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Griddle Home

I am happy to be home to my griddle. Whenever I get ready to go away and I can’t bring it, I get a little nervous. What am I going to eat?

I get worried about not riding my bike, too. When I am home, pancakes and riding to the Cohoes Falls are my routine. Winter will interrupt the ride part, but I’ve got some time left with this pattern.

What is it about travel that makes worry happen? It’s not like everything is perfect at home. But gearing up to leave makes me whir a little with what ifs.

Six days minus pancakes and bikes seemed like it would be a long long time. I would starve, and also, not be able to think. Biking helps with thinking, it really does.

 

I have been in love with pancakes for a long time.

But once I got to Seattle, I was pleasantly surprised. I ate flour things that were not pancakes. Lots of great bread and butter. Lots of yogurt. I did get pretty hungry, but that happens here, too.

I ate up the landscape. The glitzy city of Seattle, so in love with itself and its coffee and cupcake shops. Looking at the ribbon of mountains ringing Puget Sound, I remembered a whole other life. I lived in Seattle for 9 years. The Olympics never looked real, but this is where I found my griddle.

I went this time to dive deeper into grains. The Seattle Chefs Collaborative put on a grains event, showing off grains to their community. The little farro cakes – savory with goat cheese dollops – killed me.

The Kneading Conference West took place in Mount Vernon, at the Washington State University Station. I was one of 300 people ready to share a big love of grains. I didn’t meet anyone with the pancake thing. The bakers are mostly into bread. Sonoko Sakai taught a great soba noodle class. Naomi Duguid and Dawn Woodward taught classes in crackers and flatbreads. And there was a lot of great thinking to hear about regional grain projects, and the state of modern wheat in our bellies.

I left totally nourished, if pancake famished.

Making pancakes for the TBR tour at the campground in Rhode Island.

 

I was surprised by how much I still liked being alive without pancakes and bike rides. Everything was a little less loud without the things I love. My devotions amplify the rest of my experiences, but at the conference I got to pay attention to the devotions of others. Not a bad trade.

Yesterday, I made pancakes with whole wheat pastry flour and malted wheat and blueberries. I rode my red raggedy bike to the falls and I loved the way the clouds ringed the sky – so much more believable than the Olympic Mountains.

Saturday I will teach a pancake workshop in the Skills Tent at the Homegrown Village at Farmaid. Farmer Thor Oechsner will help me tell the story of flour from field to griddle. I will be making malted wheat pancakes and giving a taste of my pancake fueled life. If you want to catch the great disease of pancakes, come along.

 

 

Bike Ride Pie

This pie earned its name twice.

Every day I ride to the Cohoes Falls. Depending on my route, the trip is 10-14 miles. No matter which way I go, I pass important places: the great peach Victorian house where I lived till I was six. The light blue colonial where I planned to run a bakery with my aunt. Some days I go past Herman Melville’s house. Almost every day I go where my father grew up, across from St. Agnes’ church. I try to go other places, but the spire of that church calls me, and the falls does too.

I take this ride alone, collecting miles and thoughts, but a week ago, I invited Ethan along. We went to the new viewing platform. It is a little higher than the one I go through on my usual loop, the one where we took pictures with my grandfather.

Ethan forgot his helmet at the overlook, and when he went back to get it, I noticed two serviceberry trees purple with fruit. I love these berries – kind of like a blueberry with a little almond flavor from the seed.

Francis introduced me to them. They are a popular street tree, and the first time we picked them I was nervous they might poison us, especially when a kid came along and asked if he could try them. Sure, I could risk my own kid’s life – no danger of Felix putting something like that in his mouth – but I felt a little dubious risking a stranger’s.

Francis knew what he was doing, of course, and he found his way to a great taste in the kitchen, too. He made a serviceberry pie, accenting the flavors of the berry with lemon juice and a little vanilla. Never had I ever had such pie!

This was years ago. Though I am awfully swayed by this fruit, I’ve missed harvesting it quite a few times. It has a short window of ripeness before the birds decide to pick a tree clean.

Ethan had a pint container with him that day, so we filled it with the fabled berry. The next day, I brought a bag with me and filled it and brought it home. I cooked some into pancakes, and brought the rest with me on a trip.

I had the chance to share them with a friend named June. These berries are also called Juneberries, or Saskatoon berries, where they are grown commercially. One root of the service name comes from the idea that they were the first trees to bloom in the spring, the first blossoms people could use at services for people who died while the ground was frozen. Whatever you call them, there is really nothing like them. Especially cooked with some sugar, lemon and vanilla.

Saturday was the first day I didn’t ride in a long time. I just didn’t have the oomph. Jack and Francis wanted to pick serviceberries, so I said let’s go to the falls. They spied trees they wanted to stop at along the way but I said no, let’s keep going.

The birds had cleaned one of the trees at the entrance to the upper viewing level, but the other one was pretty full. People walked by us and asked if they were edible. Francis’ lips and teeth were blue – evidence that they were, but we shared berries and collected a few converts. We brought home about a gallon, and memories of a nice time at the falls.

The next day we brought some friends who were passing through town to the falls. All this rain has the water really running, brown and fast – the rocks are mostly covered.

Thanks for the picture, Paul Buckley.

Yesterday, I wanted to go for my ride at the same time I wanted to make a pie. I couldn’t do one and then the other because I was due at my mom’s for dinner, and I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen there. I had dough chilling in the fridge – made from butter, and spelt flour from Small Valley Milling – and I rolled it out quick. Altering a recipe for blueberry pie from Dorie Greenspan with Francis’ formula, I made the filling. I slid the pie in the oven, strapped on my helmet and rode.

I was only going to go to the 112th Street bridge, but I kept going to the falls, pushing hard. Well, if this sacrifices the pie, so be it. The worst thing that could happen would be a dark crust. People could deal with that. Much as they needed pie, I needed to see the falls.

I start to get excited about them when I see how fast the Mohawk is running under the two bridges on Van Schaick Island. Muddy and fast means I’ll see a thunder of water, and I pump hard. Each time I get to the falls, I am amazed. Water over rocks, what a sight. How do we get to live in a world where all of this stuff happens?

I got home in time to catch the oven and turn it down before the crust got dark. We brought the pie to my mom’s, and though I don’t eat sweets anymore, I had to have some. The crust was very nice, and the filling, well, it is a legend. Made from Francis’ curiosity, my magnetic stitch to the Cohoes Falls, and the plain old magic of nature.

I’m going to have to make some jam to capture that flavor that clings to my tongue and mind.