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Mark Bittman's Four Stages of Learning to Cook! Plus a Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

In Mark Bittman’s essay from my forthcoming book, “Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families,” he discusses the four stages of becoming a cook for the family: 

  • "First, you slavishly follow recipes; this is useful.
  • In Stage two, you synthesize some of the recipes you've learned. You compare, for example, Marcella Hazan's pasta all’amatriciana with someone else's, and you pick and choose a bit. … You learn your preferences. You might, if you're dedicated, consult two, three, four cookbooks before you tackle anything.
  • The third stage incorporates what you've learned with the preferences you've developed, what's become your repertoire, your style, and leads you to search out new things. What are the antecedents of pasta all’amatriciana? What's similar? … This is the stage at which many people bring cookbooks to bed, looking for links and inspiration; they don’t follow recipes quite as much, but sometimes begin pull ideas from a variety of sources and simply start cooking.
  • Stage four is that of the mature cook, a person who consults cookbooks for fun or novelty but for the most part has both a fully developed repertoire and - far, far more importantly - the ability to start cooking with only an idea of what the final dish will look like. There's a pantry, there's a refrigerator, and there is a mind capable of combining ingredients from both to Make Dinner."

Yesterday morning, I jumped from stage one to stage four. We had buttermilk in the pantry, leftover from the Easter Biscuit Uprising, and because I hate to see things go to waste, I decided to use it making pancakes. But instead of looking for a Buttermilk Pancake Recipe, I made something up.

I simply used the buttermilk in my sure-fire recipe (though I modified it slightly). It was a bit of an experiment, and it met my goals. The buttermilk didn't go to waste, and Nina, Pinta, and  Santa Maria were happy. The pancakes were savory and tart, though instead of being supper light and fluffy like my pancakes of yore, they were rich and moist. How do you make buttermilk pancakes?

Buttermilk Pancakes

For the batter:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup or more milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter

        Combine the dry ingredients and mix well with a fork.
        Melt the butter.
        Combine the lightly beaten eggs with the buttermilk, milk, and melted butter.
        Combine the dry ingredients with the wet, adding more milk if necessary.
        Don't mix too much, lumps are okay.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add some butter. Pour in the batter. When bubbles form, flip the pancake. Cook until finished. Serve with Maple Syrup.

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