Saturday, September 3, 2011

banana pancakes

This started out as something so non-chalant, and turned into a delightful re-discovery of sense memories from various parts of my life.

It all started when my friend Sadie made a facebook post about pancakes. Actually, a lot of her posts seem to be about pancakes, but this one eventually brought up banana pancakes. Like the theme to the Brady Bunch, it was now stuck in my head. When is the last time I made banana pancakes? More of cool weather cooking for me, and while Fall is definitely making some tease appearances, it's still a bit warm.  Still ... banana pancakes...

At this point, we jump into the way-back machine. I grew up in Vermont, and from a fairly young age, my mother encouraged me to play in the kitchen. In fact, some days I was allowed to literally do that, play around and make what ever I thought might be good. Sometimes, my family, or at least my mom, might even taste it. While I created some seriously inedible concoctions, some that were probably lucky not to combust, the experience taught me not to be afraid to play around. Later experiments taught me to learn the basics, so I knew better how to play around. Kind of like learning scales before you scat. Or learning the grammar before you learn all the cool bad words in another language.  

The reason this flashback hit me as I stood in the kitchen contemplating banana pancakes, is that as I consulted my favorite pancake recipe (Ginny Callan's 'Horn of the Moon' cookbook, from the Cafe that is sadly no longer in Montpelier, VT), I realized that I was missing several key ingredients listed in any of the pancake recipes listed. My first inclination was, maybe I don't make banana pancakes today. Oh, but I must. So I conjured my inner 10 year old determination and decided I would just work around those little issues. I had flour, baking powder, soda, various sweeteners, fats and liquids. Something will work out. That, and while I love LOVE cookbooks and collect them, both vintage and contemporary, and read them like novels, I consider the actual recipes to be helpful suggestions shared by others who have loved to play in the kitchen. Sometimes I actually follow them.  Sometimes...

The short list of subs: no sour cream, so I softened from chevre. No milk, so I pureed some ripe bananas (these are, after all, banana pancakes). No syrup, so I made a bit of simple syrup and cooked down some peaches, figs, and candied ginger. A couple of other tweaks that are hopefully noted clearly enough for me to try and replicate this, and suddenly I was cooking up banana pancakes.

And then again, maybe I don't need to make this exact batch again.  Now this harkens me back to days working in theater. The best, absolute best part of working on shows for me was that every performance was its own thing. A show could be extremely tight and consistent, but there was always something that only happened in that one performance, and even if nobody else noticed what it was, only a relatively small group of people shared in the experience. I loved that. I often carry on these kitchen improvs for other people, and of course being able to share the outcome makes it even better (except for that time the dough didn't rise and the breadsticks turned out to be WMD's). This time, it was just me, and that's ok. Although it is too bad that Sadie's not here to share some!