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Sharon Randall: Recipe for memories

By Sharon Randall

What are the foods that you can only taste in memories? Your mother’s biscuits? Your dad’s eggnog? The mud pies you made as a child?

And what are the recipes that bring those memories to mind?

This morning, for the first time in more than a year, I made Dutch babies. From scratch. And I didn’t burn them.

Yes, I’m the kind of cook who’s always amazed to pull anything out of the oven that isn’t burnt. But sometimes, I get lucky.

(Note: For the record, I’ve written about Dutch babies in the past. But I can’t remember when. And if I can’t remember, you probably can’t either, so the subject should be fair game.)

What are Dutch babies? Picture a cross between a pancake and an omelet that tastes better than either one.

They’re easy to make with stuff you probably have on hand. And you can make a lot of servings in one pan all at the same time.

Before you think this is a food column, and start looking for that “Jump to the Recipe” link, let me tell you this story.

Making Dutch babies brings to my mind some of the happiest memories of my life. I was given the recipe by a dear friend, a gourmet cook who knew a great dish when she tasted it. Sally was older than I was, and wiser than I’ll ever be. Her children were grown. My three were at the stage when their friends often slept over and expected the next morning to be fed.

“Do this instead of pancakes,” Sally said, handing me a recipe. “You can thank me later.”

So I made Dutch babies a few thousand times for sleepovers and houseguests and Sunday night suppers. They were always a hit, even if I burned them. And I always thanked Sally.

After my kids grew up, we lost their dad to cancer and for years I didn’t cook much, except for holidays or other big occasions. But if I had a houseful, I’d make Dutch babies for breakfast.

When I remarried, my new husband and I loved having our grown kids visit us. As they married and began having babies, our numbers quickly grew. It took four pans of Dutch babies to feed us all. The babies ate them with their fingers.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

I can’t recall the last time I made Dutch babies, before today. I know it was more than a year ago, before life as we knew it shut down for COVID and we stopped having breakfast guests.

So why did I make them this morning for only my husband and me? What was the special occasion? Let’s call it “life.”

It’s been a long hard year for all of us, filled with things we couldn’t do. I was hungry to celebrate being alive.

So I mixed up the batter and stuck it in the oven. While it baked, I thought of all the family and friends I’ve baked it for over the years, including Sally, who’s now in heaven teaching angels how to cook. I pictured my children and their buddies sitting at our kitchen table, giggling and acting goofy with syrup dripping off their chins.

I recalled making it for my mother when she was gravely ill and hearing her say, “Well, where’s this been all my life?”

I even imagined how I’ll feel someday when I can serve it at a sleepover for all my grandkids.

Good food can feed a hungry crowd. But if it’s made with love and seasoned with memories, it can fill a weary soul with hope of better days to come.

OK, here’s the recipe: In a 400-degree oven, melt a stick of butter in a cast iron skillet or 9×13 pan. Beat five eggs with one cup each of all-purpose flour and milk. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for 20 minutes until it’s golden and puffed up like crazy. It will fall flat when you take it out, but it will still taste just as good.

Serve it with maple syrup or lemon and powdered sugar. Add your own memories. And say thanks to my friend Sally.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924, or www.sharonrandall.com.

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