It’s been a year and three days since Grandma died and, after saying over and over again that I was going to do it, I finally mustered up the courage to tackle her recipe for pancakes.
Everyone’s grandma has one of those legendary foods, one of those meals that relatives swear by as being the best not only in the region, but on the whole damn planet. For grandma, as great as she was at everything (oh, those chicken and biscuits, those strawberry pies…) it was her pancakes that we would all talk about. There are many times I’ve wondered if friends didn’t want to stay over when I was teenager to hang out with me, but instead they just wanted grandma’s fluffy, delicious pancakes smothered in hot maple syrup (blueberries if we wanted it, but they weren’t needed) the next morning.
She, of course, had the recipe written down for us on a little notecard with “Mom Holden” written in the top corner - Mom Holden being her mother, as it was her recipe, a common meal for their family during those Great Depression years.
While she was living, even as a confident cook, I never dared attempt it, even when I was living 1,200 miles away. Grandma was soft-spoken and sweet, but was never afraid to kid around about dying: “It’s all in how you mix it,” she’d tell me in preparation for my Grandma-less future - although I was always suspicious that there was some kind of grandmotherly-magic added in there she wasn’t telling me about. “I can’t replicate the love you put in it, Gram,” I’d joke. She’d only smile.
I watched her make pancakes over a thousand breakfasts (of course, lunches and dinners too, if we asked), but there is a difference between watching and paying close attention. There was always that safety net, encouraged by my inner-child: Grandma can’t die. She’s Grandma. I’ll never need to learn to make these.
So, today, I gathered the ingredients. I warmed the skillet (she loved the electric skillet for its even heating). Then, after looking at the notecard, the recipe in the neat handwriting instantly recognizable as hers, an artifact of her life, sending fleeting tinges of sorrow and longing through my chest, I began the process.
I was starting to get hopeful. As I mixed (by hand, of course, I had to follow the exact process), what was in the mixing bowl was looking correct. It smelled right. I was feeling cautiously optimistic.
But then as the skillet began to cook the batter, the cakes looked a little off. A little too golden. Not quite fluffy enough. After getting a finished pancake onto my plate, I eagerly took my first bit, nervous as all hell. My fears were realized. I don’t know what I did wrong (other than not flipping properly, that’s a skill if I’ve ever seen one). My pancakes were good, but they tasted nothing like grandma’s. They tasted like pancakes I might get at a small town diner and afterwards say, “Wow, good pancakes,” but as for why they didn’t taste like Grandma’s, I’m at a loss.
Maybe it was the love after all.
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- ditchingclass said: For my grandma, it was pumpkin pie. I made it with her so many times while she was still alive, I have her recipe written down in her handwriting, and I still can’t get it quite right. Keep trying, though. The more I do it, the closer it gets.
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- vinylandformica said: I know the exact feeling. My uncle tried making my Granddad’s spaghetti and meatballs last week and it just wasn’t the same.
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- alecsays said: My Nanna’s thing was pancakes, too
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