Crêpes that conjure

17 Jul

It may come as no surprise to you, given the focus of this blog, that my favourite scene during the entire first season of True Blood revolves around food.

When leading lady Sookie loses her grandmother to the show’s mystery predator, she has no time to grieve in the chaos that ensues. Early in the episode, a particularly pushy visitor mistakes her grandmother’s last piece of pecan pie for just another post-funeral snack. Sookie rushes over, snatches the pie, and clutches it to her chest with a vehement “that’s gran’s pie” as an empathic friend shoos the imposing neighbours away. Much later, in the episode’s final scene, Sookie sits quietly at the kitchen table, alone for the first time since her beloved gran’s death. As an instrumental version of the funeral song swells in the background, she slowly devours the very last slice of the very last pie her grandmother made, and finally weeps.

I thought of the power food has to evoke not just memories of a person but the whole sensory experience of that person. I thought of my own grand-maman and wondered which, of all the foods she has nourished me with, would most evoke her. It was a tough call, but in the end, her crêpes won out.

Crepes de grand-maman

The thing about these crêpes is that they aren’t crêpes in the strictest sense of the word; you don’t spread the batter to distribute it evenly, resulting in a paper-thin crêpe that you can then roll and stuff with fillings sweet or savoury. They aren’t pancakes, either; not nearly as thick and floury as your average flapjack. No, they fall somewhere, deliciously, in between. Their spongey goodness gives you something substantial to chew on while proving light enough to heap with toppings if you choose. Enjoyed the way she serves them, with real butter and maple syrup, they are pure perfection. I’ve never found anything like them outside of my grand-maman’s kitchen.

Never, that is, until I saw this episode of True Blood and missed her so much that I called her up and had her recite the recipe to me over the phone. I proceeded to replicate the steps I’d watched her perform on countless occasions over the years and brought her to me in the best way I could. Interestingly, it isn’t just the finished product, it’s the whole ritual of preparation that conjures up the presence of people who’ve taken us into their hearts and homes and cooked special foods just for us. The emptied yoghurt container filled with freshly made batter awaiting preparation is almost as satisfying to me as the crêpes themselves.

Beyond the fact that I’ve hoarded these thoughts since the first season of a show that’s now well into its third, I share this to illustrate one of the reasons I most love cooking and baking. When we take the time to prepare food for each other, especially recipes that we’ve honed according to our own tastes and those of the ones we love most, we give each other something to hold on to in a world of things that come and go.

Bon appétit!

Crêpes de grand-maman

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 tsp sugar

4 eggs

3 tbsp butter

¾ cup milk

¾ cold water

Method:

1.     Melt butter on low.

2.     Combine dry ingredients and sift into a medium-sized bowl.

3.     In a large bowl, beat the eggs then add the rest of the wet ingredients and whisk together.

4.     Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and beat until smooth (3 minutes with hand blender or cake mixer).

5.     Let batter sit, refrigerated in a covered container, for at least 1 hour.

6.     Cook in a non-stick or buttered pan on medium high until bubbles appear across surface of crêpe. Flip and cook until underside is golden brown.

7.     Keep cooked pancakes in a covered casserole in the oven at 200 F to keep moist and warm while preparing the rest of the batter.

8.     Serve with butter, maple syrup, fruit, etc.

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2 Responses to “Crêpes that conjure”

  1. Kelly July 25, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    That scene in True Blood had me sobbing like a baby because I could honestly relate. I can’t eat pierogies without thinking of making them as a small child with my great-grandmother. The smell of oatmeal raisin muffins (Quaker, of all things!) reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen, as she used to mix those up and bake them by the two-dozen so often.

    They say smells can very quickly take us back to a moment in our past (and I’ve experienced this) but I think tastes can do this even moreso. After all, taste and smell are so closely linked!

    That time taken to help in the kitchen with Grandma or Mom, even if it’s just to wash the vegetables (or lick the icing spoons!) really ingrains the moment in your memory, and even if you don’t think of it often, the moment you are icing a cake yourself and decide to be a kid again and lick the spoons, you will likely be transported back to Grandma’s kitchen.

    Cooking (and eating) is such a social thing. It brings people together. Do I remember much from my wedding meal? A little. But do I remember how good Nanny’s pierogies were that I helped cut out the dough with a glass? Do I remember her setting up a chair against the counter so I could stand up on it to reach the counter? Do I get a little nostalgic when I eat a Quaker oatmeal muffin with raisins, thinking of Grandma? You betcha!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Breakfast for dinner with ice cream for dessert « Digestive Librarians' Digest - September 13, 2010

    […] my preferred choice. If you’re without a favourite recipe, I recommend my grand-maman’s crêpes or Williams-Sonoma’s Blueberry-Buttermilk Pancakes. Whip them up and keep them warm while you […]

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