When I was a kid, one of my most yearned after life events was a trip to Smitty’s (a local pancake hut/chain, similar to Golden Griddle here in Ontario or IHOP in the USA). Smitty’s pancakes, as I recall, were giant, perfect (to a 7-year old who’d never seen an orange that didn’t come out of a can), and sugary. The deal was that two or three came on a plate and you died–of happiness, of course–as the result of eating them, only to then be resurrected so that a return trip to Smitty’s could be dreamed of and, eventually, realized.
Pancakes were the very first thing I ever learned to cook myself. I was a committed fan of the plain pancake; no berries or other fancy ingredients used by fancy people were considered, never mind actually included, in the making of my pancakes back in the 80s and early 90s. They were adorned, lovingly, with a great deal of butter and nothing else. They were also accompanied by nothing; pancakes were the platonic ideal of breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) food in my limited culinary worldview; to include something on the side would have suggested a desire for a completeness I did not believe to be–nay, I knew was not–lacking.
My notions of what constitute a proper pancake have matured, thank goodness; I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Smitty’s these days, even if they still exist. (And I don’t say this because one of the last times I dined at this semi-respectable family restaurant was around 9 am on the day after my high school graduation and I was still drunk; and my less drunk, but probably not sober, friends and I found ourselves sitting next to a table of officers of the law; and that instead of making us feel hardcore by arresting us, or even giving us a stern talking to, they made fun of me for the hole in the bottom of my coffee cup causing me to spill that delightful beverage all over myself, and getting almost none in my mouth.)
I wouldn’t go to Smitty’s again because I’m not mad at myself, nor am I mad at pancakes. You see, pancakes are more than delicious objects designed to end up in my belly; pancakes constitute a life philosophy and should be treated with respect. By which I mean, pancakes should not comprise the shittiest, cheapest ingredients possible, thrown together by disaffected teenagers at their shitty part-time job in a chain restaurant completely devoid of history, personality, or the possibility of either. Cheap ingredients in a mom and pop diner or greasy spoon: yes. Fantastic and special ingredients in a chain: yes. But there must be some respect shown somewhere for griddle cakes. If you do not agree, you’re clearly one of these monsters that just want to watch the world burn.
As a vegan, I can’t dine out on pancakes just anywhere, and so I have scoped out all the good places in my own beautiful world. But the best thing is to make them at home, especially when one has been gifted a gigantic family-size electric griddle, and when one can share this experience with friends. My delightful mother-in-law gave my husband and me one of these absolutely necessary kitchen appliances and we have taken to hosting griddle parties for our friends with kids. You see, we do not have and will not be having childers ourselves, but it is important to me, as a devotee of Pancake, to instill in as many children as possible both a present love and a future store of intense nostalgia for pancakes. I’m doing the world a favour, for I’m sure pancakes are integral to the propagation of love for one’s fellows and in creating world peace–if only because eat enough pancakes, and there’s naught to do but lean back, smile beneficently upon the world, and have a little nap.
While the griddle party isn’t the best idea I’ve ever had (that would, of course, be the pie-luck), it’s at least a runner-up; and so I encourage everyone, in the interests of both local belly happiness and global peace and well-being, to host griddle parties of their own. One of the joys of hosting a griddle party is that you can make more than one type of pancake. Also, fancy toppings. At my most recent griddle party, I made some hippy-dippy spelt pancakes that looked like oatmeal cookies; they tasted good, but they took a very long time to cook through. I also made your classic diner pancakes but made them posh by tossing in some blueberries and topping them with bananas, blackberries, maple syrup, and raspberry sauce. All this goodness is courtesy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz, of course.
Perfect Pancakes, Vegan Brunch, p. 87
- 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 to 1-1/4 cups plain rice. almond, or soy milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
Heat the griddle to medium-high heat (I think we do 375F on ours). Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients and stir until just combined; a few lumps are okay. Use a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measure to pour the batter onto the griddle; flip them when lots of bubbles are forming and then let them sit a few more minutes until cooked through.
You can jazz these up by folding 1 cup of fresh blueberries or 1 cup fresh raspberries and 1 tbsp fresh lime zest; both options are brilliant.
Do whatever you want with these delightful morsels; they’re your pancakes now too. But what I would do is top them with….
Whole Berry Sauce, Vegan Brunch, p. 202
- 4 cups berries, fresh or frozen
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch
- 2 tbsp cold water
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Mix to dissolve the arrowroot. Turn the heat up to medium, and stir often for about 15 minutes (longer if you use frozen berries), until the sauce is thick and the berries are partially broken down. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Note: I’ve made this recipe with both blueberries and raspberries. Both options work, but the raspberry version is extra special.
Now then, aren’t you hungry? And don’t you think there could probably be more be-griddled vittles in your life? I think we all know the answer to these important questions. Go now, make yourself some pancakes and make the world a better place for us–and for future generations.