Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Gustatory Pause

I’m just going to take a pause, which I often suggest, to post a favorite recipe: Oatmeal Pancakes.  And they do indeed provide a good reason to stop and savor.  This recipe also allows me to use the new cast iron griddle on my stove top, which works like a dream.  And to make good use of the olallieberry jam a co-worker sends me that is made by students at San Jose State.  Or, top the pancake with a scrambled egg—equally good.

When I went to find this recipe to share, I panicked because I couldn’t find my copy in the Penzey’s Spices catalogue, or locate the recipe from Penzey’s on line. So, many thanks to for the photo—and for reprinting the recipe for people like me who lost it.  Meg has made my life good, and I thank her.  And more thanks and praise to the home cook somewhere out there who gave us this fabulous food creation. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Pancakes
from the Penzey's Spices catalog (Winter 2011)

You'll need:

3/4 cup oat flour (you can make your own by grinding 1 cup whole oats - not instant - in a food processor)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp butter (melted and cooled slightly)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked oatmeal*, not instant
1 Tbsp honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

To make:

1)  Mix together the oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.

2)  In a smaller bowl, stir the melted cooled butter, buttermilk, cooked oatmeal, honey, and eggs together until thoroughly combined.

3)  Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients only until combined.  Fold in the pecans.  Do not over mix; the batter will not have a uniform appearance.

4)  Heat a griddle over medium-high heat until water sizzles when dripped onto the pan.  Lightly coat the pan with 1 tsp melted butter. 

5)  Drop batter into the pan in 1/4 cup mounds.  Flip the pancakes when bubbles begin to form around the edges and cook until the bottom is a dark golden brown, about 5 minutes total.

6)  You may keep the pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven, if needed, until all are completed.

* To make cooked oatmeal, bring 2 cups of water, 1 cup of whole rolled oats and a pinch of salt to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes.  Let cool. 

Makes about 20 pancakes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Waiting Room

I recently listened to an interview with Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and the conversation turned to cells and how they work.  To introduce the topic, they played tape of a vox pop survey that asked, “What is life?”  There were many answers, both provocative and mundane, but all I could think is “change.”  All of life is about change—starting with a single cell.

Change is always happening, whether it brings celebration, heartache, or some other emotion. But much of the time, it’s a struggle to create our own change. We may be quick to take mindless action or feel stuck, unable to make something different in our lives.  

But perhaps there is a middle way—one where you take a pause, or wait it out a bit longer, and allow for a little breathing room until the right action manifests. 

Making space, even briefly, for awareness around what’s actually happening, what you’re feeling, and what you want, can better set up the kind of the response and timing that will yield more satisfying change.  This describes it nicely:

Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?

Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell

We’ve all been in a waiting room, and it’s not always pleasant or comfortable. This kind of liminal space can be messy, frightening, and cause anxiety.  Think of the “tween” years, the engagement before a marriage, the time between jobs, the time between yes and no, between the inhale and exhale. All necessary, but places of uncertainty, where we stand at the threshold between where we are and a place not yet clear. 

Waiting until the right action arises requires sitting with our ego, emotions, fears, excessive thinking, all kinds of things that get in the way of clear, intentional action.  Being present in this space between, however, can allow for clarity and right action to become plain.  The awareness to pause—and be fully in that space--changes the mind’s landscape.

To open this same landscape in your body, try supported bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana), literally a “crossing over” pose. It’s basically placing a block under the sacrum, the small, bony triangle at the base of the spine sometimes called the “holy bone,” or “sacred,” because it was believed to be the seat of the body’s resurrection.  All action springs from the sacrum, the root of the spine, and moves up to the head, creating a bridge between these.  Release into this space.  You may even want to stay a while. 

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