I have been thinking a lot lately about food and community. Lewis is reading A Papa Like Everyone Else by Sydney Taylor to the boys, and I am reading it to myself. In one chapter Mama and her daughters, Szerena and Gisella go to make their Passover matzoh at the synagogue. They bring the flour that was specially ground for the purpose and a basket to carry home the finished matzo in. In the synagogue they work with the other women of the community to make all the matzo they will need for the 8 days of Passover. The scene is one of shared talk and work, a joyful gathering.
A modern Jewish family does not need to make their own matzo, they can just go to the store and buy as many boxes as they need. Somehow I cannot help feeling that we have lost something, not just a connection to our food, but also one to our neighbors. On my street we don't make matzo together or help tend the community cattle but we do share our food and lives more then I think is the norm.
We have one neighbor whose kitchen is like an extended pantry for us. Many times when I am preparing dinner and I realize I am out of one of the required ingredients and I call across the street to check if my neighbors have any. When I call to ask if they have some cumin, vinegar, garlic, carrots etc to share they often have a similar request. Growing up in Manhattan we never asked a neighbor for a cup of sugar or a quarter cup of rice wine vinegar. We just went to the grocery store and bought that one missing ingredient. I prefer the method I have now, which is often accompanied with a brief conversation about our children and either the fiendish things they are up to or a funny story.
My street is made up of small houses that are built almost on top of each other. In the summer this might be a problem for some of my neighbors as my boys keep up a constant chatter at them over the fence. Sunday I made Gingerbread Pancakes for breakfast and my boys shared the leftovers over the fence as barter. They gave our neighbor, Paul, a pancake and in return he let them shoot arrows in his yard and then fed us dinner. Our kitchen was unusable as Lewis was getting it ready for a new dishwasher coming today. Somehow that involved tearing out the counter and sink.
When Sebastian first tried the pancakes he said, "We should make these more often." Which means I just have to make them again, as this was the first time we have had them. He doesn't need to worry though, they will appear again. Besides their value as barter they were delicious for breakfast and made a fine snack later. Our poor chickens did not receive any of the leftovers as they all got eaten.
Adapted from The Pancake Handbook
Just in case you don't always read all the way through a recipe before proceeding, please notice that the batter needs to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking the pancakes. Before resting the batter will be too thin.
2 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour (even if you hate whole wheat the strong gingerbread flavors will make this healthy flour boost completely unnoticeable)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup hot, freshly brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs lightly beaten (I did not beat mine before adding to the hot coffee mixture and they seemed to cook slightly but still incorporated fine)
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl add the sugar to the hot coffee and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the milk, molasses, butter and eggs to the coffee sugar mixture and stir or whisk to combine. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just to blend without over mixing. Let the batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes so it can thicken. Before resting it should be thin and pourable.
Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high heat (an electric griddle should be set to 375°) and grease lightly (I used butter and rubbed it around with a paper towel to provide only the thinest surface to the griddle). Ladle 1/4 cup portions of batter on to the hot griddle or skillet leaving space between them. A skillet is hot enough to use when a drop of water dances and evaporates right away on it's surface. The recipe calls for cooking them for 3 to 4 minutes on the first side until the top side is covered with bubbles and the underside is brown. My pancakes needed 6 minutes on the first side. Flip over the pancakes and cook for 2 minutes on the second side, until the second side is browned and set.
Dust the pancakes with confectioners sugar and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Leftovers make a fine snack just served plain and eaten out of hand. You might even be able to barter with your neighbors using them as payment.