Monday, February 13, 2006

Snow and Waffles

Wheee! Snow! Woke up Sunday morning to two good things--a call from K. and a marshmallow landscape pillowed high and satin-white. It being 6 AM, I wasn't quite completely awake, but as I lay in bed, I was sure I could hear...thunder?? And see flashes of lightning--in a snowstorm? Well, yes. It's a quirky phenomenon known as thundersnow (which sounds like a 7-year-old's idea of a heavy-metal band name). Unlikely, but it does happen, this time while I was congratulating K. on getting out the circus tents and into her very own plywood hut. Whatever you can build out of scrap lumber and fit into your hut, you can have--an aviary! Bookshelves! An opera house!

Well, back to the snow. After I'd made coffee and fallen back asleep for a while, Jane called from down the street with another good wake-up idea: waffles! This is one of the joys of city living--breakfast with your neighbors, with no need for driving. So I put on my boots and --wearing no less than three hand-knitted garments (a blue-and-white striped hat, a hot-pink scarf, and the years-in-the-making lumpy green sweater)--tromped through the knee-deep snow for Jane's swell homemade waffles scented with vanilla and cardamom. And Irish coffee, because when it's snowing like crazy outside and you only have heavy cream in the house, why not whip it up, get out the sugar and whiskey, and start the day right?

This was followed by hot mulled cider and a little dance down the snowy, windy streets, silent but for the gentle scrape of snow shovels on pavement. And the whine of a snow blower, and the truly annoying screech of a dude riding a red-white-and-blue ATV down Sackett Street... SUVs turned into cliffs; brownstone stairways turned into snowboard runs. And the rest of the afternoon was tea on B.'s couch, with the kitties curled up in front of the fireplace and the speed-skaters in their Power Ranger outfits on TV.

Then home to leftover beef stew (the great joy of a dinner party--a clean house, and leftovers!), and banana pancakes this sunny, snowy morning, adapting from Nigella's Feast cookbook. Much as I love Nigella's writing, I've found her recipes to be singularly untrustworthy. But these pancakes--fluffy, moist, and very light, with a gentle banana flavor--do live up to her promises. As she says, "Whenever I'm trying to be Nice Mummy, instead of normal Bad-Tempered Impatient Mummy, I make pancakes." A good way to use up that solitary blackening banana at the bottom of the fruit bowl, and tossing everything into the blender means almost no clean-up afterwards. Just be sure that the bottom of your blender is screwed on very tight, so you don't get batter leaking all over the place. And if you're at the farmer's market, and someone's selling grade-B maple syrup, buy a bottle and give them a kiss. Grade B is thicker and darker than the usual dark-amber Grade A, with a rich mapley flavor. Just a few swirls will make your pancakes taste like wintertime in Vermont.

Nice Mummy's Banana Pancakes

1 very ripe banana
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or melted butter
1 cup flour--I like a half-and-half mix of whole wheat and buckwheat
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar (optional)
sprinkle of cinnamon or 1/2 tsp vanilla
a small handful of chopped toasted pecans (optional)

Throw banana, buttermilk, egg, and oil in blender, and buzz until mixed. Add dry ingredients, and buzz until just blended. Cook on a lightly greased griddle, and serve with butter and maple syrup.

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