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'cake mixing

There was no milk in the house this morning, nor was there any bread that would be acceptable for breakfast consumption (pita and sesame rolls do not count). Naturally, then, I thought back to our pioneer ancestors: what would they do in this situation?! I actually have no idea—probably eat some deer steaks or pumpkin or something, who knows what passed for breakfast in those days—but when I was a young lad I visited Plimoth Plantation with my school class, and the most (only) memorable moment of that trip was tasting some sort of flat cakes made with corn meal and sweetened with maple syrup. I have cornmeal and maple syrup!

Unfortunately, the internet was no help in determining how I would go about preparing such a thing. I had some idea that what I wanted to make are known as johnny cakes, but most of the recipes I found called for milk and/or eggs—obviously not useful, and also a-historical according to Wikipedia's description of "dough, made of cornmeal, salt, and water". (I actually didn't think to check the wiki until right now, and I probably should have; then again, until this morning's experiments I don't think I would have noticed the contradictions in that article. But I get ahead of myself!)

The problem with making cakes out of cornmeal, water, and salt is that cornmeal alone isn't super eager to form a batter. It doesn't soak up water like flour, that's for sure. It doesn't, that is, unless the water is heated. First I tried hot (though not boiling) water, in a ratio of two parts water to one part cornmeal, as suggested by the only three-ingredient johnny cake recipe I could locate on the internet. The results didn't look anything like any batter I knew what to do with: far too much water would have been my opinion as an impartial observer. Still, I heated the griddle and tossed on a could spoonfulls, dipping down to get a full spoon of corn meal and letting the water drain off. This produced a reasonable pancake-looking thing, and tasty enough; but the dry cornmeal that lingered in the middle made me think that I was doing something wrong.

Since I knew the way to make corn meal take up water was to heat it, I did just that: dumped my "batter" into a saucepan and put it on the burner. Pretty soon, of course, I had some poorly-made polenta, which I spooned up and dumped on the griddle. These cakes (pictured above) were much more tender than the first batch, but they didn't brown up nearly as well; they also tasted mostly like fried polenta (naturally), which is good enough but which isn't what I was going for. Still and all, it was plenty of breakfast.

Then later I got some milk, so for lunch we had real pancakes. Some of em with chocolate chips, even. Mmm.

(And yes, that is the famous D cup in the first picture.)

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