Old cookbooks are a passion of mine – not antique ones, but rather old ones. Something written in 1640 will have lots of silly ingredients that may be of some interest to historians, but if the stuff can’t be purchased at Safeway and prepared easily in a modern kitchen, it’s not worth my while to learn about it. Cookbooks from the late 1800s on, however, as well as some modern adaptations of early American cookery, are way more my speed. A Victorian cake recipe might be fun! Learning how Lord and Lady Blunderbuss sauced their puddings is how to make the next surprise dessert at the Church Potluck. And Mr & Mrs. Prariedog may know a few things about root veggies that will spice up Lent.

At the Monastery, my pancakes were always greeted with raves: they were light and so very fluffy! They were crispy on the outside and creamy inside. They were perfect. I was told this often enough that I’m reasonably sure it was true. It was gratifying as the recipe was my late maternal grandfather’s and was not made from a mix, but they never came out that way anywhere else. It was certainly some effect of cooking at 7,500 feet above sea level: something to do with air pressure and the way water evaporates at lower temperatures that high up. Returning home, the same recipe produces normal pancakes, but it’s still Grandpa’s and it takes me back to my childhood.

My grandfather was a hobo during the depression, riding the rails around the country. I’m sure his recipe reflects no small number of campfire breakfasts. It’s foolproof but it’s not fluffy at sea level. It’s 1:1:1.  1 egg, 1 cup (butter)milk, 1 cup self-rising flour. To make more or less, you can go as low as 1/3 a cup to 1 egg. As high as 1.5 cups. It gets a little eggy at 1/3, and above 1.5 you want to go ahead and move on to 2 eggs. But use 1:1:1 and make the pancakes with a 1/4 measure of batter and you’ll get amazingly predictable results.

I tinkered a bit this morning, combining my cookbooks with Grandpa’s recipe. None of the recipes I’ve found use chemical leavening.  Maybe it was too expensive or else not always predictable? Most use sourdough and a few use yeast. This seems normal: the batter would be allowed to proof overnight, getting nice and bubbly. My late (paternal) grandfather would make buckwheat pancakes this way – with a sourdough batter that sat on the back porch all winter bubbling away. Several recipes use either sourdough or fresh yeast depending on which cookbook is read. In these cases, it should be assumed the normal form was sourdough, which was the norm for all yeast from the earliest times until rather recently.

Today we use “instant” batter that does away with any of these choices. Add water, fry. BORING.

Regardless of the leavening, all these early recipes have one thing going for them that no one does anymore. It was my tinkering this morning. All of these recipes take the batter – made with yokes only, in most cases – and gently fold them into a meringue made from the egg whites!

This morning, using 1:.5:.5 the egg was separated and, after combining the yoke with the other ingredients, I whisked the white of the one egg until it was very dry and very stiff. It was about 2/3 of a cup in volume. Then the rest of the batter was dumped into the center of the meringue and gently folded in.  From there I returned to my grandfather’s recipe: heating a thin layer of oil in the pan until it was at “sizzle” and then dropping in the batter by 1/4 of a cup. It was stiffer than normal, it was spread out using the ladle. It took no longer to fry though – it cooked up nicely. When I flipped it over, the pancake was crisper than I expected but ok. The end result was very crispy outside and creamy inside. There were very nice air pockets. The overall experience was of a pancake made like a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Would recommend and will totally to again: also I can’t wait to try with my winter buckwheats. These pancakes are not pictured as the shutter on my phone was not fast enough to catch them.

Similam Frixam Oleo!


The Readings for Tuesday, 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (B2): 

Ecce mater mea et fratres mei.
Behold my mother and my brethren. 

My Freshman year in College, I won a preaching award with this Gospel. In fact, it was an annual award, open to all students. I was the first freshman to win it. Behold the oddities of Protestant preaching: when a preacher makes a good delivery, and can back up his preaching with decently researched Bible quotes, it is his interpretation that matters. Even though everyone on the committee disagreed with me, I still won. In giving me the $250, the college chaplain acknowledged that he disagreed with me, but that I had given a well-written, passionate, and well-delivered sermon.

