The First Thing I Ever Cooked: Buttermilk Pancakes (Gluten-Free Adaptable)

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jun 14, 2010 at 11:44am

Shauna – aka Gluten-Free Girltweeted over the weekend about a fun project she thought up for today. She invited food bloggers anywhere and everywhere to post about The First Thing They Ever Cooked.

When I saw her tweet, I smiled and sent myself a reminder email titled, “Buttermilk Pancakes!” (That’s what I do these days, email myself reminders, sigh.)

As if I’d forget about pancakes!  I spent the first nine years of my life completely obsessed with the little butter delivery vehicles, and while I don’t eat them so often anymore, they hold a warm, fluffy place in my heart.

While my mom, my stepmom Susanna, and my Grandma Meyer taught me how to cook – or even better, let me learn how to cook – my dad was actually the pancake maker in our family.

He flipped pancakes most Sunday mornings on a big electric pancake griddle.  In the winter he’d make them in the kitchen, but in the summer he’d set up the griddle outside on the patio, and Stacey and I would chow down at the picnic table, hair bleached from living in the Lakefield swimming pool, mosquito-bitten legs dangling from our favorite summer pajamas (that’s me with the short hair).

The skillet would ping as it cooled down, the perfect accompaniment to the carbs flowing into our veins.  Those were nice days.

When all the Meyers would gather at Dickerson’s Resort on Lake Florida, my dad would make pancakes for the crowd.  I was an annoyingly picky eater as a child, with a small appetite, but pancakes, yeah, I would always eat pancakes.

My dad would hand me a stack and I’d get to work tucking butter slices between each layer, all the way to the top.  After a generous pour of Aunt Jemima syrup, I was ready to dig in, melted butter and thick syrup pooling together in a sweet, glossy frame. Mmmm

One year I made the mistake of eating 20 pancakes in one sitting. I was painfully stuffed, but that wasn’t the problem.

My error was packing that many away in front of all of my cousins. Man, I’ve never heard the end of it. My grandma said, “She’s about to grow,” and she was right (of course). I shot up four inches that summer.

The Power of Pancakes.

The recipe my dad followed was on the back of the Bisquick box.

The first version I made, however, The First Thing I Ever Cooked, was from The Betty Crocker Cookbook. I was up early one weekend morning, and hungry for pancakes (shocker), so I decided to make them on my own.

My dad had let me flip them before, and my grandma had let me crack eggs and measure flour for cake batter. I felt ready to fly solo. We were out of Bisquick, so I leafed through the cookbook and found a recipe for buttermilk pancakes. There was no buttermilk in the fridge, but there was a note in the recipe about how to create a buttermilk substitution by adding vinegar to milk.

Worked like a charm.

I made several pale, crinkled cakes before I got brave enough to 1) turn the griddle heat high enough, and 2) flip the pancakes with some confidence, but I eventually found a groove.  After I’d amassed a passable stack, I started tucking butter, pouring syrup, and digging in. They were good.

And I was off and running!

I taught myself to sprinkle on chocolate chips and other goodies. I liked them really thick and fluffy…until I discovered crepes. Lovely, eggy crepes, filled with berries or bananas, or nothing at all (but a pat of butter).

I made pancakes so often that I finally got tired of them. True. And a little sad.

These days, I still make pancakes for myself and for my son, but I don’t tuck butter slices between each pancake. I make them gluten-free, and often add a scattering of blueberries just before flipping.

Sometimes I layer the hotcakes with cottage cheese for added protein and staying power (very tasty, I highly recommend). If I use syrup at all, it’s real maple syrup – sorry Aunt Jemima.  I still love pancakes, but I guess that learning how to make them myself ended my obsession…

…although this version, from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham, threatens to reignite my passion!

These pancakes are tender, fluffy, and completely delicious. Despite the gluten-free flour, they are light as air, yet sturdy enough to hold blueberries or nuts if you’re so inclined. I spooned on some of the strawberry-rhubarb compote I had in the fridge, which I wouldn’t have touched as a kid. But I added maple syrup too.

And a pat of butter on top, for old times’ sake.

