The Smell of Pancakes at Grandma’s

The Smell of Pancakes at Grandma’s

By Lauri Griffin, Hospitality Administration Program, Ivy Tech Community College – Central Indiana

In this 15th year of the Spirit & Place Festival celebration in Indianapolis, I am especially excited to be engaged, in some small part, in this year’s theme “Food for Thought.”  As a chef instructor for Ivy Tech Community College, in the Hospitality Administration Program, I am happy to be a presenter in the “Edible Books” activity on Sunday, November 7. As a guest blogger, I must share that I have been inspired by the beauty and smells of fall.

A change of season, especially in Indiana, also includes a change in diet. As we move from summer to fall, we think about those bowls of chili, braised meats and slow roasted turkey. I’ve spent some weekends recently in southeast Indiana, in Madison. The drive has been lovely these past few weeks with leaves reflecting pumpkin orange, cranberry red, and the starkness of empty branches against clear blue skies. Despite the drought, the trees have not been a disappointment with their crisp colors and change to our skyline.

During those drives, the landscape also changes to a bit more of a roller coaster ride–lots of winding curves, steep hills and valleys filled with rich dark earth turned over by our good farmers. The drives have given me a chance to reflect about childhood sights, smells and memories–a season long past. I grew up in southern Wisconsin where it is just as hilly and the earth even darker. I have thought a great deal about two dear grandmothers, long gone, who inspire my strength when life has had its curves.

I have always loved to be in the kitchen and memories of either grandmother put me there with them; baking cookies, peeling potatoes, chopping celery, laughing, talking about school or maybe silly boys in a grade school class. But one particular memory takes me to my grandmother’s kitchen when grandpa and my father went deer hunting for the weekend in late fall. The weather is always brisk that time of year and a nice warm breakfast was a great way to start the day–it still is.

My grandmother made the most wonderful pancakes–they were at least 6 inches round–one per skillet that she used. It was a cast iron skillet so the edges of the pancake were a bit crispy, but it was the smell of the pancake that I still remember. It had that wonderful aroma of darkened flour and a little bit of butter. You know how butter smells when it melts in the pan and suddenly becomes brown butter–a little nutty–and all those smells meant grandma was making pancakes. We only got one because it was big and we did have a bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup to pour over top and once you ate that whole pancake and a glass of milk you would not be hungry till lunch. It was the kind of breakfast every kid should have and be able to remember.

After breakfast I helped grandma wash the dishes. She stood behind me just to make sure I got them clean and earned a hug at the same time. It is in that special smell of fall, including pancakes, that blends well with the leaves and pumpkins and special times with family.

Do you have a favorite food smell that takes you to a special memory?

I hope you can enjoy any of the events held between November 5-14—and don’t forget to eat breakfast before you come!

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