Monday 10 August 2015

All things grow (go): Buttermilk Pancakes with Nectarines and Rhubarb Compote

I have one specific strategy for getting myself back on track when things aren't going to plan. I'm not talking about the kind of difficulties that a series of red lights or an absence of your favorite ice cream flavor at Gino' brings. I'm focusing more on those moments where anxiety rules and you have no idea how this all happened and how you suddenly got stuck in the middle of it type of moments. You know the ones. They keep you distracted, awake at night and stuck to the bed first thing in the morning. They distract you, keep your mind fuzzy and your appetite weak. You know the ones.

We all have our little tricks but sometimes those gremlin-like moments seem to last for an incredibly long time and they require an extra form of ammunition to rid them from our lives. My secret weapon is the movie Little Miss Sunshine and more importantly, Sufjan Steven's song 'Chicago' from the movie. If you haven't seen it yet, get watching. It's essentially about a messed up family of oddball individuals who hate that they're even remotely related to each other and therefore, expected to at least acknowledge each others' presence. But it's also about how these socially failing misfits risk everything to help each other out. In this movie, listening is loving, provoking is loving, sometimes calling each other assholes is loving but most importantly, banding together is loving, making the oftentimes bumpy road ahead more fun and manageable together. 

Little Miss Sunshine reminds me that we're all a little messed up, that we spend most of our time not knowing what we're doing, that what we're experiencing now in our lives is not at all what we expected, even though we're not exactly sure what we expected. Just not this. There are positives and negatives to this viewpoint. I didn't expect to love my job so much, have such fantastic friends, my own place or so much travelling under my belt. I also didn't expect to be single, to be living in a city or to have a Mamma who is sick so young. This is the joy of Little Miss Sunshine. It drags me out of my world and into theirs and I feel like I'm on their journey in the bright yellow Combi, on a mission to make everything alright again. Every single time Sufjan Steven's song come on, I cry and it's just a relief. It wasn't until I listened to it recently again, though, that I realized that I had gotten the key lyrics wrong all along. 

Among the many beautifully articulate words that exist in Chicago, two lines stand out the most and have the greatest impact for me: "I made a lot of mistakes, in my mind, in my mind" and "all things go, all things go". We've all made mistakes in our lives but his line somehow forgives them all, like because we're all guilty of committing mistakes,  and then it's normalized because we are all culpable. It also reminds me that so many of my mistakes never actually existed. They were just trapped in my over-thinking mind and once I stepped back from them, they didn't exist at all, like turning on the lights before checking for the monster under your bed.

"All things go" shook me when I realized that the words were not "all things grow" like I had originally thought. When I would sing along to the song, I would belt out 'all things grow' to remind me that everything started from a seed, from a beginning and some plants struggle to grow tall, others bear bountiful fruit, others provide shade, a home or shelter, others die quickly but nourish the soil. All things grow made me realize that nothing stays the same and that everything will pass, confusion, anxiety and shitty situations pass, you just have to weather it out sometimes. When I first read 'all things go', I immediately thought of death and endings but when I think about it, it still feels the same; the only constant is change and growth, going, leaving, living are all around. Sometimes that is very uncomfortable because if you want to take the good with the bad, you have to sit with the awkwardness, the difficult times, those gremlin-like moments until they're finished, until new moments take their place. 

It's a tough lesson. To sit with it, the situation, yourself and all your reactions whizzing around. I've been trying to sit with all the uncontrollable change going on in my life lately and have been longing for a break from all the unease, the hassle, the shit. It turns out, I just needed to give myself a break. For me, taking breaks, being kind and pancakes are synonymous. This situation called for full on, fluffy, American style drop pancakes. It called for thick slabs of buttermilk heaven and lots of honey.

I write to get it all out. I write to free my head and my heart. I write to force myself to sit with the good and the bad and embrace them. I hope my writing can help you do the same, if even to eat buttermilk pancakes for fifteen minutes solid and breathe.

Ingredients: Makes 10

1 cup all purpose flour (buckwheat is also perfect for gluten free lovelies)
1 level tsp baking soda
1 level tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
2 eggs 
1 cup buttermilk*
coconut oil for frying

1 nectarine per person
Large spoon of honey or maple syrup
1 tsp chia seeds

Optional rhubarb compote
3 sticks of fresh rhubarb
1 tsp vanilla
1 tablspoon raw muscovado sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp cold water

*If you're vegan or not so keen on dairy, a nut milk based yogurt like coconut yogurt will work just as well.

Sieve the flour, baking soda and baking powder and salt into a bowl. In a seperate, smaller bowl, whisk the eggs and buttermilk (or yogurt) together. Add the egg and milk mix to the flour mix and beat well. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes (in the fridge is even better), to let the buttermilk and soda react. Using a large non-stick frying pan, add a teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan on a medium to high heat. Drop a ladle of the pancake batter onto the pan (I fried 3 at a time). Fry for 2 minutes on each side (or until golden brown)** To serve, plate up the pancakes, top with honey, slices of fresh nectarine and a generous sprinkle of chia seeds.

To make the compote. Wash and slice the rhubarb into 1 inch thick slices. Place in a pot with the other ingredients. Put the lid on and bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes until the rhubarb is just soft. Drizzle rhubarb and the syrup over the pancakes. This compote also keeps for up to a week in the fridge in a sealed container and is a perfect yogurt topper for breakfast.

** This batter is perfect to multiply for extra hungry
numbers. I recommend putting the oven onto 80°C to keep each batch warm until they're all cooked, then sit down for your feast.

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