Her crêpes were perfect, thin and crispy on the outside, soft and comforting on the inside.
I'd sprinkle a spoonful of sugar on each one, roll it up and pop it in my mouth,
savoring each bite as if it were made by Escoffier himself.
Pretending to eat daintily at first, with each subsequent bite my addiction
took over until I became more like Homer Simpson in both manners and expanding belly.
I would sit for as long as she was willing to twirl the batter into the hot skillet, wait until the undercarriage was slightly browned and crisp and gracefully flip it in the air to finish.
My brother and I competed to see who could eat the most. By the time our crêpe feast was over, we would both be a bit wired from the combination of the carbs and sugar.
Mom would finally sit down to eat the last crêpe and complain "Oh, this batch isn't very good." Every time.
For someone who loves to cook, crêpe-making should be a no-brainer.
Milk, flour, eggs and butter form the base and it's just a matter of whipping them up, letting them set up (oh, the patience part, there lies the problem) and then practicing my swirl and flip.
Ugh. Not my thing. Didn't inherit the crêpe-creating gene. But I sure like eating them.
In France, crêpes are as popular as ever.
An original French "fast food" staple, you'll spot a crêperie in just about
every town, particularly in the region of Brittany, where they're called galettes.
The chief ingredient in a galette (sometimes called blé noir) is buckwheat flour
which gives them a heartier look, darker and somehow more serious than
their flour-based counterparts but oh, they taste like heaven!
They're still thin as a movie starlet, and delicately gauzy as the lace curtains in most of the local establishments. I guess the Breton talent for lace-making translates to their favorite food.
Filled with pretty much anything you choose -- but hold on, not too much! -- these crêpes are my 2nd favorite (after Mom's, of course!). The locals wash them down with cider, usually a slightly alcoholic version, served in pretty bowls instead of cups. One time I made a mistake, ordering a glass of wine in a tiny crêperie in Auray and got a funny look from the server.
He was apologetic after I tasted the vinegar he served and tried to explain
it's probably been behind the bar for several years.
Lesson learned. Drink what the locals drink.
p.s. Brittany is the only region in France that doesn't make wine. Duh!
I forgot to mention my mother's crêpes suzette, the wildly boozy, show-off version of crêpes. When I was growing up, she used to make them for my boyfriends.
Now you know how I got a date every Saturday night...
Julia Child made them famous here in America.
Who can forget how easy she made it look, just a little extra sugar, butter, o.j.
and orange peel with a dose of brandy and poof -- it flames tableside.
Great show, great taste of France.
Other French chefs make fancy savory versions, filled with ham and gruyere cheese, rolled and topped with tons of cream and baked in a hot oven --- over the top delicious!
A good crêpe will cure anything.
Crèpes are for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Any time is the right time.
And kids love them! It's a great way to introduce your child to new foods.
No box to open, no weird ingredients, just wholesome goodness.
And, admit it, they're a little bit sexy. Pick one up and feed it to your partner.
Go ahead, call it a French kiss.
It's a crêpe made famous in the south of France, specifically in Nice.
A simple combination of chickpea flour, olive oil and salt & pepper on a very hot griddle does the trick - et voila, you have an amazing treat.
Toad-in-the-hole from Great Britain, dosas from India, scallion pancakes from China,
tiganites from Greece and palacsinta (fabulous, often filled with poppy seeds and
sugared cottage cheese) from Hungary just to name a few.
I love a good Dutch Baby recipe -- sort of a souffléd crêpe baked in a
hot cast iron skillet and filled with apples or berries.
My other crêpe-related childhood memories include pancake breakfasts at church.
These were not remotely thin nor were they french.
They were hearty, made in the American/Swedish/German manner.
The pancakes were out of this world and so much fun, heaped with maple syrup and love.
Here in Nashville, we have a wildly popular eatery called Pancake Pantry. There's always a long line of hungry diners outside the door, waiting to get their favorite version of more than a dozen different choices. It's a staple for both locals and out-of-town guests. I can't bring myself to try their version of crêpes but I've eaten my fill of good old American-style pancakes and am especially fond of their potato version. With more than a dozen interpretations of pancakes a few of their popular choices include sweet potato pancakes, blintzes, and Pigs in a Blanket. Who knows, you might even run into Taylor Swift or Vince Gill while you're there.
In Music City we also have a suspiciously named pancake of sorts called the hoecake. Decidedly southern and sometimes referred to as a johnnycake, it is decidedly not healthy, especially when cooked in bacon grease à la Paula Deen, a popular southern-fried chef.
Hoe cakes are deliciously cornmeal based, a real treat. They're about as far from a crêpe as any pancake I know but I still recommend a nibble if you're up for a taste of the old South.
Paris, where there is much to celebrate.
The Montparnasse neighborhood in particular is a beehive of crêpe activity.
Traditionally, Breton natives would leave their villages in Brittany, bound for the big city,
arrive at gare Montparnasse where they would set up traditional shops nearby selling
their famous nourishment. You can't walk very far in the neighborhood without
running into a favorite crêperie in the charismatic streets surrounding the train station.
There are dozens of crêpe restaurants in Paris, including street vendors.
Parisians generally don't walk and eat but you'll see plenty of tourists doing that,
holding their banana and nutella paper-wrapped treasures and looking very
pleased as they stroll and munch.
It's a true portrait of Paris.
Whether you're in Brittany, Nashville or Paris -- or Budapest or Hong Kong
for that matter, enjoy one of life's most perfect treats, the crêpe.
W.C. Fields once said,
"The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes
so they would turn over by themselves."
Me: "Hmmm, would that work with crêpes, too?"
OK, probably not.
Guess I'm forced to go back to Paris to get my sweet fix.
A bientot, I'm packing my bags right now!