What’s the first thing you ever cooked?  (Note: here’s the compilation post that Gluten-Free Girl put together, listing the entries of everyone who responded.  Excellent reading, there are so many talented writers out there!  And lovely food memories…)

Buttermilk Pancakes
Loosely adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Makes 14, 3-inch pancakes

Note: The batter holds well in the refrigerator for several days. I substitute in 2/3 cup of Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-free Flour and it works beautifully.

1 cup buttermilk (I use a bit more, more like 1 1/4 c.)
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or 2/3 cup gluten-free, all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Put the buttermilk, egg, and melted butter in a mixing bowl.  Stir briskly until the mixture is smooth and blended.

Stir the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a small bowl so they are well blended.  Stir into the buttermilk mixture only until the dry ingredients are moistened – leave the lumps.

Heat a skillet or griddle to medium hot. Grease lightly and spoon out about 3 tablespoons of batter per pancake. Spread the batter with the back of the spoon so it is thinned out a little. Cook until a few bubbles break on top.  Turn the pancake over and cook briefly.  Keep pancakes warm until enough are cooked to serve.

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Older Comments

  1. By FreshTartSteph on June 12, 2011 at 6:51AM

    Joy, I hadn't even realized it, but yes, my love of heels started with those! My moms of course. I wore them constantly, LOVED them. Ha! Oh you are a lucky girl learning to make proper scrambled eggs from the get-go. Most Hard as rocks. I used to doctor Lipton's soup too! Still tasted like crap, ha. Thanks for the note and memory. Love.

  2. By Joy Summers on June 12, 2011 at 6:40AM

    I love you were in heels that young! Lovely post - and now I'm craving pancakes!

    The first thing I learned to make was slow heat scrambled eggs. Resulting in soft-lump almost custard-like texture. I come from a long line of food snobs (Of course the second thing I learned to cook was instant Lipton soup. I doctored it, though)

  3. By Megan Gordon on June 15, 2010 at 5:20PM

    What fun and what beautiful writing, Steph! Love your journey through pancakes through the years. I also am very fond of The Breakfast Book although I've never tried this recipe. So often rushing in the mornings these days, but this is a nice reminder to slow down :)

  4. By SML on June 15, 2010 at 8:53AM

    Thanks everyone! I loved reading all the posts, such happy memories. I noticed (and chuckled at) how many include box mixes and processed foods (including mine). The pendulum swings...

  5. By OmnivorousMom on June 14, 2010 at 7:54PM

    Mmmm… Dads + Weekends + Breakfast = Love Thank you for sharing your memories.

  6. By Kristi Lou on June 14, 2010 at 3:56PM

    The pancakes look delicious! And yes, I live in Sheboygan, or "Shevegas" as the locals call it. I am a transplant from Missouri, so haven't yet acclimated to the climate! It's a small place, so I'll keep a lookout for your "kinfolk."

  7. By Kim Maes on June 14, 2010 at 1:51PM

    What a beautiful post. I love these memories! I believe that my kids, one day, will probably say that pancakes were the first food they remember eating, as well. Since we are gluten-free, I have had to do a lot of experimenting to come up with the perfect pancake. My kids have been along for that ride, but alas, we have finally achieved one that we all love!
    Your childhood pictures are a wonderful accent to this story ;0)

  8. By Lisa L. on June 14, 2010 at 1:46PM

    Pancakes automatically equal good memories, don't they? When our youngest was little, we'd tell him that he had better take another bite of pancake, cuz the last bite caused one ear to grow larger. He'd take that bite, and poof, the other ear grew larger than the first...and so on and so on. Poor little kid! We teased him so!

  9. By Lorna Yee on June 14, 2010 at 1:13PM

    Wow, those are top-notch pancakes! Seriously beautiful. I love the story and thanks for including photos of you as a child. (Too cute!)

  10. By Anonymous on June 14, 2010 at 12:51PM

    Beautifully written post! I can relate. My Mom started the tradition...Betty Crocker recipe I think, folding the egg whites into the batter. No comparison to what my friends were getting out of a box. After I got married and had a bunch of kids to feed, pancake night came at least once a week...stirring in extra nutrition and adding toasted nuts. We do the cottage cheese thing too...I think Mother-in-law started that tradition (she thinks bacon is evil) . Pure maple = pure heaven. Great pictures once again!

  11. By FinnLover on June 14, 2010 at 12:09PM

    Lovely story & pictures. The pancakes look scrumptious.