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My mother liked salt. When she cooked, I could taste very little except salt. She added salt to fruit and to cakes and cookies, and she strongly objected to sweetness if she thought something should taste salty.
To her, tomatoes were supposed to be salty, never sweet. She canned tomato juice from tomatoes my father grew. My aunts—my father had four sisters, none of them married, who lived together—canned tomato juice from tomatoes they grew, too.
In the canning process, my mother salted her tomato juice . My aunts sugared theirs.
Thanksgiving dinner was always at my aunts’ house.
As we milled around in the living room before the meal, my aunts proudly handed us each a small glass of their lovely, slightly sweet tomato juice.
My outspoken mother didn’t want to hurt my aunts’ feelings, so she made faces that she thought they might not notice. Before her horrified grimaces became really, really obvious, one of us kids would sidle up to her, chug our own glass of tomato juice, trade glasses with her, and talk to her about something, anything, else until her I-just-might-gag-right-this-very-minute expression finally subsided.
I can just imagine the faces she would have made about the dessert that another friend’s mother fed to her kids. This mother cubed cheddar cheese, poured maple syrup over it, and served it in bowls to be eaten with spoons. I was leery—cheddar is a bit salty, after all, and maple syrup is sweet, but I liked it.
All that cheese and syrup seemed a little decadent, though. I like cheese crêpes and I like pancakes with syrup, so I created a compromise—adding grated cheese to pancakes. First, I tried medium cheddar. Although nice in crêpes, the cheddar was too salty (!) with the syrup. Next, I tried grated part-skimmed mozzarella, you know, the kind sold in bags at the grocery store (grating mozzarella isn’t exactly easy or fun.)
The pancakes came out with a creamy yet slightly nutty (not surprising, since I also added walnuts) tang. And of course, I poured gobs of maple syrup over them.
They’re almost a dessert, but since they’re chock full of eggs and cheese, I call them lunch. Or brunch.
MOZZARELLA AND WALNUT PANCAKES
Makes about a dozen saucer-sized pancakes.
1. Beat lightly in a largish bowl:
2 cups skimmed milk
4 tablespoons walnut oil
3 large eggs
2. In a separate bowl, put:
2 cups pastry flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Stir with a fork to sift (or use a sifter if you really must)
3. Stir into flour mixture:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups grated part-skimmed mozzarella cheese
4. Pour flour mixture into liquids and stir until flour is damp.
5. Cook by large spoonfuls on hot griddle or frying pan. When bubbles form on top, turn and brown the other side.
6. Don’t forget the maple syrup. And maybe a pat or two of butter.
7. Warning: if you eat many of these pancakes, allow time for an afternoon snooze. But that’s always true with pancakes, right?
DIRE THREADS, Berkley Prime Crime, June 7, 2011
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