My Dad has the hands that feed. My Mom can make a bundt cake that might make you want to slap your Grandma, but Dad has the love for cooking. You can tell whether or not someone loves cooking by observing a few simple movements: the way they look at ingredients and the way they stir a pot. My Dad will look at an unrolled pie crust like he’s looking at a newborn baby. He stirs a pot of his famous spaghetti sauce like he’s melting down gold. Not one ounce of that affection for food was lost on me growing up in his kitchen.
But there’s a problem. As much as I adore sitting down to a plate full of food, I rarely if ever finish everything on my plate. I always leave at least a bite or two untouched. Why? I have a theory. It’s solid.
My love for food is rivaled only by my father’s love for food. Let’s face it, the man can eat circles around me. Sitting to the left of my Dad at the dinner table for 18 years was a heroing (ok, I’m totally exaggerating) task. Without fail, I would get down to my last few bites of food, I might take a moment, set down my fork, relax, have a sip of juice, all perfectly normal dining practices. In those moments, my Dad would look over, with an irresistible smile on his face and say, “You need help finishing that?”
Whether of not I ever needed assistance finishing the food on my plate, I don’t remember, but my Dad always, always ate the last few bites on my plate. After a few years of this sort of training, I suppose I just started leaving food on my plate for him to finish. There were exceptions of course, anything involving french fries, ice cream or pancakes were mine all mine.
Don’t get me wrong. I certainly didn’t go hungry. I simply learned to put more on my plate than I could eat, knowing my Dad would eagerly finish my scraps.
These days, I don’t get to share a dinner table with my parents every night, but I still manage to leave a few bites on food untouched on my plate. I do love to talk my Dad into making Saturday morning pancakes. By the time I make the spontaneous call and drive the 30 minutes to their house, the pancakes are already half way to the skillet. One thing is for sure, on pancake mornings, I finish my plate all on my own, and sometime even cast a longing look at my Dad’s plate. Funny how that works.
Dad’s “Clean Your Plate” Buttermilk Pancakes
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Whisk together milk, eggs and vegetable oil in a medium bowl, then whisk in the butter.
Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in another medium bowl. Whisk in egg mixture until combined.
Spray a griddle or skillet with nonstick vegetable spray. Working in batches of 3 (or 6 if your griddle will allow) pour 1/3-cup measures of batter onto skillet and cool until bubbles have formed on the top and sides of the pancakes and broken, about 2 minutes. Flip pancakes with a spatula and cook until undersides are golden, about 1 minute more. Lower heat if pancakes brown too quickly. Serve with maple syrup or molasses.
I think it’s amazing that so many of you have fond memories of this salt shaker. I know that it’s been in our family kitchen for as long as I can remember. Funny what fond memories you share with strangers!