Denny’s was the first place that hired me.
If you’ve never been to a Denny’s, you are probably not from America, or you currently reside under a rock. This chain restaurant exists in all 50 states and is known for their 24/7 breakfasts. I was hired on as a hostess and as such, one of my duties was to greet people at the door with a friendly “Good morning! Welcome to Denny’s!” no matter what time of the day it was.
I spent several months at Denny’s. My daily tasks included greeting people, giving AARP discounts, pretending I wasn’t skeezed out by the regulars who were just a little too friendly, and cleaning fake maple syrup off menus. In that time period, I got really good at eating as cheaply as possible, even beyond my staff discount. And besides ordering out of the kids section, what’s the cheapest thing on the menu? You guessed it. Pancakes.
I ate a lot of pancakes that summer, for better or for worse. I put pancakes in the peasant food category. They’re sort of a bread, so I don’t think I'm that far off. A bit of flour, some sugar and salt, a bit of a leavening, and eggs and milk. Mix it up, pour on a hot surface, and viola! You’ve got a pancake. They’re cheap, they’re easy, you can change up the toppings, but…does anyone really like them? I was sitting in the corner of the Denny’s on a meal break with a plate of pancakes steaming in front of me when this question came to mind.
And this is where I make the controversial statement: I decided then and there that I don’t like pancakes. At least not the American ones, the ones that you get from diners everywhere. They are mostly tasteless. They are overpriced. Even if I did like them, I could just as easily make them at home. I don’t like the fact that they often feel like just a vehicle for sugar, be it fake maple syrup, or that overly sugary mashed up fruit, or this atrocity. For the last 6 years, I have avoided buttermilk pancakes like the plague.
That is, until last week.
I don’t know why the change of heart. Maybe it was my SNAP challenge and thinking about inexpensive foods, maybe I was just into the idea of second chances, maybe it was inspiration from an old episode of Spilled Milk. But in any case, I decided to give pancakes another shot. It felt unfair for me to discount all pancakes just because the buttermilk ones sucked.
And so I decided to sacrifice and eat pancakes every day for 5 days straight. I tried five new pancake recipes, covering both savory and sweet ends of the spectrum. For all my fellow pancake haters out there: I did this for you. This is the culmination of my blood, sweat, and maple-y tears, given for you.**
Monday: Sourdough Pancakes
Analysis: Into this. This was my first “give pancakes a chance” recipe, and I ended up really liking it. I am not historically into sourdough bread, but I do keep a small amount of sourdough starter as a pet. This recipe was more of a well-i-have-all-the-ingredients-so-why-not kind of a thing, and frankly, I was very impressed. I would definitely make this again. I loved the twangy sourness from the sourdough combined with the real maple that topped these puppies.
Tuesday: Ramp Pancakes with Miso Dipping Sauce
Analysis: Into this. It was more labor intensive than Monday’s pancakes, but savory pancakes are a different beast. I chose this recipe because it utilized ramps, which I happened to find at the farmers market this week! Ramps, the wild onion, wont be in season much longer, but I would definitely make this recipe again using green onions or another comparable allium.
Wednesday: Ramp and Chevre Dutch Baby
Full disclosure: I got this recipe from my friend Emily, who writes the blog Lip Smackin’ Crusade. Emily is the type of gal who LOVES to eat and makes you wish that you could enjoy food as much as she does. I met Emily through Slow Food a few years ago, and I think I’ve been hearing about her love for Dutch Baby pancakes for almost as long. I used her recipe here and went savory, so I opted out of added sugar and used 2 oz of chevre from Vermont Creamery plus a few ramp greens, left over from Tuesday’s recipe.
Analysis: Into this. I can’t believe I went so long without eating a Dutch Baby! This was so good! This was the easiest of all the recipes from this week. Mix up the ingredients, pour into a cast iron with some butter, then pop in the oven to finish off. I loved how eggy it was, but still felt like the perfect platform to highlight whatever add-ins you want, in my case the onion-y little ramps and goat cheese.
Thursday: Buckwheat Pancakes
Analysis: Not into this. I have a big ol’ platonic crush on Molly Wizenberg, but I was not into these pancakes. They tasted like regular pancakes (that I don’t like) but healthier. Buckwheat doesn’t mess around.
Friday: Veggie Monster Crepe
Analysis: Not into this. I historically don’t love crepes, and this one didn’t challenge that. The caramelized onions were only okay, the roasted red peppers were straight out of a jar (again, fine. Its not yet pepper season in Vermont) and there wasn’t enough cheese. (But again, is there ever?) I did love the accompanying salad. It had a wicked green dressing that was very bright and dressed up the greens mix somethin’ fierce.