[review and recipe] Fannie in the Kitchen by Deborah Hopkinson and Nancy Carpenter

Several years ago, Anamaria at Books Together tipped me off to this charming picture book about Fannie Farmer by Deborah Hopkinson and Nancy Carpenter. Happy to say I’m finally getting around to featuring it here at Alphabet Soup and I even rewarded myself by making Fannie’s Famous Griddle Cakes using the recipe provided in the book.🙂

These days, most of us don’t think twice about reaching for our measuring cups, spoons, or kitchen scales when we’re ready to cook or bake. Especially with baking, when precise measurements can mean the difference between a cake that rises nicely or sinks like a stone, it’s always about starting out with a good, reliable recipe.

Boston native Fannie Farmer is often credited with inventing the modern recipe. She was one of the first to write down exact instructions for measuring and cooking. But what inspired her to do that, and to eventually publish a cookbook that’s been popular for over 100 years?

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flippin’ over saipancakes

Nathan and daughter Alice

If you love pancakes, raise your hand!

Okay, just as I thought. That pretty much includes everyone.

Chances are good that if you’ve cooked pancakes for your kids (or the kid in you), you’ve probably made them with faces or in fun shapes now and again. But have you ever thought of kicking those pancakes up a notch with more intricate designs by theme?

Enter Seattle illustrator Nathan Shields, whose pancakes are not only amazing works of art but delicious teachable moments. He started making “silly pancakes” for his son Gryphon (6) and daughter Alice (3) while living in Saipan several years ago. These days all three of them “batter up” in the kitchen, creating pancakes inspired by books, movies, cartoon characters, animals, insects, and other real and imaginary creatures, with Nathan’s designs continuing to become more detailed and elaborate.

It’s fascinating to watch how quickly he can squirt out a new design — darker outlines hit the griddle first before he fills in the spaces. I love his portraits of famous people and fictional characters as much as his “scientific” sets (arthropods, marine invertebrates, cephalopods, beetles, wildflowers, reptiles, sharks, birds, human organs). If you’re into math, behold his fractals. Of course he’s also made many perennial kid faves (pirates, dinosaurs, Bad Piggies, monsters, robots, sport figures, bunnies).

They’re calling him the Pancake Genius. Who else would make human parasite pancakes? Who’s ever had a chance to actually eat them with lots of butter and maple syrup?🙂

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pancakes to the rescue

Peaceful on the outside, looney on the inside.

Okay, enough of this whole winter wonderland thing.

It’s been two weeks, and we’re still covered in snow.

When I leave our driveway, I see this:

The side streets are still relegated to single lane traffic. God help you if somebody comes from the opposite direction. Then you have to back up.

I am not good at backing up.

True, we’re not stranded at home or anything, and we were very lucky not to have any power outages or fallen trees.

But somebody tricked us because this snow doesn’t want to melt. Kind of like those jokey birthday candles that won’t blow out. This snow stays and stays and stays. To be fair, it melts a little, but ice dams on the roof prevent the water from going anywhere — except inside the house. In our kitchen: drip, drip from a ceiling light fixture and a switch on the wall. In our upstairs guest room: floor boards buckling from water trapped between floors. Not since the frozen pipes incident of 1981 have we suffered interior damage from winter weather.

Len has spent a LOT of time chipping and thwacking away at ice. We had a huge "ice tumor" growing from the side of our house pushing against one of the heat pump units. The unit has been displaced a couple of inches. Crossing fingers that it’ll continue to function okay.

Thank goodness for our animal friends! They’re up to business as usual, a sure sign that Spring is coming soon. A flock of robins touched down in the neighbor’s yard yesterday, and Fuzzy the Fox has been spotted sunning himself on his den porch. Just a minute ago, three deer gamboled across the front yard, and last night, a momentous occurrence — the return of Mr. Pampano (whom we hadn’t seen in about a year)! He’s our resident possum, somebody with an adorable face who really should do something about his ugly tail. He was sporting a very thick fur coat which wanted brushing, and busied himself wolfing down the puppy biscuits we left out for Fuzzy. Sometimes when Fuzzy is busy daydreaming or grooming himself, Rocky Raccoon, Mr. Pampano, or the squirrels steal his food. Oh, the price one has to pay to maintain a rock star image!

Speaking of squirrels, I saw one washing his face with snow the other day. I loved how his little hands rubbed his snout and ears till they were sparkly clean. If you’re going to have yard pets, it’s nice to have ones who practice good hygiene.

Len’s 70-something-year-old cousin, who’s lived in D.C. for most of her life, said this is the worst winter she’s ever experienced! She had to pay someone to extract her car from a mountain of snow and ice. We’re still looking for our gas grill. It’s out there, somewhere.

Meanwhile, we’ve been consoling ourselves with delicious pancakes. I first saw this recipe at Orangette a couple of weeks ago. Molly wrote all about "weekend mornings" and how pancakes were an essential part of them. She posted a wonderful Oatmeal Pancake recipe which is to die for. I think it may just be the best I’ve ever had. The oatmeal adds great texture and nutrients, and the buttermilk makes these the lightest, fluffiest, tastiest pancakes ever. They have a nice lacy golden appearance and melt in your mouth. You must do a tiny bit of advance planning, though — by soaking the oatmeal in the buttermilk overnight. You could do this Saturday, and then have yourself a perfect Sunday morning breakfast or brunch. Trust me, these are worth the effort! The recipe is here. Likely you’ll enjoy the entire post. Molly is the best!

Dear Snow:

I do not like you in my hair
I do not like you on the stair
I do not like you here or there
I do not like you anywhere.

Your former friend,

Sheesh! I’m starting to speak in rhyme.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.