On an indigo blue September day, I beheld the stunning Ohanapecosh River and fulfilled one of my outdoor aspirations. But first, on the way east on beautiful Highway 12, my friend Kirstin and I stopped at The Mountain Goat in Packwood, where they have savory scones with cheese in them (I give them a starred recommendation). I paused – mid-chew – to text my husband with my whereabouts. We planned to complete a couple hikes that day, beginning with the short, popular walk through the Grove of the Patriarchs. He replied that his cursory glance at my message had read as: Grove of the Pancakes.
This conjured a vision that was equal parts scrumptious and terrifying: a copse of buttery, syrup-dripping stacks – mammoth and precarious – and me with, not hiking poles, but giant forks.
How to negotiate this landscape? Does one scale a stack and pull down a flapjack? Gad about, licking syrup? Or just fling oneself at the nearest pile (taking care to dodge an avalanche of juicy raspberries the size of your head)?
Oh to be faced with such conundrums! It reminded me of the lurid charms of Candyland,* that criminally dull board game children love to torture their parents with. In that fabled Eden, candy canes grow out of the ground, (practical at Christmastime but otherwise annoying) and one is ever at risk of getting mired in a molasses swamp. This place of excess fueled my sugary fantasy life when I was six. I have never forgotten those brown popsicle plants in the swamp. They looked like tooth-decimating taffy, and I longed for them.
And apparently I haven’t changed much in my propensity to tumble into food reverie, because I was instantly enraptured by the idea of walking through a grove of pancakes. I got so worked up, in fact, that I needed an icy dip. I came to my senses and remembered that my days of pancake abuse are over. And of course, this place was truly an Eden, with the pure, teal-green water I had admired in so many photos, finally surrounding me and freezing me to near unconsciousness.
Though I can’t attack a stack the way I once did, sometimes there’s nothing like pancakes – preferably on a day when you are fortunate enough to be hiking. If so, try these:
Orange Maple Non-Patriarchal Pancakes
adapted from O, the Oprah Magazine, 2004
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (more if batter needs thinning – this is a matter of preference)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons orange zest
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
neutral oil for the pan
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, orange juice, maple syrup, zest, butter and eggs. Stir just until combined and a few small lumps are fine.
Heat up a frying pan over medium heat, (be patient) then turn it down just slightly. Brush it lightly with vegetable oil. Cook these the way you usually cook pancakes. If you don’t know how then get in touch with me and I will show you, but you will have to go hiking with me.
Optional but delicious syrup can by made by combining 1 1/2 cups maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup orange juice and a teaspoon of zest in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove when hot.
*Since the character, Queen Frostine, was demoted to Princess in 2002 (for insubordination?) I am laying claim to the crown. Yes I will be living in the Frosted Palace, but I want the licorice bats sent over from the Licorice Castle, and if Lord Licorice thinks I’m backing down, he doesn’t know me.