Pancake recipe leads to slight flap over kitchen help


February 23, 1994|By ROB KASPER

Most cooks say they would welcome help in the kitchen. But when the help arrives the cook gets territorial. The veteran of the kitchen becomes bossy. The newcomer gets mad. And what was supposed to be a joyful, cooperative experience winds up as a battle of egos.

That is what happened to me the other morning when I shared kitchen duties with our 9-year-old son. Too many cooks almost spoiled the pancakes.

I had been the family member in charge of Sunday morning pancakes. I made them from scratch following an old recipe for buttermilk pancakes found in the "Joy of Cooking." It was a pretty simple recipe. But I wasn't aware of how easy it was until a few Sundays ago when I came downstairs and was informed that my services wouldn't be needed. The pancakes had already been made, by the 9-year-old.

I accepted the news of my ouster with outward calm. I ate some of the upstart pancakes, and complimented the chef. I told him his pancakes were good, but didn't tell him they weren't as good as mine, which they weren't.

The next time the kid announced he wanted to make the pancakes, I was ready for him. "I'll help you," I said. The kid said he didn't want help. I explained, as bossy parents do, that he was getting help whether he wanted it or not.

I told him to start sifting the flour. The kid said he didn't want to sift the flour. He had not done it the last time he made the pancakes. He saw no need for it. He saw no need for his dad standing over his shoulder, "bothering" him.

I smiled a tight little smile, the kind that attempts to mask the grinding of teeth in anger, and struck a deal with my fellow cook. I would leave after the sifting. It seemed like an honorable compromise, even though I had little intention of abiding by it.

We measured the flour, then put the other dry ingredients -- baking powder, salt, and baking soda -- on top of the flour. Then I sifted the flour and ingredients into a bowl. Sifting everything at once, I told the young cook, both kept the lumps out of the flour and blended the ingredients together. He did not seem impressed.

I should have removed myself from the pancake-making process at this point. But I had a "few little things" that needed correcting. Like removing the sugar. The copied recipe the young cook was using was wrong. It called for a tablespoon of sugar. But the sugar killed the distinctive "sourdough" taste of the pancakes so I had dropped the sweet stuff from the original recipe. Such adjustments, I told the kid, were what distinguished the pancake chef from the run-of-the-mill flapjack flipper. Rather than being impressed, the kid looked impatient. He wanted me to leave.

Finally I backed away from the batter and let the kid proceed. I did not say anything when he used the "wrong" implement, a whisk to mix the batter. OK, I did say something. But not much. I just said a wooden spoon was better because the batter gets clogged in the middle of a whisk and that is annoying.

I let him choose the skillet, even though he picked the "wrong" kind, a nonstick skillet, instead of the trusted metal one that I preferred. And he beat the batter "too long." But he knew how to flip the pancakes in the skillet, when the bubbles in the dough began to pop.

And somehow his pancakes turned out all right. His big brother and mother liked them. Even I had to admit they had the slightly sour flavor that my prized pancakes had.

So I guess the spatula has been passed to a new generation. The kid will now make the Sunday morning pancakes. I will "supervise," and do the dishes.

Buttermilk pancakes

Serves 4

1 cup flour, sifted

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Put flour into sifter, but before sifting add baking powder, salt and baking soda on top. Sift all ingredients into mixing bowl. Stir in beaten egg, buttermilk and melted butter. Mix until ingredients are wetted. Cook on hot skillet.

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