Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pancake Pandemonium

I should know I’m in for trouble when Cousin Steve starts suggesting menus and/or blog posts. Cousin Steve is a talented graphic artist whose culinary skills consist of ordering takeout.

“Tuesday is International Pancake Day,” he informs me. “Shouldn’t you be covering this?” Hmm. Was that an ulterior motive that just smacked me on the side of the head?

That’s OK. I’m a pushover when it comes to a theme dinner. And, International Pancake Day – not to be confused with the International House of Pancakes – sounds a heck of a lot more appealing than Valentine’s Day – and far tastier than Arbor Day. (Am I developing a holiday phobia?)

So, I invite Cousin Steve and his lady, Diana for and early celebration of International Pancake Day. Apparently, Diana has a bit of a preoccupation with pancakes and is known in some circles as “Pamcake Girl.” And, Cousin Steve is every bit as enthusiastic. “Pancake me away!” he replies.

But griddle me this? Do you have any idea what International Pancake Day is all about? Before sitting down to eat, I must investigate this strange celebration that Hallmark hasn’t quite yet caught up with.

The more religious among us might recognize this coming Tuesday as “Shrove Tuesday.” Those with big appetites might know it as “Fat Tuesday.” For the rest of the world, it’s Carnival, or Mardi Gras, that take-no-prisoners, gluttonous night of indulgence and abandon before Ash Wednesday, and the sacrifice that comes with Lent. Pancakes are one of many traditional forms of pre-Lenten extravagances and preparing and consuming pancakes is one way to quickly use up ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar before the fasting of Lent.

One quaint little tradition associated with the day is the legendary Pancake Race, which first took place in the town of Olney in the United Kingdom in 1445 and still takes place today. Women contestants compete in a foot race, carrying a frying pan, and flipping pancakes all the way to the finish line. (And, we thought Iron Chef was a modern innovation.) International Pancake Day is a somewhat more recent variation on the theme. Since 1950, the town of Liberal, Kansas, has held their own pancake race, challenging the record of Olney in the U.K. The town with the best race time wins. At last count, Liberal was ahead. Now, that is the kind of international diplomacy I can sink my teeth into.

I am no stranger to pancake cookery. Back in my college days at Fordham University, I would fire up my Sunbeam electric fry pan on Sunday morning and start flipping pancakes as the guys in the Roberts Hall dormitory would line up in the corridor with their plates.

The pan is still sizzling after all these years …

And, it’s a great opportunity to bring out some of my best tableware – my set of International House of Pancakes dishes. I swear I didn’t steal them. I bought them at a second-hand store. Really.

So, what to serve? Well, if Cousin Steve thinks he’s getting Bisquick Pancakes and syrup, guess again. This is a global gastronomical event, and no time for the ordinary.

Steve and Diana arrive with episodes of those pancake-loving Powerpuff Girls in hand, and we begin a pantastic journey around the world.

Our first course, featuring bold, Southwestern flavors is Fresh Corn Pancakes with Salsa and Cilantro:

For our entrée, a soaring, savory Dutch Baby Pancake with honey ham and Gruyere cheese:


Dessert features Mini-Cocoa Pancakes studded with mini-chocolate chips, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with a rich fudge sauce:

It’s all quite scrumptious, and we never have to exert nearly the kind of ridiculous physical energy those folks in Liberal, Kansas, and Olney, UK will go through on Tuesday.

Diana finishes her last bite of Mini-Cocoa Pancakes, sits back and sighs contentedly. “This is the happiest day of my life,” she says. “Can we come back next week?”

“And, pay no attention to that tent in your backyard,” says Cousin Steve, who dubs me “Mr. Pantastic.” But don’t spread it around. I don’t want the kind of traffic in my driveway that they have at the IHOP on Sunday mornings.

Pancake pandemonium can be exhausting. Before I write this post, I treat myself to a nap. As Cousin Steve says, “The pancake is mightier than the sword.”

©2009 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

The chocolate pancakes look divine.

Kathy said...

Haven't seen salsa on pancakes before--I always learn something new from you. And what terrific dishes! I love seeing your Sunbeam electric frypan and am glad to see it wasn't part of the decluttering you did a while back. I did give away my fry pan, but I still use my 1970s Rival Crock Pot.

Andrea said...

