05 December 2011

Nostalgia and a Quest Ended

Do you have a food that you tasted once and have been looking for it for your entire lifetime?  My father in law was always on a quest for rhubarb pie that tasted like he remembered.  I don't think he ever found it, but he spent his lifetime looking for it.  My quest has always been for buckwheat pancakes like Mrs. Keener's.

Now you get to indulge me in a little reminiscence.  Paula Keener was a friend from grade school.  She lived in "the country," though when I go back home today, her home really wasn't that far out of town at all, but by standards at that time, she was far removed from the rest of us.  I guess since she was more isolated than the rest of us, her parents always let her invite girls over to spend the night.

Oh, we were wicked.  For some reason, Mrs. Keener always allowed Paula to invite lots of girls, or at least more than one.  But here's the problem: Mr. Keener drove a bread truck, so he had to be up and at work at, like, 4:00 am.  What is wrong with this picture?  Multiple grade school girls, dad needs sleep.  I can remember giggles, giggles, giggles, whoops of laughter, and then "Paula?  Come here."  Paula would go to her parents, and then come back and tell us that we had to be quiet so her dad could sleep.  Within 5 minutes, it would all begin again.  And this would go on all night long.

These were the days before cable TV, at least out in the country.  So there was nothing to lull us into placidness like parents have today.  No, by gosh, we relied on our own resources to be just about the worst group of guests imaginable.  And the funny thing of it was that a month or so later, we'd all be invited back.

Besides being rotten guests, I remember the mornings after.  Mr. Keener, bless his heart, would be long gone, and Mrs. Keener would be in her kitchen making some fantastic breakfast.  One morning, she made pancakes.  Now, as a kid, I never cared for pancakes.  I was a horrifically picky eater.  But, and this is funny, I was too polite to turn down the pancakes.  Oh, right.  Too polite, after an evening of total inconsideration toward Mr. Keener's sleep, I'm suddenly all politeness.  But somehow, somewhere, my parents had drilled into me something about not being my usual impossible picky self when a guest in someone's house.

So I took a tentative bite of these pancakes, and wow!  What have I been missing!  These weren't Bisquick pancakes, no sirree!  I had never had anything more wonderful for breakfast in my life!  What were these?  Mrs. Keener, probably delighted that these city heathens could at least appreciate her efforts, let me know they were buckwheat pancakes.

That detail stuck in my mind forever.  I don't think I bothered asking my mom to get the recipe or try making them.  Maybe I knew it wouldn't work out at home.  I don't know.  I just remember that once I had married, I was on a quest for the pancakes that Mrs. Keener made.

I have tried, Lord knows, I've tried.  I have bought buckwheat flour by the bucketful, and most recipes are extremely complicated and just weren't what Mrs. Keener had made.  Finally, not too long ago, I was flipping through King Arthur, and saw a recipe for them.  Do I try again?  Dare I?  These don't look too hard.  They don't require yeast like so many do, and somehow, I couldn't imagine sleep-deprived Mrs. Keener tiptoeing around her kitchen whipping up yeasted pancakes.  Nothing to lose but a breakfast and some flour and time, so I gave them a try, and there they were.  Mrs. Keener's pancakes.

They are easy as any other pancake, and taste just different enough to make you notice.  Boys liked them, and I loved them.  Compared to some other breakfasts I make now, they are good, but not the best thing on the planet.  However, they are much better than the Bisquick pancakes I was raised on.  Much, much better.

I haven't seen Paula in probably 25 or more years, and I have no idea if her parents are still around, but Mrs. Keener, her hospitality, and her wonderful pancakes will always be uppermost in my mind whenever I make these pancakes.

Mrs. Keener's Buckwheat Pancakes
(courtesy of King Arthur Flour)

1 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup regular flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 TBSP. molasses
2 cups buttermilk (I never have buttermilk.  Put 2 TBSP vinegar in a measuring glass and fill up rest of the way with milk and let it sit for a bit)
1 TBSP melted butter

1. Combine the dry stuff.
2. Combine the wet stuff
3. Mix together
4. Make the pancakes, like you would any others.

Well worth the purchase of a special flour, believe you me.

2 pancakes give you 12 g whole grains, which is half RDA.  Also, you get 2 g. fiber, vitamin A, iron, and calcium.  A healthy start to the day. 

1 comment:

  1. These sound great and I love the story that goes with them! Since I don't cook anymore, I'll have to see if Dan is willing to give them a try, but I doubt he'll want to stray from his "Just add water" pancake mix. I hope this story finds its way back to your long ago friend and her mom. Ginny Gallaher