The last few weeks have been huddle tight and lick your wounds kind of weeks, filled with mornings when the urge to linger in bed, with the blankets piled over my head, is overwhelming.
My dad has been in and out of the ICU for the last two years after a double lung transplant. His latest stay in the hospital has been close to three months. Witnessing his pain, unable to eat, drink, or read, is hard to see. Especially when his hunger for life and his determination to get back to traveling, cooking and gardening remains so strong. Returning to the hockey car pools and homework crises after spending a few days with him in Toronto always throws me into a funk. The difference between our reality and his is too stark.
Last week, my darkness culminated on Jack’s birthday, coincidentally the mardi gras celebration in Jack and Bella’s French classes. They begged me to come in and make crepes for their classes. I walked to their school, cursing under my breath as I lugged three batches of batter and my favorite crepe pan.
I was late for Bella’s class, and her welcoming eye roll didn’t lift my mood. I walked to the cooking station in the back, set the pan to heat and got organized. The first crepe burned, as it usually does, but it seemed like a sign of things to come. Amazing how a dark mood can make you ignore universal truths like the fact that the first crepe is always burned.
The second crepe was perfect. Golden, thin and inviting. As I flipped it onto Bella’s plate, its smell wafted up to me, all butter and egg homey goodness. Bella smiled at me, either pride of her awesome mom or love of crepes overcoming her teenage embarrassment, and suddenly the day didn’t seem as dark.
By the time Jack and his classmates piled in for the next period, all shaggy haired and happy, my mood had lifted. I gave Jack a big birthday hug, burying my head in his thick mop of hair. The classroom was filled with the welcoming aroma of crepes. Students and teachers were poking their head in, asking for samples. I got to work, flipping crepes quickly onto waiting paper plates, just as I once waited with my dad to my mom to flip crepes onto our plates.
For some of the kids, this was their first encounter with a crepe, and I watched them fit this French treat into their food memory bank, making it their own. They topped them with whipped cream, strawberries and cantaloupe. Some folded them, some rolled them. Some ate them open. Even Jack went beyond his usual beurre sucre to pile his high with whipped cream.
When I walked back out into the sunshine, the remaining heat on my crepe pan steamed into the frozen air. Having fed a few dozen kids the treat of my childhood, I felt lighter, better than I had in days. Turns out a little crepe therapy was just what I needed after all.
- 1 cup of flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1¼ cups of milk (I always used whole or 2%, but this weekend I used skim and found the crepes to be thin and tasty)
- 2 tablespoons of melted salted butter
- In a food processor, pour the flour, milk and eggs. Pulse 3-6 times until just blended.
- Pour into a bowl, add the melted butter and stir together. The dough should be very liquid, much looser than American pancake dough. Add more milk if it feels a little thick. You can always add a little more flour to even things out. Err on the runny side, better to have a thin crepe than a thick one.
- Many cookbooks would tell you to rest the crepe batter for 20 minutes at this point to let the gluten in the flour relax. I sometimes do this, but often the kids are out of their minds with hunger and I just get going.
- Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat until hot. Pour some vegetable oil on a bunched up paper towel and grease the bottom of the pan.
- Pour the crepe dough into the hot pan, swirling the pan around until all the batter has been spread around. Keep on swirling until no batter is moving.
- Place pan back onto the flame. Cook the crepe until the bottom is lightly browned, peeking for doneness with a spatula. Flip the crepe either with a grandiose flick of the wrist (after loosening it with a spatula), or the old fashioned way with a spatula. Cook it for another 30 seconds to a minute and serve.
- For butter and sugar crepes (my kids’ favorite flavor), I melt the butter on top of the crepe as soon as I flip it.
- You can serve these immediately, cooking and eating as you go, or make a big batch that you cover with plastic wrap and reheat in the microwave for 5 seconds a crepe.