My grandma used to make these sour milk pancakes on the farm. They weren’t thick and fluffy. They were thin, more like crepes, the way we all liked them, buttery white with delicate patterns where the batter crisped in the cast iron skillet. In the fall, she tucked in green apple slices or onions, or thanks to an odd preference of Grandpa’s, both at the same time. Slathered in butter, but sparingly dolloped with only a drop or two of syrup, they went best with pork sausage fried dry on the outside.
Sometimes I dream about those pancakes.
The sad truth is that Grandma’s kitchen produced flavor combinations lost to the eddies of time. Pasturized milk doesn’t sour like the fresh harvest from a friendly cow, and the old fry pan is long gone.
The lard cracklins we munched, the homemade bread with jelly, the scrambled eggs with milk and cheese, ingredients manufactured within a stone’s throw of the doorstep. Most of it only lives in memory.
Gina’s grandma had the same kind of kitchen. Unique, with its own combination of recipes and tradition, quirks and happy accidents that added indescribable nuance to everything produced there.
I remember joining her family for Sunday dinner once before we were married, and I marveled at the meringue on a sour cream raisen pie. I’d never tasted such an odd, but deliciously perfect confection. And, like those pancakes I grew up with, I never will again.
The people we grew up around had a deep understanding of food. Fully invested, they knew how to raise it, how to enjoy preparing it, definitely how to relish its consumption. And man, could they pack it away.
Today, in an urban, more world-oriented culture, we can choose from a wider menu, it’s true. But it’s debatable whether or not we experience a wider variety of flavor.