Saturday, January 02, 2016

In the Snow

When my mother was in graduate school, she had a French roommate. There are very few stories about this French roommate, and the few that do exist revolve entirely around food. The two didn't have a real kitchen in their room, but they did have a hot plate and a sink. My mom tells about good Southern corn just pulled off the stalks, boiled on that hot plate until the kernels were crisp-tender, then slathered with butter and salt. From this roommate, my mom also learned how to make crêpes, a skill that has flavored my entire life, since many family weekends, special occasions, and sunny Saturdays have been marked by their fragrance. 

The night before she makes them, in an old plastic quart-size measuring cup with a sharp nose of a spout, she beats as many eggs as people she's feeding with enough flour to make a stiff paste. She gradually loosens the paste with milk until the mixture is the consistency of light cream. Into the refrigerator goes the mixture, which she returns to the next morning after it has thickened a bit, when she loosens it further with milk and perhaps a little water. In her blackened steel skillet over a blue flame, she plops a tablespoon of butter and swirls it around until it is melted and covers the bottom of the pan. Once the butter stops spitting, she tilts the pan this way and that as she pours in a slick of crêpe batter, rolling the pan around until the batter coats the bottom. It becomes a rhythm as she makes one after the other: drop butter in the hot pan, spread butter, pour while swirling pan, swirl pan until the bottom is coated thinly, rest a minute, edge a spatula under, flip over. Steam rises around her as she works. She stacks each crêpe on top of the other until the platter is a tower of plate-sized, laced brown, eggy silk. The kitchen fan makes conversation loud. Gradually, the whole house comes to smell of browned butter.

My mom made such a feast this past Tuesday, her birthday. We ate the crêpes with sour cream, powdered sugar, and, frozen this summer to grace the winter table, fruit from my parents' trees—this time cherries and peaches. We also ate them my favorite way: drizzled with melted butter and lemon juice, then snowed with powdered sugar.

Rabbit tracks.
After we stuffed ourselves with crêpes, my mom and I went on a walk, visiting neighbors in the small, close-knit neighborhood, warm adobe to cold snow and back to warm adobe. We saw puppy tracks, rabbit tracks, elk tracks, bird tracks, and other, unidentifiable tracks, sometimes cutting straight across the fields, sometimes crisscrossing, sometimes suddenly appearing trail-less and disappearing just as quickly.

Elk tracks.
I wonder if my mom's graduate school roommate, whose name I do not know, knows that this skill, making crêpes, has been such a part of our family's life. I wonder if she knows the tracks she left.

Crow tracks.

Any idea what tracks these are? Bird wings beating the snow?


Dave @ HappyAcres said...

Funny, but all of a sudden I am hungry for crepes. Or at least pancakes. But snow? Not so much. Happy New Year to you!

Christina said...

Happy New Year back at ya, Dave!