Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Pancake Test



If you investigate a possible new friendship with people from another country, then make pancakes together. I've done an awful lot of bonding, while mixing eggs, flower and milk in different parts of Europe.

The best thing about pancakes is that people are very opiniated about how to best make and serve them. Something I learned early on in my expatting career. Almost eight years ago, newly arrived in England, I was invited to come and make pancakes for Shrove Tuesday,  aka Pancake Day. About five women and their children met in a church hall to prepare for the feast.
I came laden with eggs, flower and milk, only to find that all the other women prepared their mixture beforehand at home. They were puzzled when they saw the quantity of milk I was planning to use. According to kItchen guru Dehlia you should also use water, so that is exactly what they all had done, leaving them with pale, limpy fluids that were never going to turn into great pancakes.
I soon took charge of the baking and they all humoured me. That is, until it came to serving the pancakes, that had to be covered in lemon juice and icing sugar. How unusual. When I started eating my traditionally Dutch bacon and syrup pancakes they watched me with a disgusted look in their eyes, way too polite to comment. We all became great friends of course, but never ate pancakes together again.
Whilst we were living in Italy I met my lovely French friend R. who could not even contemplate pancakes, unless they were crepes. She invited me and the children over quite a bit and loved to make crepes. Crepes with cheese and ham, crepes with sugar and - everybody's favourites - crepes with Nutella. We all fell in love with her as well as with her crepes. We were careful to never offer her any of our quite ordinary pancakes.
Those we served up when my son's Spanish friend J. came for tea. He loved pancakes. So much so, that when my children had long since left the table, he was still munching his way through huge quantities of the sugary treat. After a while he would order in advance, to make sure I could shop for flower, milk and eggs before he came round.
Switzerland has so far been a pancake poor experience. That is until my last week, when my very efficient American friend and her children came round. Without ever consulting me, she walked in with a huge bag of fruit and started peeling and chopping away. Every kind of fruit under the sun got it's own little bowl. It soon became obvious why noone wanted any bacon, cheese or apple on their
pancake.
Americans top their pancakes with fruit. Blueberries and bananas drenched in mapple syrup. And also strawberries and raspberries, topped with may be a little cream. It turnes the whole pancake extravaganza  into an almost healthy meal. I love it. Next time my friend tells me I could even include walnuts. Even better.
Now all I can do is hope that our return to the motherland, doesn't mean the end of my pancake adventures. I so love them. And pancakes too.