I was so wrong in my sermon. 34 years later I think with horror of my poking at the non-sacramental evangelicals who filled the halls of The King’s College. But a well-written, passionate, and well-delivered sermon is all anyone really wants on a Sunday afternoon in that world: and maybe some good music. If we all go home and talk about the sermon – even how much we disagreed with the content – but can come up with our own well-written, passionate, and well-delivered sermon for later, maybe one of us will get to be a guest preacher one day.

Still, I was horribly wrong in my sermon. It started out well: in this Gospel Jesus seems to dis his own family of birth in favor of a family of choice. I went horribly wrong after that, but in the opening line of the sermon I was right:

St Bede says, Being asked therefore by a message to go out, He declines, not as though He refused the dutiful service of His mother, but to shew that He owes more to His Father’s mysteries than to His mother’s feelings. Nor does He rudely despise His brothers, but, preferring His spiritual work to fleshly relationship, He teaches us that religion is the bond of the heart rather than that of the body. Wherefore it goes on, “And looking round about on them which sat about Him, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren.” And St John Chrysostom adds, By this, the Lord shews that we should honour those who are relations by faith rather than those who are relations by blood. A man indeed is made the mother of Jesus by preaching Him; for He, as it were, brings forth the Lord, when he pours Him into the heart of his hearers. (Both of these are cited by St Thomas Aquinas in his Catena Aurea.)

This is our family: we are initiated into this family by having one great King and High Priest who is our Father in the Faith,  Jesu, Pater Futuri Saeculi, Jesus Father of the Future World, as the Litany of the Holy Name puts it, and Pater Pauperum, Father of the Poor, for we are the poor in spirit, and poor in the eyes of the world for our seemingly stupidity of Faith. We are grafted in to the family of God prefigured by King David, who, bringing the Ark of God to rest in Jerusalem, feasted all of Israel as one would feast one’s own family.  

Benedixit populo in nomine Domini exercituum. Et partitus est universae multitudini Israel tam viro quam mulieri singulis collyridam panis unam, et assaturam bubulae carnis unam, et similam frixam oleo : et abiit omnis populus, unusquisque in domum suam.

He blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. And he distributed to all the multitude of Israel both men and women, to every one, a cake of bread, and a piece of roasted beef, and fine flour fried with oil: and all the people departed every one to his house. 

(Regardless of what the NABRE says, similam frixam oleo does not mean raisin cakes but fried in oil… David was giving out… well, the Hebrew is חַלָּה, challah: bread used for the sacrifices. The Greek says, “Cake Bread”. The Latin however, says “flour fried in oil” which an only mean pancakes and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Why is the King blessing folks? Because David is a Priest-King, the father of his people, treating all of his nation as his family, as his children. This is why, in older style, a King is called “Sire”. Not because it’s a pompous pronunciation of “sir” but because he is the Father of his People. David is the Anointed Messiah, the prefigurement of the Christ. 

Jesus is our Sire, in the spiritual sense, in the only sense that really matters, uniting all peoples into one. The entire church is a family, into which we must draw all people for outside the Church there is not our family, at least yet.

Today I am mindful Family of St Dominic into which I find myself grafted: the living Dominican Tradition present in my parish, the Dominican Friars that run it, the Dominican sisters that teach there, the Dominican cloistered nuns that serve as spiritual advisors, the Dominican Tertiaries which I am petitioning to join, the Dominican priestly fraternity that I cannot escape even when I go to another parish for Mass, together with all the Dominicans I’m coming to know online and off… this is a huge family, and a blessed one. These are my family in a real and present way. I daily find myself uplifted by their prayers and by the prayers of so many Dominican saints and blesseds! 

This clan though, growing through time and space, is only one branch of the vine of Christ: through centuries  and all the globe, in heaven, purgatory and on the earth. The one great family of man united in Christ, the God-man, and through him united to the Holy Trinity in one great fellowship of love.

These are my mothers, brothers, and fathers.

The verse .3