Saturday, January 18, 2014

Same As It Never Was

I just felt like blueberry pancakes.

No big deal, I used to make them every Sunday for the kids when they were small and even beyond. A little mix, some milk and eggs, a handful of frozen or canned berries, and before you could say "maple syrup" they were bubbling and hissing and ready to be flipped. And since it was a Saturday morning, and I had no place to go and nothing special to do, I decided to whip up a short stack.

I like to cook (and eat, for that matter), and so am well acquainted with the contents of our fridge and larder on an ongoing basis. However, being empty nesters, our pantry has evolved over time (perhaps devolved better captures it) as we've made scarce first kid-friendly stuff, then teenage goodies, and finally young adult edibles. Save the occasional bag of cookies and some ice cream, we now are heavy on healthy, low-fat, organic, multi-grain chow, much of it leaving you feeling after you eat it that you'd seriously consider manslaughter if someone got between you and a Fluffernutter.

And indeed, it had been a while since I last plumbed the pantry for a sojourn to Waffleville. Still, I had no doubt we had the appropriate stuff hidden away; it's an ongoing joke that in case of an all-out attack there are supplies a-plenty at our house to get us through most nuclear winters. To be sure, some might be past their "fresh if sold by" dates, but that doesn't mean they're dangerous, just a little stale.

Sure enough, after some digging I found a box of Bisquick stuffed in the back of the pantry behind some cans of broth. Like Twinkies, its shelf life is probably a decade or so at least, so no issues there. I dug to the bottom of the freezer and found some berries in a bag, though it's possible they last saw sunshine during the first Bush presidency. And I knew we had eggs and milk, so on paper at least I was in Fat City.

Perhaps that's an unfortunate choice of phrase; you might argue as to my exact location, but "fat city" wasn't one of them. The Bisquick was of the "Heart Smart" varietal. The milk we had was 1%. We did have eggs, but we also had egg substitute as suggested on the box. Even the "butter" was yellow and greasy in name only; it was a "canola-oil blended buttery tasting spread," rich in a veritable fraternity of acids. (Omega? Delta? Kappa? I'm not sure which.) At least the berries hadn't been de-sugared. I think.

Still, once I found all the ingredients, and resurrected and rehabilitated an old griddle from the basement storeroom, I was good to go (the better griddle, it slowly came to me, was pressed into service as part of a starter set of cookware when our youngest got his first apartment). My mouth watering, I greased up the pan and measured and mixed, all the while fondly recalling the many times I had done the same for an appreciative audience of youngsters in their PJ's and slippers. And while I was alone this time, I still couldn't wait for that first warm, melt-in-your-mouth taste as the cakey flapjack and the oozing berries mixed with the sweetness of the syrup (even it that was of the low fat variety then and now).

But alas, it was not to be. That first bite was deja-vu-esque. My taste buds had been in that zip code before, but the neighborhood had most assuredly gone downhill. Individually, perhaps, the reduced fat content of each of the ingredients might have had a subtle effect on the end result. Together, the cumulative lack of body turned a decadent taste into one that was beyond pedestrian. I took another forkful to make sure. Yup, I was eating cardboard.

I tossed the remaining batter, and washed the dishes. By the time my wife got home, the only evidence of my folly was the lingering smell of char in the air. Yes, there are comfort foods that make you think of times gone by, but I would submit that many are best recalled fondly as opposed to being recast in a modern mold. Thomas Wolfe famously said you can't go home again. In light of my experience, allow me to paraphrase: sometimes, you can't eat at home again either.


Marc Wollin of Bedford likes to cook. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

No comments: