An open letter to Aunt Jemima

Dear Aunt Jemima,

When I was a little girl, you were the cornerstone of my weekend. My father would assume control of the kitchen (and when that happened we knew it was either steak or pancakes) and, with whisk in hand, would add one egg, one cup of milk, and a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a cup of your famous pancake batter – never “just add water” for my old man!

Back then, you offered a buckwheat pancake mix that is no longer available but it was well-loved in our house and I thank you for introducing me to that most wholesome of non-grains. 

Living in Quebec, we always had real maple syrup with our pancakes –  we never got in to your version of pancake syrup; sorry. But the real deal is, well… you can’t compare, and probably shouldn’t use so much caramel colour in an attempt to make your syrup look like maple syrup, cause it’s so misleading. Anyway. Maple syrup: That’s the point of this letter.

The pancakes were eaten in a stack, with a pat of butter melting on top. Dad would meticulously cut a wedge out of his stack and push the perfectly aligned, triangular layers of pancake through the syrup, sopping up a bit of melted butter along the way. To this day, when my dad makes me pancakes on Sundays (with your pancake mix) that’s how I eat them, too.

But Aunt Jemima, I have a problem. You see, maple syrup is so good on pancakes. It’s so good that naturally, one tries it on lots of different things to see if it will be good on that, too. And when one needs to sweeten things, one feels generally better about using maple syrup, produced right here in Gaspesie, and made of sap, than one does about using sugar that comes from some unsustainable plantation paying slave wages 10,000 km away.

So maple syrup finds its way onto daily oatmeal. And into batches of granola. Into chili, even! Into the cornbread that goes with the chili. It finds itself stirred into the plain yogurt that is purchased because normal yogurt is way too sweet, on top of the granola that is already sweetened with maple syrup. And before you know it, a family of 4 has consumed 3 gallons (that’s 12 litres here in Canada) in 9 months.

However, when I dropped 150$ for maple syrup, way back in May, I really, really thought that it would last longer than this. “It’s an investment!” I told myself as I wrote the cheque.

So as we emptied yet another can of syrup, Ben and I decided to limit our maple syrup consumption to weekends only. 

Aunt Jemima, you can see were this becomes a problem. Especially since I finally caved and bought a waffle iron, with grandiose plans to make and freeze giant batches of super healthy, multi-grainy-seedy waffles so that they’d be toaster-ready for weekday mornings!

The reason I’m writing to you, dear Aunt Jemima, is that you had the foresight to create an alternative to maple syrup. Albeit, a poor alternative… but that’s where I’m taking this. I look to you and your kerchief for inspiration.

And here it is. 

A far cry from box pancakes! A waffle so naturally sweet and tasty, it doesn’t need syrup! A carrot-apple waffle, with, in this case a dollop of crème fraîche (cause we had some, and, well – enough said) and a little sprinkling of vanilla sugar and sliced almonds – for presentation purposes only.

You could go the carrot-cake route all the way here and whip up a little bit of cream-cheese icing which is also excellent on these waffles but the nice thing about these is that they are kind of like muffins disguised as waffles, so you don’t really need to put anything on them at all!

My other idea was to make an apple-fig compote for these and other waffles, and also for oatmeal. But then I realized that 12 litres of maple syrup in 9 months for 4 people translates roughly into the equivalent 3/4 of a tablespoon of sugar per person, per day – and all of a sudden, that doesn’t seem worth all the effort of finding alternatives! So, dear Aunt Jemima, I’ll see you the next time I’m at home with my dear ol’ dad, and we’ll be sure to pour lots of maple syrup all over our stacks of perfectly round, perfectly delicious, pancakes from a box. Till then, yours in syrup,   Holly xoxo

Apple-Carrot Waffles

Adapted unabashedly from smittenkitchen.com

1 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon poppy seeds + 1 tablespoon sliced almonds or other nuts

1 large egg
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated carrots

1 cup grated, peeled apple

Use the food processor if you have a grating disk – the big holes for the apple, the small holes for the carrot, to ensure it cooks properly.

Mix up the wet ingredients separately from the dry, then add the wet to the dry, adding the carrots and apple to the whole mix and mixing just to combine. 

Go for a longer cook on your waffle iron or make them as pancakes if you prefer!

They freeze well, too – if you let them cool first, just stick a layer of wax paper between the already – frozen-on-a-cookie-sheet waffles, and pop a stack into a plastic bag. Eggo, eat your heart out!

ready for the freezer
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2 thoughts on “An open letter to Aunt Jemima

  1. r

    i’ve had his pancakes – they’re shtinking good!
    am headed to mtl tomorrow, unfortunately i will miss your dad and pip this time around.
    those waffles look soooo delicious. i love how your stories and pics inspire me to try new things – thanks!

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