As those of you who have been following this blog have probably picked up, it is no longer active. The existing posts will stay up for reference, but I am no longer adding new content. Thanks for a fun two years! ~Tamara

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

The more time I spend in my graduate program, in classes like "Human-Computer Interaction" and entry-level positions like "Usability Intern," the more it bothers me when people give things inaccurate descriptors. A link farm is not a "Research Guide;" it is a list of "Databases" or "Resources." People looking for databases would not click on "Research Guide," and people intrigued by "Research Guide" would be disappointed to find a static list of general databases.

Outside of professional concerns, misleading or vague descriptors are still a pain in the tuckus. We spent several hours last weekend trying to find a tri-wing screwdriver to dismantle our Wii, because both online and brick 'n mortar retailers waffled between calling it a security screwdriver, a precision screwdriver, or a "Nintendo" screwdriver. Recently, the powers that be at our favored Kroger decided that aluminum foil was no longer a "Baking Need," but a "Paper Product." Have you tried to find a cell phone lately? Not a smartphone, or an iPhone, or whatever fancy gadgets with soaring monthly bills your provider wants you to buy, but a cell phone in the cell phone section? Fun times.

Proceeding down the funnel of nitpickiness, we arrive at the relevant example for today's goodies: calling foods other foods they are not. People love to slap the names of popular foods onto less popular ones to make them sound more appealing. Tomato sauce and mozzerella do not make your standard casserole "Pizza Macaroni"...they make it lasagna with differently shaped pasta. Grilling a portobello mushroom does not make it a "steak" any more than sauteeing rib-eye would turn it into a mushroom. The "pie" misnomer is especially popular with anything involving fruit and sugar. I've probably done it myself in the past; you might find a recipe for "banana cream pie oatmeal" or some silliness in the archives. But that was back when I was too undernourished to think for myself. Bananas and milk in hot cereal is not banana cream pie. Squeezing lime juice into cake batter does not make a batch of "Key Lime Pie Cupcakes." You wouldn't call chopped apple sprinkled with cinnamon a complete apple pie, but stir it into yogurt and you suddenly have "Healthy Apple Pie a la Mode."

And according to Google, there are about 185,000 recipes on the indexed Internet for "Pumpkin Pie Pancakes."

These are not "Pumpkin Pie Pancakes." They do not contain bits of pumpkin pie. They are not prepared in remotely the same fashion as pumpkin pie. They contain the same vegetable and spices as pumpkin pie, and there the similarity ends.

Why do I stick on this point? Why can't I just accept the irrational naming conventions of breakfast foods and move on? Because I do not want my pancakes to be stuck within the constricted definitions of pumpkin pie. There are a lot of downsides to pumpkin pie: it's squishy, it often comes straight out of a frost-bitten box, and it's associated with high-pressured cans of whipped corn syrup and stressful holidays stuck at crowded relatives' houses. Not everyone likes pumpkin pie. And even if they do, calling my dish "Pumpkin Pie Pancakes" makes them sound like they aspire to be pumpkin pie. Like they are a watered-down stand-in for the "real thing" because actual pie is "fattening" or "off-limits" as a breakfast food.

No. My pumpkin pancakes are pumpkin pancakes. They are excellent pumpkin pancakes. Hefty, fluffy, delicately spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and a trickle of molasses. I don't need to call them "pie" to convince myself they are delicious.

Now, I've written about pumpkin pancakes before on this blog, way back when I relied on boxed mixes because I feared the baking powder. Erase any memories of that pseudo-recipe from your mind (even if I just put them there with the preceding sentence), because these are the real deal.

Pumpkin Pancakes Makes 12 large pancakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup milled flax seed
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups soy milk

Mix the flours through cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in the pumpkin, molasses, vanilla and soy milk until uniform. Carefully stir the wet ingredients into the dry, just until combined. Fry up 1/4 cupfuls of batter over medium heat.

These are only lightly sweetened, to leave plenty of room for maple syrup on top. They're best with unobtrusive drinks like black tea or milk; I wouldn't pair them with juices or herbal teas that could wash out the flavor.

As a final disclaimer, I would like to note that I'm not a maniac about naming things accurately.

Sorry, René, but this is a pipe. As a representation of a pipe, we understand it to be a pipe. It is a pipe as much as the picture our brain creates from light reflected off a physical pipe is a pipe. But we don't understand my pancakes to be pie, or a mushroom to be meat in disguise. Just try to communicate clearly, people.


  1. Will not enter the fray re: naming conventions, but every Christmas season, the home centers sell sets of interchangeable screwdriver heads, with regular slot and Phillips, "three wing," square, hex, and you name it, in three or more sizes each. You can find whatever kind you want without figuring out what they are called.

  2. I'm sure I've given things cute-sy ridiculous names before but for the most part, I'm with you. Call a spade a spade! Or a pumpkin pancake a pumpkin pancake! These look delicious, by the way. What I really want is to call them breakfast.


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