It's rumored that today is National Pancake Day.
The day on which pancakes are most widely celebrated is Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras. We're too busy here in New Orleans with other things that day to do much with pancakes, so we'll take the cue.
Pancakes were more popular forty or fifty years ago than they are now. Restaurants specializing in pancakes were a big deal. The Buck Forty-Nine was as much a pancake house as a steak house, and its menu listed dozens of varieties, which they served with a rack of some six flavors of syrup. Rick's on Canal Street and the Tiffin Inn also made sure Orleanians got their share of pancakes. Here and there around America, a widely-imitated franchise called the Original Pancake House keeps the flame alive. Begun in the 1950s, those places take pancakes to the limits, with a number of variations that boggles the mind.
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Banana-nut pancake at Mattina Bella.[/caption]
Now pancakes are hard to find in New Orleans restaurants. They don't like to make them, because they take up a lot of space on the grill. The few restaurants that make pancakes don't do a very good job of it. The Tiffin Inn is still at it. So is the Peppermill, a descendant of the old Buck Forty-Nine. The Abita Cafe turns out flapjacks that are almost impossible to finish because of their size. But not many other purveyors are out there.
Making pancakes is so simple that I've never understood why anyone uses a mix for them. The batter is essentially one of everything: one cup of flour, one egg, one cup of milk, one heaping tablespoon of sugar. Flavor it with a little vanilla and cinnamon, and add a bit of butter or oil, and that's about it. (The exact recipe is elsewhere in today's edition.) It's best if the batter sits for a few minutes before you pour the first one onto the griddle.