pancakes, cleaning up after each thing was added to the batter. Granddad always talked about how buckwheat pancakes were so much better for a person than traditional pancakes. “They stick to your ribs,” he would tell me. Each pancake covered the plate and was at least two inches thick. Add butter and syrup to that and I was hard pressed to eat two. Every Saturday I heard the same thing, “Why do I slave to make these damn pancakes if you are going to only eat two,” he would bark.

“Make them smaller and she might eat more, Elmer,” my grandmother would always reply.

“Harrumph,” he would growl; and every Saturday I would eat two huge buckwheat pancakes. He really didn’t care how much I ate.

I didn’t make buckwheat pancakes, but I don’t think that matters. It is the sense of family togetherness that counts. I always think about my granddad buzzing around the kitchen cooking and showing us in a million ways how much he loved us. To me that is the power of food. It brings back memories of family and people who are gone, but not forgotten. We are, however, making new memories, new good times, and new stories around the dinner table.

About the pancakes. Tonight I made Blue Corn Flapjacks for the boys and Hubby. The recipe called for blue cornmeal that my friend brought me from Mexico. She summers in Utah and on the way home; they always stop in Mexico and bring spices and such back home. Dot and her husband used to be my next door neighbors and they have become members of the family. Not only has she brought me neat ingredients from her travels, but she also bought me a really interesting cookbook written by these two ladies who own a restaurant called, Hell’s Backbone Grill located in Boulder, Utah. This cookbook has not only interesting recipes, but there are neat stories as well. The pictures are fabulous – I can’t wait to go there someday.

I was a little worried about the pancakes because they were “blue” Sometimes my kids are a little picky about their food. This time we had a winner. The flapjacks were terrific. They had a different texture from traditional pancakes – they were almost smoother, for lack of a better word. While they weren’t blue, they did have a hint of blue color in them. Strange since the batter had a definite blue cast to it. Blue cornmeal, made from Blue corn or Hopi corn, is different from regular cornmeal in the texture – blue cornmeal has a hearty, fine texture. It is somewhat sweet in taste, so things made with blue cornmeal instead of yellow or white usually taste sweeter. The boys are happy because there are leftovers so they can have some in the morning.

Blue Corn Flapjacks, courtesy; With a Measure of Grace by Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle with Lavinia Spalding

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup blue cornmeal
4 eggs
3 cups milk
½ cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
More oil for greasing griddle

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal.

In another bowl, lightly mix eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine well.

Preheat griddle to medium-hot. A drop of water will dance over the griddle when it is ready. Grease by spreading 2 tbsp oil on it and spread around with a folded paper towel. Keep the towel around to use for the next batch of cakes.

Pour from a pitcher or use a ladle to make standard round cakes. Turn cakes when edges are set and small bubbles form and pop on the surface.

The batter will keep in the fridge for two days.


Elle said...

Great post! I love the memories of your grandparents. And the pancakes look so good!

Grace said...

i'm excited to be paired with you for taste and create! you've got lots of fabulous recipes, and i think i'm gonna make these this weekend. i'm looking forward to it! :)

Maggie said...

Wonderful story, I had a gruff grandpa that had his own way to show how he loved us. Good looking pancakes too!