I operate in a frenetic fog. Not by choice. It’s the nature of full time work, raising a family [wife edits: I use the verb loosely] and a commitment to feed us all well. There are times though that my mind crystallizes and I surface with clear sight to question, “what the f*&% is going on here?” Four days away for work – a little mini vacation from the usual mummy tasks – affords some clarity.
When I returned, entering the front hall, my first thought was, jeez the cleaning lady is doing a dreadful job, I can’t even put my suitcase down without hitting a stray stuffed animal…oh…or the dog. She should be fired. Oh right, I’m the cleaning lady. The children, yes I had missed them, of course, but they clung to me like the suckers of an octopus, releasing the guilt at having been away to seep slowly through my soul, like black ink. Would it always be this way? I like to do good work – at home and at my job. In these moments I feel like I do both of them with half assed, mediocre results. In these moments routine pulls me from the brink of depression; routine that has become ritual.
Saturdays our family eats pancakes. It’s a tradition that grew alongside us, more out of comfortable habit than militant scheduling. Recently though, pancake making has become a battle ground with white flour and chocolate chips on one side [wife edits: now that the kids are starting to cook, this is what they prefer as pancake ingredients] and wheat germ, whole wheat flour and blueberries on the other side [wife edits: my preference and heretofore regular Saturday breakfast. Let’s call the gearhead the turn coat. Note that’s it’s done without malice – it’s just a fact that I stand on the wheat germ island all by myself these days]. The predictability of Saturday breakfast is an anchor when life feels like it’s spinning out of control. Except when you’re arguing with your twelve year old about the merits of whole wheat flour before your morning caffeine fix has been satisfied.
As a parent, it’s important to know when to step in; it’s just as important to know when to step out. Despite my disdain for white flour, I recognize this battleground for what it really is: the fight for independence and autonomy on the cooking front. It is, after all, exactly what I want my kids to learn, to cook for themselves with joy and confidence. The realization that the pancake ritual has not been broken and that I’m the one creating the battleground takes the wind out of my sails. I’m not defeated so much as I am dumbstruck [wife edits: see “fog” above and “crystallization” that follows]. My kid’s cooking me breakfast!
Sharing breakfast at a diner recently I turned to my twelve year old and asked how the big fluffy pancakes she had ordered were. She answered with a shrug of her shoulders and the confidence of an epicure, distilled from years of pancake experience, “Meh, they taste like they come from a box.” I smiled with pride.
My Saturday go to recipe for pancakes, retired now but set to be resurrected when taste buds mature, is adapted from a fantastic vegetarian cookbook hailing from a restaurant of the same name in Victoria, BC, Rebar Modern Food Cookbook, by Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz.
Whole Wheat Hotcakes (serves 2-3)
½ cup (120 mL) whole wheat flour
½ cup (120 mL) unbleached white flour
¼ cup (60 mL) wheat germ
1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
¾ teaspoon (4 mL) baking soda
¼ teaspoon (1.2 mL) salt
1 ½ (360mL) buttermilk (or 1 ¼ cup milk with ¼ cup yogurt or sour cream mixed in)
1 tablespoon (15 mL) melted butter
wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg, buttermilk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir them together just until the dry ingredients are incorporated, try not to over mix. Let the batter rest while you heat a griddle, cast iron or non stick frying pan on the stove top. Lightly grease the pan with butter and drop spoonfuls of batter onto the hot pan. Dot each pancake with blueberries. When bubbles begin to appear on the uncooked surface and the edges begin to dry out, flip the pancakes over and cook until golden brown. Serve immediately with real maple syrup.