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Pancake: A Global History (2008)

by Ken Albala(Favorite Author)
3.48 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
1861893922 (ISBN13: 9781861893925)
languge
English
publisher
Reaktion Books
review 1: Another winner from the Reaktion series--after establishing the parameters of a pancake: batter with some kind of leavener (baking powder, fermentation, yeast) cooked on a flat hot surface, Albala traces them through centuries of cookbooks, as Lenten fare, economical food for the poor, high-class blinis and caviar, in the etiquette of Ethiopian eating customs, the franchising of IHOP and as the basis of many variations of delicious, portable street food.
review 2: I have always made the following statement with plenty of aplomb: “One day, I am going to write a book about pancakes from all over the world.” Because, think about it. While many similar types of food manifest themselves in various forms all over the world (the Mexican tamale and the Chinese glu
... moretinous rice dumpling, the Japanese gyoza and the Polish pierogi, the Latin American empanada and the Malay curry puff), there is only one that is literally present in every continent and almost every country. And that is the pancake.As a rule of thumb, I love anything that comes from batter. Make with buckwheat (a type of radish, not grain) and swirl it thin over a griddle and call it a Brittany crepe. Inject azuki between two halves of little round batter patties and call it Japanese dorayaki. Top it with queso blanco and jamon with sides of salsa and slaw to taste and call it Guatemalan pupusa. Drizzle sweet shredded coconut and smear coconut oil onto round, palm-sized crispy flats and call it Thai kanom krok. Or come over on a Saturday morning and I’ll make you a stack the length of Julia Child’s head – would you like that with blueberries, banana caramel, or bacon chocolate chip?I know a lot about pancakes and I have eaten a lot of pancakes on travels, but I will never be writing a book about pancakes from all over the world. That’s because Ken Albala, a professor of history at the University of the Pacific has beaten me to the brunch... I mean, punch. He has written Pancake: A Global History and you know what? It’s OK that he’s done it first, because he’s done a finer job than I could ever hope to. It’s like every pancake elder in the world came together and issued a compendium of wisdom and philosophies associated with their fine craft. If a pancake could speak, I’d imagine it would read like this book. And be as witty and entertaining as it is – not flat at all, by any means.Beyond the satisfying throve of much-kneaded knowledge – did you know that spaetzles, gnocchi and British ancestral puddings belong to the pancake? Gosh, what a story to tell at the bar! – Albala has created many pancake philosophies that he expounds on. Consider the following – it’s like the writer asks, “A silver dollar for your thoughts?”:“It is not what goes into the bowl that defines the pancake, but what comes out of the pan.”“Thus a pan does not the pancake make.”“Waffles, despite their eminent popularity, are not pancakes.”“And some ‘pancakes’ are so overburdened with egg that they are more like omelets tousled with flour for effect. Here we mince words, if not ingredients.”“Is the pancake truly a cake?”It is as if Voltaire considered crepes in all their complexity. And you know the guy is sincere about his pancakes – he even tests out medieval recipes to experience what the initial incarnations might have tasted like. That’s dedication to the dough and of an English version from 1660, Albala writes, “It is the epitome of a baroque pancake, if such a thing can be imagined, hurtling through the clouds held aloft by cherubs.”“Pancakes taste best consumed in periods of sloth or protracted weekend mornings. They must be sacred without hurry or premeditation, ideally in dressing gown and slippers. At the kitchen table or maybe even in bed, and preferably in excess, just to the brink of nausea.”Like a pancake itself, Albala’s book is substantially packed with important knowledge, fluffy with the humor, perfectly griddled and well-rounded. It makes you happy, brings a smile to your face – the only difference is, there’s probably not much you can top it with. It would fit very nicely and snug into your stack of favoritest books ever. You will sure be batter off after perusing this flippin’ eloquent and articulate masterpiece. less
Reviews (see all)
PIXPOX185
I can't get pancakes out of my head now. It seems like its been a long time since I had one...
Thomas
Little, eccentric book. But I enjoyed it.
Ana
It's good. Worth reading.
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