Grandma’s skinny pancakes

My dear grandmother, who is long since enjoying her eternal reward, had the most delicious, fruity chuckle–I can still hear it in my head if I think about it. And she loved to sing while she worked in her big sunny kitchen. She sang hymns, and inbetween trips from counter to stove to fridge, she’d go to the birdcage and sing and whistle to Pete the parakeet. (There were several dozen “Pete”‘s throughout the years, always white, and always obtained by Grandpa from the same man who raised white parakeets.)

Grandma was not mostly an inspirational cook, but had some strong areas. Her speciality was cookies of all kinds. And pancakes. Skinny pancakes.

I can remember staying overnight at her house (pick an age–9? 15? 28? every time!) and waking in the morning to hear her singing, and wandering out to find a stack of skinny pancakes on the tiny kitchen table.

Skinny pancakes are a wondrous thing–they are not quite crepes, but they are definitely flatter than the fluffy buttermilks you get at IHOP. Grandma’s skinny pancakes covered an entire plate, and the proper way to eat them was to butter one, and then put a topping of your choice on it–and in my book the only proper topping was brown sugar–and then roll it up, and fork off slices from the end of the roll. Mmmmm! I can remember being a young, very active athlete, and snorking down 4 or 5 pancakes in a sitting. I think I could manage maybe 1 1/2 now, although I’d be willing to die trying to do more.

There was something so entirely Right about sitting at my Grandmother’s table, eating her skinny pancakes, and it wasn’t entirely about the pancakes. It was that fruity chuckle, those hymns, the sunny kitchen, my Grandma’s strong and homely love for us. I miss that to this day.

I’ll let BK post the directions for skinny pancakes if she can remember them–I typically do a cheater version by thinning the batter I make with pancake mix, but I know there’s a from-scratch method. But promise us that if you make them, you’ll do a little singing while you work.


I lived with Grandma and Grandpa for the year before I got married. Without fail, Saturday morning was pancake morning. (Of course, each morning of the week had its own designated breakfast food and by the time they were in their 70’s and 80’s, the menu never deviated at all.)

Grandma’s “secret” was beating her eggwhites separately until very frothy. Then she folded that into the pancake batter. She especially loved making buckwheat pancakes. Most buckwheat pancakes end up quite heavy, but Grandma made the tenderest skinny buckwheat pancakes you can imagine.

Grandpa had a protocol for eating pancakes. By the time I lived with them, he ate his first two pancakes with syrup, rolling them and lining them up together on his plate. If he planned to work in the yard, he would have a third pancake with syrup. He never used fruit syrup and never used sugar on his breakfast pancakes. And at the end of breakfast, he would assure Grandma that nobody could make pancakes like she could. She’d nod and agree, nobody could make pancakes like she could.

Saturday lunch always consisted of cold, leftover pancakes on which Grandma has smeared butter and sprinkled sugar before rolling them up. The lunch pancakes always were eaten with hands and not silverware.