Sunday, October 16, 2016

Melody Makes Rosa Parks' Featherlite Pancakes

The fluffiest pancakes you will ever eat.

So, I think it goes without saying that it's a really exciting time to be interested in Black history in Washington, DC. Everyone has been making a big deal about the opening of the new African American Museum of History and Culture - which I'm finally going to be visiting on Tuesday!! - and so there's a lot of efforts by different organizations to promote the museum, and raise awareness about the influence of Black Americans throughout history. It's been fun seeing other museums and institutions promote parts of their collections that might not have been on display recently, and see how they're working to teach people about an area of history that was (and still is...) too often underrepresented.

Take for example Rosa Parks' recipe for peanut butter pancakes, which is held in the Library of Congress and penned in her own handwriting! While a few of my friends and I were at the Library of Congress Book Festival last month, we happened to see a presentation that mentioned it, and immediately knew we had to find the recipe, get together and make them. So we did. We discovered they're basically the fluffiest, tastiest pancakes you could ever hope for, and are definitely something more people should know about.

I'd like to hope we all know who Rosa Parks is, but in case you've been living in a cave for the last half century, she's one of the most discussed members of the Civil Rights movement. Most people know her best as the woman who in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a bus when asked to move by the white bus driver and was arrested for that refusal. This event is sometimes misconstrued in public memory, painting Mrs. Parks as an unwitting victim of racism or an old woman who was tired. Mrs. Parks herself makes it abundantly clear in interviews and memoirs that she was only tired of dealing with the bigotry and being expected to give in to the demands of racists. She had been an activist before she refused to give up her seat, and remained active in the Civil Rights Movement for the rest of her life.

Her actions helped inspire the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and although she was not the first or only woman to make a stand like this, she is the one history has most often paid tribute to, and she remains a household and classroom name.

The recipe is written on the back of a yellowed envelope and is relatively informal, like many historical recipes are. It's a really interesting artifact of a pretty incredible woman. Maybe I'm just biased, but I always love learning about what historical figures actually enjoyed eating, and if I can hunt down a recipe that's confirmed to be theirs, it's pretty exciting to think that you're actually tasting the same food they enjoyed. It makes them feel a little more human and close to you. You can find pictures of the recipe and more detailed instructions on how to make it on Tori Avery's blog.

It's a pretty simple recipe, but that makes it all the better - you can whip up a batch of this batter in no time and be all that much closer to enjoying delicious, fluffy pancakes. All you need to do is mix together your dry ingredients (1 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of baking powder, 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons sugar) in one bowl and your wet ingredients (1 egg, 1 and a 1/4 cup of milk, 1/3 of a cup of peanut butter, and 1 tablespoon of melted shortening or oil) in another, and then combine them together into a batter.

And yes, that's right. You really do need two tablespoons of baking powder. That's what's going to make these so fluffy! Remember that you can't substitute this with baking soda, as baking powder has virtually no flavor and baking soda does taste super bitter. It'll really influence the flavor of your pancakes.

Also yes, as Tori Avery points out this recipe has peanut butter in it, so please be careful before serving them to anyone who might have allergies!

Everything looked fine. I mean, I know how to make pancakes, right?


I left the batter to sit for a minute while I got my other equipment out to actually make the pancakes, and turned around to discover it had turned into this heavy, fluffy, puffy mess.

I realized I'd probably forgotten to add the 1/4 of a cup of milk in addition to the cup of milk, and quickly eyeballed more milk into the batter until it started to resemble normal pancake batter.

Of course this stuff happens when you're having company over, right?

Anyway, with that crisis averted, I started making pancakes. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of things like this because it's always something that ends up taking way more time than you assumed it would. My skillet was pretty big, but I was having difficulty cooking two in the pan and then getting them flipped safely, so it took forever to work through the whole batch of batter.

That being said, it was pretty obvious that these pancakes were going to be super fluffy even just from watching them cook. Mrs. Parks' recipe says you should cook them in oil, but I found cooking it in oil or margarine kind of just made the pancakes wet and ultimately unhealthier. My non stick skillet meant I could just cook them with nothing else in the pan and they came out fine.

The recipe made about a dozen decent sized pancakes. It can be a little difficult to tell if they're cooked all the way through in the middle because they're so tall, but if you're patient with them they should be fine.

Two pancakes a person isn't exactly a brunch, though...

So my friends brought over some more food to share! It was a pretty lovely spread with fruit salad, apple juice, cheesy scrambled eggs and super crispy bacon.

Everyone loaded up a plate and dug in!

I've already mentioned how fluffy these pancakes are maybe three or four times, but trust me when I say these were seriously the lightest pancakes I've ever eaten. They felt like they could just melt in your mouth, and they had just the right amount of peanut butter flavor to be really interesting and different from your average Bisquick batch. Despite not really being a fan of pancakes because of how long they take to make, I could really easily be talked into having them again. I'm not sure how well they'd go over with non peanut butter fans, but the leftovers even tasted good right out of the fridge and were just sweet enough without feeling like you were eating dessert.

Obviously Mrs. Parks is and should be best remembered for her work fighting for equal rights, but I think we need to take a moment and acknowledge that the lady had a really fantastic pancake recipe up her sleeve, too. There aren't many ways you can really feel like you're experiencing life the same way a historical figure would have, but getting to taste what might have been their favorite breakfast treat is definitely one of the best ways to come close.

Thanks again to everyone who helped turn this into a super fun peek into the pantry with their own favorite brunch foods! We should definitely do this again sometime.

I wonder what we'll end up trying next time!


  1. *From Julie's doll mom:*

    Hey that really sounds yummy! I'll have to try it some time.

  2. These sound delicious. I love pancakes and will definitely try these some time! I will admit, I have never made pancakes from scratch...I definitely always use the mix from a box! I really love your comment about how eating the same food as historical figures makes them a little more human to us. I think that's one of my favorite things about your blog--food is a great way to bring history to life!

    1. It really is! I'm always excited to find recipes like this, especially when they wind up being tasty. :)

  3. I wonder if this would work with Nutella :)