There are some people I will never, ever, EVER get to cook for. And I'm not just talking about Barack Obama or say, David Sedaris, who makes me laugh so hard I spontaneously cry, but people like my Grandma Sarah, or Clyde.
Clyde was my neighbor, thrice removed, meaning he lived not next door, but three houses down. He was a big man, mustachioed, and he always wore suspenders. He and his wife would perch on chairs under a leafy canopy in their front yard, enjoying each other and the shade, often in the presence of their twin grandkids, whom they watched while their children worked.
In this part of California, at least in our neighborhood, the houses are crazy close together, so the only thing dividing your house from your neighbor's is an invisible plot line or maybe a shrub or two. A few years back, one spring, a majestic mess of wildflowers sprung up at the edge of Clyde's house, with purples and pinks and blues and yellows all flowing like a hippie skirt in the wind. They would bounce and sway on their skinny stems, and I would always stop and point them out to my kids as we walked past. "I love those flowers," I would say. "Just look at them!"
One day, Clyde's wife overheard me, and a few hours later she rang my doorbell. When I opened it, she trickled some seeds into my palm. "Here," she said simply, "so you can have them, too."
They're one of the few couples who didn't make it to our neighborhood block party on Labor Day. Maybe they were across town, with their kids and grandkids. I don't know the reason, but I do know that I missed an opportunity to chat with them, to be, you know, neighborly. Even if just to say, "So how are the twins doing?" Or, "how's the truck been running?" I often saw Clyde out by his truck.
You know where this post is headed.
Clyde died a few days ago. I don't know how old he was, but not very. Maybe 70? Maybe a little older? But not much. He wasn't old. He just, died. And now I'm scared to approach his house. I have a card for his wife, but it seems incredibly inadequate. I'll walk it over soon, with some soup, I think.
When Clyde was alive, there's no way I would have made him pancakes, because people just don't make pancakes for the neighbors three houses down. We make pancakes for our children, or our friends.
And now, the soup for his wife will have to do, even though it feels wrong. The first time you bring food to your neighbors really shouldn't be after one of them has died.
Recipe for Multigrain Pancakes
This recipe was inspired by the Surprise Flapjacks in The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman, 1985). You make the batter in the food processor and just dump everything in and let it whiz around. Also, I made the batter on Sunday, cooked up a batch for the boys that morning, and stored the rest in a glass jar in the fridge. They've had fresh pancakes every day since (today's Wednesday), so I can safely say that batter keeps for several days; each day you just shake the jar and cook up as many pancakes as you like.
Makes 8 to 10 servings, or pancakes for 4 breakfasts for 2 children, plus a few extra
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal (I used medium grain because I enjoy the slight crunch)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, in pieces
1 cup of plain yogurt whisked with 2 cups milk (or substitute 3 cups buttermilk)
Place two flours, oats, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until well blended. Add the butter and process again until it resembles coarse meal. Add the eggs, yogurt and milk and process again until you have a relatively smooth batter. (You'll need to stop the machine once or twice and very carefully sweep the sides with a thin rubber spatula to incorporate all the clingy bits that get stuck there.) Transfer batter to a mixing bowl or, better yet, a very large, lipped 2-quart glass measuring cup (if you happen to have one) and give it a few vigorous folds with your spatula to combine the batter well. It's fine if it's still a bit lumpy.
Preheat a cast-iron griddle, or your favorite pancake-making apparatus, over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles, spray it with nonstick spray, and spoon the batter onto the hot surface. Cook a minute or two on each side, or until golden brown. The pancakes will be relatively thin, so they'll cook quickly. Store any unused batter in a tightly covered glass jar in the fridge for up to 3 days.