Love the story and the pancakes. I would be all over that Dutch baby!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Wouldn't it be fun to go to Liberal and watch the pancake race? Don't count out women and their skillets -- our town has an Old Home Days fair every summer, and one of the highlights is the very competitive Women's Skillet Toss! Maybe I should suggest adding pancake races next year! Oh, and if I could have just one of the pancakes on your menu, it would be the Southwestern ones. Yum.

veron said...

Hmmn...love pancakes...I'm glad to know they have their own special day. That chocolate pancake looks and sounds delicious!

QueenAsha said...

Mr. Pantastic you are! Those photos are mouth watering! Do you make house calls? If not, where can I get your cookbook. Yummy!

~~louise~~ said...

Where do I begin?

Corn Pancakes with Salsa and Cilantro: 2 please...1 Dutch Baby...4 no make that 5 Mini-Cocoa Pancakes (cocoa pancakes are always better in odd numbers:)

I'll take that to go with the entire set of dishes:) They are way cool:)

Another one of my favorite posts T.W. Humor, trivia and a side of creativity...The line forms, where?

ish-lilith said...

Fate led me to this post (and Cousin Steve, though fate led me to him too) -- I was just satisfying an inexplicable craving for pancakes (actually sated with waffles) yesterday, in clear psychic anticipation of the global pancake consciousness to converge on Tuesday -- AND upon walking into the local bagel place this morning found that I was there just in time for the buy-12-get-3-free deal they always do in honor of "National Egg Salad Month" (which seems to come awfully often in that place -- maybe it's a lunar cycle like all my own Jewish holidays I can never keep track of -- speaking of which, Cousin Steve, I had no idea you built tents in back yards, bubbe!). Anyway, I can personally vouch that this holiday is tastier than Arbor Day, having tried a special batch of spruce beer at Philadelphia's Franklin Fountain (a re-created 1915 soda-jerk place with period-costumed soda jerks). Invented by the place's namesake, Ben Franklin, as a way to evade British brews and the taxes thereon, it has a complex taste of molasses on the lips, furniture-polish on the tongue and aftershave going down. So don't drink trees, eat pancakes! BTW it's not just the PowerPuff Girls who crave their flapjacks, it's Steve's other favorite, the ever-more-sinister Hellboy -- I'd watch the bacon strips to make sure there's no pentagrams forming. On the upside, you may be able to save a fortune in gas-jets...

keunyoung said...

I thought pancakes are only with syrup! WOW! I want to try all other ones....especially Dutch Baby pancake with ham and cheese!!!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I guess we should dub us all the "Pancake Posse!" Happy International Pancake Day to all! I will not be flipping and racing today, but I am seriously considering another stack for dinner tonight! Yes, it feels like fate ...

Cousin Steve said...

Happy Pancake Day, Cousin! Thanks, as always, for cooking and serving up all that wonderful stuff in the kitchen AND on the web! The world (and the fudge sauce) are the richer for your contributions!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Cousin Steve - Always a pleasure. I "shrove" to make it a great dining experience! That Diana is a wonder woman, too!

Joie de vivre said...

Everything looks so wonderful, yet I'm going to comment on your dishes...those are soo cool! I totally want some!

Cakespy said...

Mon dieu! I thought you were going to sway me into the land of savory 'cakes...but then you brought me right on back to sweetieville with those deliciously decadent chocolate pancakes. Oh. My.

Pamcake Girl said...

Your story is as delectable as the pancakes you made! Thank you so much for making it the Best Pancake Day Ever!
Oh.... and what's this about a Pancake Race?
After experiencing such a WONDERful pancake feast I will gladly compete if it means I can have some more Mini-Cocoa Pancakes.
But I warn you Mr.Pantastic, If I will wear my Wonder Woman tiara to that flipping pancake race, the prize will be mine.
Of all people, you know who I am…who the world needs me to be. I’m Pamcake Girl!

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Great history on pancakes, I had no idea they've been around so long although now that I think of it I guess that makes sense. Your pancakes look delicious!

It was great meeting you today at the Rachel's event.

Maryann said...

A pancake meal like that would make me very content as well. With a cup of hot cocoa I'd be all set! :)

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I love your savory pancakes. You have a great blog. I shall return often.
Sam

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I completely missed this. So you think you could ask Steve to give me reminders too? :)

Jann said...

oh , gawd~this food looks so good.......do you ever gain any weight? Some cake your cousin made......talent runs in the family,even by marriage.

Kristin ~ Daily Kitchen said...

Nothing like good food and laughter to make the best of times! Enjoyed your humor and the idea of an all pancake themed meal!