I SOMETIMES wonder about modern man's almost obsessive pursuit of happiness.
Happiness has become an external commodity to which we believe we are entitled. We demand, “Where is my happy life?" while we scroll through other people's lives on the internet; when we sit in the car on the way to work; when the chopping-wood-and-carrying-water cooking task faces us in the evening.
To me it feels as if happiness, like romantic love, is elevated and simultaneously reduced to external highlights, grand gestures and bucket-list moments.
I don't think my mom and dad were as bothered with happiness as I was for most of my life. Is it a generational thing?
For them, happiness was a mindset — a willingness to use humour to tackle the hardships. Happiness was simply the absence of sorrow — everyday moments of togetherness, the ability to work and do what needs to be done, shared jokes, community and health, and rest now and then. Happiness was seen as a privilege rather than a right.
They worked, the grass was cut on Saturdays, and on Sundays they went to church. Then it was time for a braai and to relax.
Their life consisted of doing things for other people. They never felt they had to treat themselves to self-care days that they had “earned". I honestly don't know where they got the time, but as it goes in a small town, they were involved in every charity, council, committee, association, bazaar and function.
My mother is still a master pancake baker. Now in her eighth decade, she still sometimes tells me she has just been baking pancakes for the old people. But you're old too, I will joke. Yes, but at least I can still bake pancakes, she laughs. My mother will never be old.
Some of my core memories are of three or more large 20ℓ white Steri Nappi buckets full of pancake batter on the kitchen floor, late at night, with the Kenwood mixer working overtime. She strongly believed pancake batter should rest for a few hours before being cooked, otherwise it would flop. Therefore it was left overnight. Her other secret was a dash of brown vinegar.
These days, she follows my example by enjoying lemon juice and honey on her pancakes, but in those years we never knew anything other than thick cinnamon sugar.
The pancake table — whether it was at the bazaar, fair or school athletics — was always busy. A whole lot of gas stoves in a row. Hot and stuffy. Batter deftly swirled with soup spoons from the buckets into the hot pan. Someone sifted and rolled cinnamon sugar thickly over the thin-as-paper pancakes. And in those years, my mother was always in her high heels on her thin ankles baking for hours on end.
Even though I was raised among people without an iota of existential angst, I suffer from it in abundance. It sometimes feels like I've been trying to escape it from about the age of 14 until fairly recently.
I also drank the dominant culture's Happiness Kool-Aid for years. The Kool-Aid that sells happiness as something external. Something that can be grasped, owned, consistently required, insisted upon.
In the house where I grew up there was a lot of laughter. Especially considering that these people seemed blissfully unaware of all the things they needed to own, know and experience to find happiness. It was simply a case of getting up every day and saying “yes". Yes to everything the day demands. Yes to your destiny in life.
Perhaps this willingness to say “yes" to everything in front of you, just as it is, is the inner door to the happiness no one can see.
Either way, my dear reader, pancakes are easy to make for dinner, your kids will never complain, and they're cheap. And if, like me, you suffer from a lot of existential angst, then you can make them fancy and take pictures and feel special.
The pancakes will keep well in the fridge for a few days and are a great wrap for fillings.
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup (150g) rice flour or spelt flour
- ½ tin white beans (drained)
- 2 cups (500ml) oat milk or other milk
- 1 large handful of spinach leaves (English or baby), washed and roughly chopped
- 1 small handful of mild green herbs (basil, parsley or coriander)
- pinch of salt
- coconut butter or olive oil, for frying
1. The ingredients should be at room temperature. Place everything in a food processor and juice until smooth.
2. Leave the batter and cover for 30 minutes.
3. Heat a 20cm pancake pan until hot and add a bit of oil to the pan. Beat the batter once more.
4. Now swirl a soup spoon (⅓ cup) of the whipped batter into the hot pan. After a minute or two, bubbles will appear in the dough. Loosen the pancake with a spatula and turn it over when it is golden brown underneath.
5. Fry the rest of the pancakes in the same way and keep them warm on a plate. Remember the first one is always a flop!
6. Place a warm pancake on a plate, then a thin slice of cheese — emmenthaler works well — on one half and fold over the other half. Serve with buttered asparagus and lemon juice if you wish.
7. Another filling idea: Beat the remaining beans with a cup of pickled artichokes. Season with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and a green herb of your choice and there you have it: a delicious, sophisticated spread.
Olive and nut spread:
This spread is like a pesto and it peps up these pancakes to fancy adult levels.
- ½ cup pecans or walnuts (or almonds)
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 10 kalamata olives
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons white miso
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- ¼ teaspoon thyme or oregano leaves, chopped
- juice of ½ lemon
1. Roast the nuts in a hot oven for a few minutes. Remove, cool, then chop finely.
2. Crush the garlic with the broad side of a knife then chop it together with the olives. (You can also use a mortar.)
3. Heat the olive oil in a pan and scrape the olive mixture into it. Stir over a low heat until you smell garlic — for a minute or two.
4. Scrape the mixture from the pan into a container and stir in the rest of the ingredients. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.
♦ VWB ♦
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