(by Kerry Cameron)
My initials as a child were KED, meaning that the emblem of my existence was featured on the back of every cool kid’s tennis shoes until the late grades of elementary school.
A new school year meant a new pair of the classic canvas white Keds. Free of grass stains and floppiness from machine washing, they were so shiny and so white. They were simply waiting for the imperfections of character through new memories in art class painting, playground games, and after-school cherry Slurpees.
Shopping for a new pair of Keds was a mother-and-daughter bonding moment, much like riding in the car seat in the heat of a Texas summer while mom looked at houses for clients. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t share that experience together, and it continues to reign true now.
Mom (Laura Lynn) worked a lot, and lives the legacy passed down from my grandfather of residential real estate. She was noticeably a Daddy’s girl, inspired by his dedication, strong will, and green thumb in the garden that surrounded their office.
Somewhere in the late years of elementary school, wearing my Keds, now noticeably stained from the school year, I sat with my mom at a breakfast staple called the Holiday House, in the old money neighborhood of Tarrytown in Austin, Texas. We didn’t live there, but that's where my grandfather lived right before he got sick with brain cancer and abruptly moved to Arkansas.
There wasn’t a lot of cooking in our house, but there were countless memories in the maroon pleather booth of the restaurant. Mom ordered her usual: two eggs over medium with bacon crisp. I also ordered my usual: pancakes with powdered sugar, of course.
The Holiday House was the last stop before we were headed to the airport to visit my granddaddy. Mom had taken me out of school, and my father was staying behind to be with my younger sister. I was excited to see my grandfather, but mostly I was excited to travel with my mom. It was the first time that I felt grown up enough to help her because I knew she was sad that her daddy was sick.
Mom had the newspaper sprawled out to the left of her eggs, and put her hand over her coffee cup every time the waitress came by to refill it. We didn’t talk much as I enjoyed the fluffiest of all pancakes, soaked in maple syrup. Sweeter than cake, I can remember the way the syrup made my lips pucker.
The phone rang, which was unusual because cell phones still had limited use. The restaurant was quiet, almost empty, and as my mother spoke to the person on the other line, she responded with a sorrowful cracked voice, “Why?” She was saddened by the insistent and threatening request that we not go to Arkansas. That if we came, my granddaddy wouldn’t see us. He was losing his hair, losing his strength, and didn’t want to be seen as weak during his fight for life.
We paid quickly and left, my mother reassuring me that my grandfather loved me. We got into her black shiny Cadillac with gold rims, the one that had been passed down to her from her father, and she dropped me off at school.
I still can’t eat pancakes without feeling the companionship and trust of my mother during that breakfast. While it was a painful time, the sweetness of those pancakes is the foundation of our relationship, of my ability to share with her when I am down, and for one heck of a strong woman to be honest with me when she has been let down.
As a girl with a life ahead of her and the features of a child still wearing Keds, I saw more than my mother that morning. I saw the person that I was going to have the opportunity to know and share my life with every time I eat a pancake.
Those sweet bites are ones that I will get to enjoy forever.
(adapted from Food & Wine)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 3/4 c. plus 2 T. buttermilk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 T. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking and serving
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
pure maple syrup
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.
In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter.
Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just until incorporated.
Carefully fold in blueberries without crushing them.
Heat a cast-iron griddle or non-stick skillet over moderately high heat and brush lightly with butter.
Make each pancake with a rounded 1/4 cupful of batter, spreading each out slightly.
Cook until bottoms are browned, the tops are slightly set, and small bubbles appear, about 3 minutes.
Flip and cook until golden, about 1 minute more.
Serve with butter and maple syrup.
Makes about 16 pancakes.