From the Archives: The Big Pancake

I’m re-posting this today because it’s Sunday and I just preheated the oven for the Big Pancake. Kevin, Franny, and Franny’s friend Hermoine are plunked down on the family room couch watching TV and asking, “is it ready yet?”

In the seven years since my first marriage exploded, I have lost many things I loved: homes, my dream of an in tact family, my son. Especially my son.

But with loss comes transformation and I have also gained things I love: my husband, our blended family, a new career, new friends. Three cats.

Still, as grateful as I am for my personal renaissance, I am haunted by the broken life narrative caused by both my adoption and divorce. Family constellations have shifted, tangible and psychic legacies have been diverted, snapped apart like fibers of a frayed rope. My efforts to give my children what I never felt growing up–a cohesive foundation–failed. I ruminate about the impact of this fragmentation on them and often feel desperate to find a constant, something solid they can grasp hold of and carry forward.

As I reflect on the choppy last several years, one such constant, blessed in its simplicity, comes to mind: The Big Pancake.

A sublime concoction of mostly butter and sugar, The Big Pancake, as it has been named by my children, has become our weekend morning ritual. Although Luca is no longer with us on the weekends, my daughter Francesca, almost nine, and stepson Kevin, almost seven, clamor for it with regularity.

I smiled this Saturday morning, comforted by the habitual rhythms the kids and I have fallen into. Our dance steps go something like this:

Around 7 a.m. I come downstairs to make coffee. Francesca and Kevin are already awake, sprawled on the cushy family room couch, watching TV. Francesca greets me with, “Mom, can you make The Big Pancake?”

I preheat the oven and take out my pink mixing bowl. I gather the seven ingredients: flour, butter, milk, eggs, nutmeg, confectioner’s sugar, and lemon. I melt half a stick of butter in my cast-iron skillet, pour the batter on top, and when the edges brown, stick the skillet in the oven.

At least once during the 15 minutes required for The Big Pancake to billow to perfection, the kids call out: “Is it ready yet?”

When it’s done, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and lemon, the pancake sinks down to a delectable crust: chewy-crunchy, sweet and tart, swimming in butter. The kids jockey for position with their plates, remembering who got to choose the first piece the weekend before, and whose turn it is this weekend. When it’s Kevin’s turn, Francesca tries to steer him away from the biggest of the four slices. He’s onto her now and points to the piece that appears the largest.

Francesca cuts Kevin’s slice into bite-sized pieces, yet before he’s done, she’s back for Round 2. When she tiptoes into the kitchen to sneak a third slice, I give her the eye that means you’ve had quite enough, Missy. She grins like a busted Cheshire cat, then skulks off with a resigned, “ohhh-kay.”

I discovered Amanda Hesser’s recipe (see below) soon after my divorce, while reading the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I didn’t know then how powerful these seven simple ingredients would be; that this prosaic offering now known as The Big Pancake would gradually ease into my family’s consciousness as if it had always been there.

And I hope it always will.

The Big Pancake

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup milk

Pinch of ground nutmeg

4 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

Juice of half a lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the flour, milk and nutmeg until blended but still slightly lumpy.

2. Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet with a heatproof handle over medium-high heat. When very hot but not brown, pour in the batter. Bake in the oven until the pancake is billowing on the edges and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

3. Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with the sugar. Return to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Serves 2 to 4.

All gone


About perilsofdivorcedpauline

I am a survivor of a world-class gnarly divorce. My dastardly ex-husband is suing me for full custody of my son, and more time with my daughter. He’s super-rich and I’m super-not. You get the picture.
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5 Responses to From the Archives: The Big Pancake

  1. Gizelle says:

    Saw your entry on mamapedia and couldn’t help reading your entire blog. My heart goes out to you and your kids. Hope everything works out for you.

    Oh, and I will be making the big pancake this morning. How can I resist?

  2. Gizelle says:

    There are five of us in the family so I doubled the recipe. Okay, so three of us are under five but, hey, any excuse to use more butter…

    A stick of butter to be exact! Scandalous. But it was good and even the pickiest eater cleaned their plate. So, yeah! It was yummy, thanks.

  3. Donna says:

    Ditto for me – what Gizelle said. I came to your blog through your article on Mamapedia. I have to say being in the throws of an ongoing divorce (still in appeal), your article about Lucas had a profound effect on me. And against my therapist’s advice, I sent your article to my ex just asking him to read it and contemplate the lessons we could learn as parents from your experience.

    Since we’re still in the 50/50 custody phase, we won’t be trying the Big Pancake recipe until next week. : )

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