A NEW YEAR TO CELEBRATE – Happy Birthday to a Special Mother

Hi there,

I received the following story from Marica at Big Food, Big Garden, Big Life (https://bigfoodetc.com.

I know that you are going to love this story about Marica’s mother and her childhood. At the end of the email Marica told me it will be her mother’s 87th birthday on January 2, 2023. When I read that, I knew I had to start off the New Year with this story.

The Story of Mom’s Skinny Pancakes

Before I share my story and recipe (such as it is) I just want to say what a marvelous place this is. Cooking is such a big part of my family’s lives and so many stories attach to the food, to the friends, the crowds we (used to) cook for. It’s fun reading other’s stories, too! So a Big Thank You to Bernadette for making and keeping up this space.

My mom was a young woman when she came to The States from Germany in the late 1950s. When my brother and I were little kids, she’d make us “skinny pancakes.” We’d spread them with jam, or sprinkle them with sugar, and roll them up. It didn’t make any difference what time of day it was—she’d whip up a batch of skinny pancakes for be breakfast, after school snack, or late evening answer to “I’m still hungry.” We loved them. 

We grew up in the times of progressive dinners–dressed up grownups progressing from one home to another through the course menu. One of Mom’s specialties was made with skinny pancakes. For the grownups’ dish she’d fry up some bulk sausage, mix it with cook spinach, and season. She’d spoon a nice dollop of the mixture on a pancake, roll it up, and put the stuffed skinny pancakes in a baking dish. Cheese sauce over all. One memorable New Year’s Eve in the mid-1970s she’d made a double batch for company. When my teenaged self arrived home there were still some leftover. Teenaged self was allowed champagne on New Year’s Eve. I must have devoured a half dozen! (It was the mid-’70s, after all.) This dish has been on my own family’s New Year’s Eve menu every year since I became a grownup.

It wasn’t long after the memorable New Year’s Eve when the first Magic Pan came to a nearby city. I would have been 18 or so. Imagine my surprise to discover that Mom had been making crepes all of those years!

When Bernadette asked me to share my skinny pancake story, she reminded me to include the recipe. As many of you have shared in your stories know, that can be a problem. 

The Story of Mom’s Skinny Pancakes, continued

I was in college–a science major–when I asked Mom how to make crepes. As she finished making the batter she said that getting the consistency right was important. “Here’s the test,” she said. She got a spoonful and poured the batter slowly back into the bowl. I’m a science major. A test means drops per unit time or some such. What’s the test? She does it again. What’s the test? “That’s it.” And then she said, “Es ist nicht in meinem kopf, es ist in meiner hand.” It is not in my head, it is in my hand.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed authentic Gundel crepes many times in Hungary. I have the Gundel cookbook with its classic crepe recipe. Mom’s Skinny Pancakes are every bit as delicious. 

Mom’s Skinny Pancake Recipe

Ingredients

Eggs 

AP Flour

Milk

(Sugar, optional)

Oil (canola works well)

1 large egg, with flour and milk in proportion, yields two 8-inch crepes

For each egg, use 1 Tbsp flour and approximately 1 Tbsp milk (just a pinch of sugar)

Beat the eggs well. I prefer to use an old-fashioned hand held rotary mixer because the eggs get frothier. Mom uses a fork. (I think an electric mixer would be too cruel.) Add flour and mix well. Don’t be too concerned if you see flecks of flour; as long as you mix well enough to disperse the larger clumps, you’re fine. Add milk and mix.

Mom’s “test” is that the thickness of the batter should be somewhere between half & half and cream. 

Heat a NOT non-stick 6-8” pan over medium heat. (Use 8” if making stuffed crepes.) Add about 1-2 Tbsps oil and let that get hot. Lift the pan from heat, pour in about ¼ to 1/3 C of batter and spin the pan to distribute batter on bottom. The trick is to use only as much batter as is needed to get a thin pancake. Try not to get it on the sides of the pan. Return pan to heat and let cook until the top of the batter has no liquid shine to it. Using a NOT non-stick spatula, flip it over. Let cook until the crepe has little bubbles that pop up. Transfer to paper towel lined plate. 

Tips from experience. I add a bit more oil every other crepe. Use a spatula that’s almost as long as your pan is round so you can slide almost all of it underneath the whole crepe. Adjust heat as you cook. I have never timed the cooking time, but from start to finish each one cooks for the time it takes to stir the batter, have a sip of coffee, and then start looking at it. The first one is going to be a mess for any number of reason. That’s the one you sprinkle sugar on and eat.

Mom will celebrate her 87th birthday on January 2, 2023. Still going strong.

Thank you Marica for sharing this very special post.. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year. And, I hope dear readers that you will stop over at Big Food, Big Garden, Big Life (https://www.bigfoodetc.com) and enjoy for yourself Marica’s stories and recipes. I always learn something new and interesting when I read Marica’s posts.

I would like to start off 2023 with the following quote from Judy Garland –

WE HAVE A WHOLE NEW YEAR
AHEAD OF US AND WOULDN’T
IT BE WONDERFUL IF WE COULD ALL
BE A LITTLE MORE GENTLE WITH EACH
OTHER, AND A LITTLE MORE LOVING,
HAVE A LITTLE MORE EMPATHY, AND
MAYBE – NEXT YEAR AT THIS TIME-
WE’D LIKE EACH OTHER
A LITTLE MORE.

30 responses to “A NEW YEAR TO CELEBRATE – Happy Birthday to a Special Mother”

  1. The best story and recipe, and so perfect to start the year. I think most of us can relate. Happy New Year, Marcia and Bernadette!!

  2. Hi Bernadette, thank you for sharing this great story and the recipe too. Happy New Year.

    • Thanks. Just got off the phone with Mom. She’s waiting for two granddaughters and a great grand to visit. Tells me they want her to teach them something in the kitchen!

  3. Bernadette, a beautiful share and perfect for this time of year. Marcia, I love that only much later did you realise your mother was making crepes! A terrific story surrounding the skinny pancakes and I’m smiling at teenage you devouring seven of them one New Year’s Eve. As for the recipe, I’m the same – want exact measurements but my mother is just the same as yours – it’s all in the hands! (With pancakes I’m now the same and taught my son it’s just so!) Happy New Year to you both!

  4. This is a sweet story, and evidence of what I learned while working for a pro caterer; if you want people to be impressed with the food, give it a French name! I think “skinny pancakes” sounds much more fun than crepes, and it makes them more approachable!

    • I laughed at this comment. Yesterday my husband made cream puffs. I texted a photo of them to our 3 grownup girls. One daughter asks if he used paté a choux. I had no idea what she was talking about. This lead to several messages among two of the girls and I while John consulted Julia Childs and confirmed that even though his recipe was for cream puffs, it was the same. Later the other daughter (who didn’t read the whole thread) asks what paté a choux is. Answer: French cream puffs!

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. If you like this recipe, please give it to your friends.

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