“Then all around from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat…”
What’s true for Max in Where the Wild Things Are also rings true for me. The need to find familiar (and hopefully) tasty food pretty much consumed me when I first moved to Addis Ababa. One of the first things I spotted in the two-aisle grocery store was Heinz Beans. I’m not even sure that I recognized the packaging as much as the brand. I’m sold, I know. But it was very exciting to open a tin of pale, saucy beans on a Sunday morning, barely let them come to a boil and then have them get to know the pancakes on my plate especially when I spent the better part of the week eating enjera which is often characterized as a sour, pancake-like bread; the description is fairly inaccurate. Seven years ago a tin of beans was 14 birr and now it’s 34 birr. It seemed expensive back then and I still hesitate when I reach for the can. My tastes have changed – I like them with hot sauce now, of course. And I like enjera too.
The search for familiar good food led me to rediscover baking. Ingredients are limited here; I’ve chopped chocolate for cookies and added molasses to make my own brown sugar. I made fairly standard things like brownies and banana muffins. After noticing a strong connection between my migraine headaches and my sugar consumption, going through subsequent sugar withdrawals, eating kilos of veggies to prevent me from eating a chocolate bar and adding honey to my bunna, the migraines subsided. And I realized the need to fill my out-of-country familiarity void was quite out of control. It was as simple as thinking that chocolate would equal happiness. It didn’t.
I’ve mellowed with the constant searching and the baking. I wanted to include my recipe for (somewhat healthier) pumpkin pancakes here as a tribute to my pancake/bean eating days as well as my growth as a home cook (although it doesn’t mean the measurements make any sense). The whipped cream indulgence is optional.
Pumpkin Pancakes (makes 12-16 pancakes depending on the size)
1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
2/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg (or 2 small eggs), lightly beaten
1 3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
Whisk the dry ingredients (except the brown sugar because it tends to clump) together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients as well as the brown sugar together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until there are no lumps (but don’t over mix). Over medium heat, melt a pat of butter in a large fry pan or griddle. Ladle out each pancake, wait for the bubbles to form and then flip over allowing the other side to cook. Serve them while they’re still hot!