Pancakes are one of those foods that you can never go wrong with at breakfast—they continually succeed to make people feel comforted and satisfied first thing in the morning. For me, pancakes bring back memories of the sleepovers I would have with my best girlfriends from elementary school to junior high, because we would stay up all night giggling and then wake up in the morning to my mother’s lovely display of pancakes and delicious toppings, such as blueberries, strawberries, bananas, whipped cream, and chocolate chips (my favorite). Let’s learn a little bit about pancakes’ modern popularity, their history (from National Geographic’s Rebecca Rudd), and their ties to poverty alleviation.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry
Pancakes and Pop Culture
After going out out bar hopping and clubbing, who doesn’t love grabbing a late-night snack with friends? Pancakes are, according to multiple sources, one of America’s favorite (and best) drunk foods! That’s right, it’s not only because of their fluffy, sugary deliciousness, but because their high-glycemic index content helps to replenish blood sugar levels and rid the body of any remaining alcohol. Other best drunk foods according to Small Kitchen College include popcorn, soda, and eggs, while other favorites include French Fries, pizza, and quesadillas.
Photo Credit: Popsugar
Check out The Thrillist’s top pick for The Nation’s Best Pancakes in Los Angeles, CA. DuPar’s has an award-winning recipe due to their pancake’s fluffiness, density, and unbelievable size.
Jacob, Anupana. “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: A Better Measure for Poverty in America?”Center for Poverty Research, University of California, Davis. UC Davis Center for Poverty Research. N.D. Web. 2 February 2016.
Lapetina, Adam. “The 26 Best Drunk Foods From Across America. The Thrillist. Thrillist, N.D. Web. 2 February 2016.
Lindsey, Kara. “The 5 Best Hangover Foods.” Small Kitchen College. Big Girls Small Kitchen, N.D. Web. 2 February 2016.
Pancakes and History
Pancakes may have made their first appearance in the Stone Age when our ancestors used grinding tools to make flour out of cattails and ferns—which, researchers guess, was likely mixed with water and baked on a hot, possibly greased, rock. The result may have been more akin to hardtack than the modern crepe, hotcake, or flapjack, but the idea was the same: a flat cake, made from batter and fried.
Pancake Day: The Most Wonderful Day of the Year
By the time Otzi the Iceman set off on his final hike 5,300 years ago, pancakes—or at least something pancake-like—seem to have been a common item of diet. Otzi, whose remains were discovered in a rocky gully in the Italian Alps in 1991, provided us with a wealth of information about what a denizen of the Neolithic ate. His last meals—along with red deer and ibex—featured ground einkorn wheat. The bits of charcoal he consumed along with it suggest that it was in the form of a pancake, cooked over an open fire.
Whatever the age of the primal pancake, it’s clearly an ancient form of food, as evidenced by its ubiquity in cultural traditions across the globe. The ancient Greeks and Romans ate pancakes, sweetened with honey; the Elizabethans ate them flavored with spices, rosewater, sherry, and apples. They were traditionally eaten in quantity on Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, a day of feasting and partying before the beginning of Lent. Pancakes were a good way to use up stores of about-to-be-forbidden perishables like eggs, milk, and butter, and a yummy last hurrah before the upcoming grim period of church-mandated fast.
In the American colonies, pancakes—known as hoe cakes, johnnycakes, or flapjacks—were made with buckwheat or cornmeal. Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery—thought to be the first all-American cookbook, published in 1796—has two recipes for pancakes, one for “Johny Cake, or Hoe Cake,” which calls for milk, “Indian meal,” and molasses, the other for “Indian Slapjack,” which drops the molasses, but adds four eggs.
Thomas Jefferson, who was fond of pancakes, sent a recipe home to Monticello from the President’s House in Washington, D.C., picked up from Etienne Lemaire, his French maître d’hotel (hired for his honesty and skill in making desserts). Lemaire’s “panne-quaiques” were what we would call crepes—made by pouring dollops of thin batter into a hot pan. Modern pancakes—in Jefferson’s day known as griddlecakes—generally contain a leavening agent and are heftier and puffier.
Photo Credit: Sherman Indian Museum
Flat as a Pancake? Not Likely
The defining characteristic of the entire vast family of pancakes, however—from crepe to griddlecake, blini, bannock, and beyond—is flatness. “Flat as a pancake,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has been a catchphrase since at least 1611. Usually it’s applied disparagingly to flat-chested women or to featureless level terrain, such as that of Poland, the glacial plains of Canada, and the state of Kansas.
In 2003, this recurrent comparison led a trio of geographers with senses of humor—after a dullish trip across the American Midwest—to attempt to determine the relative flatnesses of pancakes and Kansas. They constructed a topographic profile of a representative pancake—bought from the local International House of Pancakes—using digital imaging processing and a confocal laser microscope, and a similar profile of Kansas, using data from the United States Geological Survey. The tongue-in-cheek results, published in theAnnals of Improbable Research, showed that though pancakes are flat, Kansas is even flatter. Where, mathematically, a value of 1.000 indicates perfect tabletop flatness, Kansas scored a practically horizontal 0.9997. The pancake, in contrast, scored a relatively lumpy 0.957.
