I do not remember being born / or how I knew my mother’s face. / Only that we woke to the sound / of pots banging against the stove, / knowing she would be downstairs,” writes contemporary poet Kate Baer. A thread runs between these lines and Robert Hayden’s famous poem, a son remembering how his father braved the “blueblack” dawn cold to warm the house for his family: “What did I know, what did I know / of love’s lonely and austere offices?”
The kind of love these poets are describing is parental, elemental. It is not a fiery first kiss or a proposal by moonlight or even a mother leaping into oncoming traffic to shove her toddler out of the way. It is basic, like cotton—the fabric of our lives and all that. Both the hardest and the easiest thing to give, its impact compounds with time and yet, somehow still needs to be replenished every day. It is just pancakes on a Saturday.
Fat, golden pancakes for my children at an hour when I’d rather be in bed or sitting in silent sunlight with a cup of coffee. Because I perfected the fluffiness of these pancakes long ago on slower, sexier weekends, I can make them in my sleep. Who am I kidding, I am asleep, standing bleary-eyed in front of this stove, tuning out cartoons. I won’t pretend that feeding my children breakfast—a most basic caregiving obligation—is heroic. But I am furnishing the rooms of their memories. Cloud-like pancakes, crisped on the edges from butter, studded with blueberries. Drizzle of pure maple syrup, tumblers of orange juice that slops over the side—sticky, everything. Maybe they will remember the pancakes.
Maybe they won’t, moving through life, their steps cushioned by the love of this Saturday morning and all the ones like it.
Ingredients: Fluffiest No-Frill Pancakes
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 Tbs. butter, plus more for pan
1. In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients to combine.
2. Melt 3 Tbs. butter and pour into a medium bowl. Add the milk and egg and whisk together. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently, just until combined. Lumps are okay—do not overmix!
3. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or heavy nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When skillet is hot, add a bit of butter to the pan, gently lifting and turning to distribute melted butter evenly around.
4. Use a ¼-cup measure to drop pancake batter into circles in the skillet. Cook pancakes undisturbed until bubbles form and pop around the edges, about 3 minutes. When the pancake is golden brown, use a spatula to quickly flip it and cook the other side, about 2 minutes more. Add more butter to the skillet as needed and work in batches until all the batter has been cooked.
5. Serve hot on demand with fresh fruit and maple syrup, or keep pancakes warm on a sheet pan in a 200°F oven so you can serve all at once.
Photography by Jivan Davé