“Pancakes and Sunshine” by Emma Fox

Photo by NastyaSensei on Pexels.com

When I was a child, my highly-organized mother of six assigned a specific breakfast menu to each day: cereal on Mondays, fruit and yogurt on Tuesdays, oatmeal on Wednesdays, and so on. Sundays were celebrated with donuts and coffee, diluted with milk in proportion to the age of the drinker. But Saturdays were devoted to pancakes.

Ah, pancakes. The name conjures up a whole sensory array of memories. Saturday mornings began with a fragrance, teasing me awake—rich, oily, salty-sweet butter laced with the griddle’s metallic smoke. Next came the sound of sizzling batter and a clinking metal spatula as I opened the bedroom door. A sprint to the kitchen brought a warm good-morning hug, my whole frame enveloped in the folds of my mother’s green chenille robe. I’d peer out from her arms to gaze with delight on those quivering pancake faces, winter-white, dimpled with burst bubbles. Flip! A deft flick of the spatula; a sudden transformation from pale moons to golden suns.

Over the years, our Saturday pancake tradition underwent several variations. After reading Little House in the Big Woods, my sisters and I cajoled our mother into making “pancake men,” as Ma did for her girls on Christmas morning. Farmer Boy inspired us to mix buckwheat flour into the pancake batter, and stack the dun-colored discs into precarious towers layered with maple syrup and melted brown sugar. On summer Saturdays, our pancakes were often dotted with fresh blueberries from my uncle’s farm that spurted purple juice with every bite. My always-ravenous brother suggested adding peanut butter to the batter, and his protein-rich creation soon became a family favorite. He’s a captain now with the U.S. Army, and still excels in pancake-eating proficiency.

But our favorite recipe came from a family friend named Mrs. Klein. Mrs. Klein lived in a rambling house on Skidaway Island, a few tidal creeks away from the azalea-lined streets of Savannah, Georgia. She and her husband had designed the place themselves, at the end of a winding, sandy road framed by stiff stands of palmettos. It was unlike any house I’ve ever seen, with an indoor koi pond and solarium that backed up to the den, and a dining room lined with tall, thin windows that peered out over the salt marsh. Both Mr. and Mrs. Klein had devoted their lives to hosting missionaries and travelers from all around the world, as well as friends closer to home. This always involved food—and most especially, pancakes.

Mrs. Klein’s pancakes were light and large, and topped with lingonberry jam. She taught me how to make them one winter morning, when the sawgrass in the marsh was the same tawny gold as the round cakes on the griddle. I was a college sophomore by that time, with enough experience of cafeteria food to appreciate the full wonder of a homemade meal. I’d also lost my grandmother—and along with her, a wealth of family recipes that she’d never written down. I was determined that Mrs. Klein’s pancakes wouldn’t meet the same fate. As we baked and talked, I scribbled down her recipe.

Since the Middle Ages, griddle-cakes have been associated in Europe with the turning of the seasons. For the French, Belgians and Swiss, delicate crêpes recall the glow of Candlemas. English pancakes, German fastnacht and Russian blini mark the final feast day of Epiphany. All of these golden pastries are meant as reminders of the gospel light. Just as the sun returns to warm the earth, with each day growing longer and brighter, so the Son of God has come to bring a new dawn of light and life to the world.

As February mornings yawn and stretch towards spring, I hope that these pancakes will fill your mouth with the taste of warm, bright days to come. Fresh buttermilk and whipped egg whites are the secrets to their fluffy texture. Another secret: they’re delicious anytime of the week—not just on Saturdays!

Mrs. Klein’s Buttermilk Pancakes

2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 ½ c buttermilk
3 eggs, separated
¼ c butter, melted

Stir dry ingredients together. Beat egg yolks with a fork in a separate bowl, stir in buttermilk, then add to dry ingredients. Add butter and beat until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry (an electric mixer is helpful here!), and fold into batter gently. Cook on lightly-greased griddle.

Emma Fox

Emma Fox

Emma Fox spent much of her childhood climbing trees, writing adventure stories, and plotting expeditions to Middle Earth. She eventually found her own corner of the Shire on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama, where she tutors young writers and tends to her garden, children, and book-loving husband. Emma is a contributor to The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad (Rabbit Room Press, 2022), and author of The Arrow and the Crown (KDP, 2019), an award-winning fantasy with echoes of Beauty and the Beast. Her historical fantasy The Carver and the Queen, a YA novel based on Siberian folklore, releases from Owl’s Nest Publishers this October.

See her author website, emmafoxauthor.com, to learn more or to sign up for her free monthly newsletter of musings, author events, inspirational quotes and images, and snippets of her work-in-progress.

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