In March of this year, Kansan geographers Jerome Dobson and Joshua Campbell—publishing in the wholly reputable Geographical Review – also took on pancakes, pointing out defensively that, while Kansas may be flatter than a pancake, it’s not alone. In fact, there are several states that are even flatter. Their calculations showed that, of the continental states, flattest of the flat is Florida, followed by Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware. (Least pancake-like: Wyoming, West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Vermont.)
As all researchers hasten to point out, though, the pancake comparison simply isn’t fair. Blow a pancake up to the size of—say, Kansas—and you’ll end up with a fried expanse of ferociously rugged terrain, pock-marked with craters and canyons, studded with Everest-sized air bubbles. Compared to a Kansas-sized pancake—well, practically everything is flat.
The 16th-century measure of flatness was “flat as a flounder.”
Maybe we should go back to that.
Adapted from Source: Rupp, Rebecca. “Hot Off the Griddle, Here’s the History of Pancakes.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 2016. Web. 1 February 2016. Link: http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/21/hot-off-the-griddle-heres-the-history-of-pancakes/
Pancakes and Politics
Did you know that student groups such as Pancakes for Poverty are selling pancakes in order to fight for improved standards of living for underprivileged people? The Supplemental Poverty measure defines poverty as the lack of economic resources for consumption of basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, and utilities (FCSU) (Jacob). The current poverty rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is roughly 47 million people (“Income”).
Photo Credit: Pancakes for Poverty
While there are several different methods to go about alleviating poverty, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, I do not want this blog to be a place where I condemn people for their anti-poverty efforts (and other political beliefs) based on different ideas of what people think is right or wrong. I do, however, encourage open discussion about poverty and other political issues on this blog.
I will instead address an issue that I think is an extremely negative symptom of poverty, which is classism in the United States. Classism is defined as the oppression of subordinate group members by privileged, dominant group members through claims that the dominant group members are smarter, more articulate, or superior in any way (Brantley, Frost, Pfeiffer, and Robinson). Classism has severe emotional and economic effects on individuals. There are a number of actions that people can take if they want to take part in if they wish to fight classism, according to the Workforce Diversity Network.
What Dominant Groups Can Do to Fight Classism:
- Claim your identity. Learn all you can about your history as a dominant group member.
- Learn the history and experience of all working and impoverished people (particularly people living in your neighborhood or community).
- Raise your children to be anti-classist rather than merely being non-classist in their own behavior. This means becoming active allies with subordinated group members to improve the quality of life for all.
- Give yourself and your children exposure and experience of the language and culture of working peoples.
- Listen with compassion when a member of the subordinated group relays experiences and feelings. Ask for clarification when needed and respond.
What Subordinate Groups Can Do to Fight Classism:
- Examine their feelings about money in terms savings, earning, and credit.
- Examine their feelings about the ways you relate to material gain and consumerism.
- Examine their feelings about education, its role in developing identity, self-efficacy, and the capacity to partner across the various dimensions of difference.
- Examine your feelings and ideas about culturally-installed privilege, power, and influence of various groups and the struggle for significance.
- Claim their identity. Learn all they can about their history and the history and experience of all working and poor peoples. Raise their children to be anti-classist rather than merely being non-classist in their own behavior.
- Work on issues that will benefit their communities. Consider remaining in or returning to their communities. (If you live and work in dominant group environments, look for working-class allies to help you survive with your humor and wits intact.) The recognition of classism by the dominant and subordinated groups is the first step for creating change. Working together, all people can help to make progress towards a class-free society.
For more information, please visit www.workforcediversity.com and poverty.ucdavis.edu
Brantley, Carol, Delyte, Frost, Charles Pfeiffer, Joan Buccigrossi and Marcus Robinson. “Class, Power, Privilege, and Influence in the United States.” Workforce Diversity Network. wetWare, Inc., 2003. Web. 2 February 2016.
Jacob, Anupama. “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: A Better Measure for Poverty in America?” Center for Poverty Research, University of California, Davis. UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, N.D. Web. 2 February 2016.
“Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2014.” United States Census Bureau. United States Department of Commerce, 16 September 2015. Web. 2 February 2016.
Raspberry Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Note: I love this recipe because it is unique–it contains both fruity pancake toppings AND chocolate at the top 🙂 Enjoy!
Makes 10 pancakes
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup picked-over raspberries
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- Accompaniment: pure maple syrup, heated
- In a small saucepan melt 2 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat, stirring. Stir in milk and heat until just warm. Remove pan from heat. In a bowl whisk together milk mixture and egg. Into another bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and stir in egg mixture until just combined. Gently stir in raspberries and chocolate chips.
- Preheat oven to 200° F.
- Heat a griddle over moderate heat until hot enough to make a drop of water scatter over surface. Add 1 teaspoon butter and with a metal spatula spread over griddle. Working in batches, drop 1/4-cup measures of batter onto griddle to form pancakes about 4 inches in diameter and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip pancakes with spatula and cook until undersides are golden brown and pancakes are cooked through. Transfer pancakes as cooked to an ovenproof platter and keep warm, uncovered, in oven. Make more pancakes with remaining butter and batter in same manner.
- Serve pancakes with syrup.
“Raspberry Chocolate-Chip Pancakes.” Epicurious. Condé Nast, 1997. Web. 2 February 2016.
© 2016 Meagan Nelson & Dinner and Democracy. All Rights Reserved.