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Sunday, March 2, 2014

International Pancake Day -Mardi Gras-Shrove Tuesday

     March is a month in transition being the end of winter, and the beginning of spring, it sometimes hosts Mardi Gras and sometimes Easter. It always hosts St. Patrick's Day, and Dr Seuss' birthday (March 2). This year Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday and Fat Tuesday,  is on Tuesday, March 4th with Ash Wednesday on the 5th. Shrove Tuesday is also International Pancake Day, oh, yeah, and do I love pancakes.
     Pancakes are by no means a gourmet item, however, I have seen some concoctions that just make me wonder if the people who come up with some of these recipes really like pancakes because when you add a bunch of other stuff you are missing out on the pancake.
     Personally, I am a pancake snob. I am a Bisquick pancake snob, however, I do not completely follow the box instructions--and once you get to know me, you will realize I cannot leave well-enough alone. Not me. Not ever.
    The original Bisquick pancake recipe, as it appears on the box, calls for 2 eggs, however, I only use 1 for the 2-1/4 cups of baking mix. My batter is very thick and I have to add more milk to get it to the right consistency however, my batter still is on the thick side, and please remember not to overwork the batter, lumps are a good thing in pancake batter. What I love about the pancake recipe is that when you flip them (only once) you watch them rise to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Oh, man, and then after they come out of the pan I slather soft butter on them. Most of the time I do not bother with syrup, and I prefer the real stuff, but mostly I just want lots of butter. Yes, I know about the cholesterol, and my doctor is on my case about cutting back, so I eat whole grain and use a drinkable fiber trying to wash it out of my system. I also don't eat pancakes very often, only once or twice a month, everything in  moderation, I guess.
     Another little trick I have picked up with cooking pancakes is that I use an 18/10 stainless steel skillet that I do not wash in a dishwasher, and grease it lightly with real Crisco shortening. (Oopps, there's that cholesterol again). When I say lightly, I mean it, though. I take a paper towel and pick up about a tablespoon of the shortening on the paper towel and wipe the skillet with it. I continue to use the same piece of paper towel and the shortening stuck to it for each of the subsequent batches. Also, be sure you skillet is hot enough. How do you tell if it is hot enough? Well walk over to the kitchen sink and turn on the faucet. Wet your index and middle fingers. Walk back over to the stove and "flick" a few drops of the water onto the pan. If they dance across the surface of the skillet with a sizzle, the skillet is ready. If they immediately evaporate, it is too hot; take the skillet off the heat and let it cool a bit, then try again. If the drops just sit there in a small puddle, that skillet is not ready. You almost never cook pancakes on a high flame, and I usually have the heat at 2-3.
    Do not peak to see if the pancake is cooked. The top of the batter will tell you when its time to flip. The edges of the pancake look dry. Really. Stop and look at them sometime. And there  could be some popped bubbles on the surface. I use a marvelous spatula that I got from Pampered Chef. The spatula is so marvelous I own two of them.
   I also have a pancake server that looks like a stack of pancakes with a big wad of butter on top. The cover has holes in it so the steam will escape so the pancakes will not get soggy. Yeah, just another gadget I picked up over the years.
     If you want to add things to your pancakes, I won't mind, I have only tried wild strawberries myself, and they were pretty good, but I would rather have the extras on top or on the side as opposed to inside the pancake, but that's me. If you want to add stuff, go ahead, and if you find something that really complements the humble pancake, please share.
     All this talk of pancakes has just made me decide I am going to make pancakes and sausage for breakfast tomorrow morning. Don't tell my doctor, though, okay?
    Til next time--enjoy!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Don't know where to start

     I have, at long last, completed my Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a Concentration in Communications. Howdy do! So now what?
     I've been advised to just start writing about anything or everything. Just write every day, and to keep reading. My last few semesters had me reading books on the frugality of immigrants that came to this country in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth. And the struggles they faced, and how hard it was to keep your family fed, and a roof over your head. In my continued pursuit of information on that topic I also discovered that there are very few words from women's point of view. That disturbs me.
       My continued research has lead me also to the difficulties of living through World War II, also from a women's point of view, and now I am beginning to realize that with so little written works that focus on the women's struggles, and time moving so fast, there is not much time to continue to collect first hand accounts of the struggles. Luckily there are a few women, besides myself who have recognized the loss of their words if they are not documented, and quickly.
     In the writings I have found I am getting to understand the stresses women were under trying to keep the home fires burning, trying to feed their children, themselves, and in many cases, extended families and whole communities through rationing and all kinds of shortages: not just of food, but of material for clothing, fuel for heat, and just about every other basic necessity of life.
     My newest search, now, is to locate as much writings as I can that describe the home front's struggles to keep some kind of normalcy during those stressful years, with adapting to all of the regulations and lack of supplies, the many losses of family members, community members, and in the case of Londoners, the constant bombardment during the Blitz, something this country did not experience, although blackouts were the norm, the bombings never materialized, to our good fortune. Reading how the English women dealt daily with the bombings just shows how important women's roles were in keeping a way of life preserved, to continue and grow after the war.
     Being very interested in food, I also find myself very interested in how families were fed with foods being rationed, and having to grow one's own, to help both yourself and the war effort.