If you know me and have ever wondered where my formidable streak comes from take a quick peek at my dad and Papa (my dad’s father). If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a heated “discussion” with Papa and the hawkishness of his eyes as he reprimands you, or have seen the particular way the scar on my dad’s throat stretches right before he shakes the dust from the rafters by demanding an explanation for your idiotic and downright destructive behavior, then you know why I’ve become an accountable and honest adult. I’d like to take a quick second to thank them for that.
When I was a kid I used to not want to visit Papa because he always made me cry. He had a brash, brutally honest in his opinion, take no prisoners style of conversing. His opinion of a delightful discussion was actually everyone else’s opinion of a heated argument. He’s the one who told me that I wasn’t a good enough athlete to be a professional tennis player and to pick another profession (I was 9, and he was very right), he’s the one who found out I was in fact jumping on the bed in our fancy NYC hotel and had let my cousins take the blame (yikes), and he’s the one whose idea of a fun breakfast conversation is euthanasia.
He is also the one who says he fell in love with my brother and I the second he laid eyes on us in the hospital. He’s the one who makes the best pancakes in the entire world, and the only person I know who reads the Wall Street Journal cover to cover over breakfast. He’s the reason for my illicit love of fake maple syrup, and my reasoning for putting walnuts in most baked goods. He’s the Papa who made pottery, had a studio and kiln in his house, made me my first full set of dishes, and the mugs I drink coffee and tea from every day. He’s the sensitive, mushy, love underneath all the brashness who taught me that above all good health and love are important. You can make his day with just a 5-minute phone call, and he delights in my husband attempting to explain the internet to him. He’ll never use a computer, but he’ll humor your valiant effort to try to explain to him why he should, and by humor I mean you’ll have a discussion about it. He’s the Papa who now laughs hysterically when telling the story of when he realized I’d sliced the middle out of a loaf of rye bread that he was bringing to a relative. He’s the Papa who taught me to love rye bread. He’s the Papa who taught me how to interact politely with people who I vehemently disagree with. He’s the reason for a lot of the things I love most about my life, and I can’t tell him enough times that I love that he’s my Papa.
Since this entry turned out to be Papa-centric, let’s use the rest of our time to talk about pancakes. Where my brother’s special breakfast food was potato hash, pancakes have always been my special food. I have them on my birthday, every time I visit Papa, and if I’m feeling particularly nostalgic. Papa’s version of pancakes is spectacular. He makes the batter the night before, lets it set in the fridge, thins it out the next morning, and then cooks these marvelous silver-dollar, thin, tender pancakes that I smother in margarine (he never keeps butter in the house) and Vermont Maid syrup. Don’t judge me, fellow Vermonters, he lives in upstate NY so it’s fine. When I’m at home I drown my pancakes in Grade B like a respectable Vermonter. Papa’s pancakes are the only time you will see me willingly eat bananas, as he often incorporates them and walnuts into the batter right before cooking. Bananas in their natural form and I are mortal enemies. I don’t like them, they don’t like me, it’s a texture thing. Banana bread gets a pass because it’s banana bread and there are walnuts in it. But that’s another entry for another day.
Pancakes only turn out the way Papa makes them if you let the batter sit overnight. Because this takes forethought I almost never have Papa Pancakes outside of his kitchen. If you want to make them for yourself here’s what you need:
Follow the instructions on the Bisquick box, let batter sit in the fridge overnight, stir in additional milk the next morning before cooking until batter is thin but still coats a spoon, and whatever additives you want (I like walnuts, or apples). Cook pancakes as usual and serve immediately.