The Fabric of Our Days

It seems only appropriate to end these tales of Blueberry Week in Maine. It’s full-on August now, and some of my best Augusts were spent there as a teenager, in a little house on Lake Sebago. And it’s no surprise that blueberries—like those other Maine delicacies, lobster and maple syrup—figure prominently into my favorite recollections of those trips. After all, we always stayed with dear family friends (Dave and Sue) in a television-free cabin, sans computers, in a place where cell phone service was spotty at best. It was the simple pleasures that became the fabric of our days.

Instead of our electronic devices, the greatest source of entertainment was each other. Sue loved reading in the plastic lawn chair propped up by the water, on the cabin’s tiny inlet that served as a beach. She also liked to take morning walks, and made us rooibos tea when the sun dipped low—a fixation borne from a trip to South Africa. Dave gathered us around the coffee table for card games, and he and my dad shared a fondness for almanac trivia sessions. (Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I was quizzed about the five longest suspension bridges in the United States.) They were both amateur astronomers, too, and no trip was complete before we’d gathered once on the dock after dinner, starstruck under the brilliant rural sky, to piece together constellations.

On the rare days that we peeled ourselves off our reading chairs, we made pilgrimages to the original L.L. Bean store, or to the rocky Atlantic coastline to eat lobster at picnic tables while the salty wind tangled our hair. We visited their oldest daughter’s farm, and another daughter at her sailmaking apprenticeship. All of those active days were best fueled by a breakfast of leftover blueberry pie, always with ice cream, or homemade blueberry waffles—always with ice cream.

But my nostalgia for breakfasts in Maine stems from an even earlier age, too. We’ve got pages of Kodak moments in our photo albums at home, with me as a bright-haired, floppy-hatted toddler in a canoe, snapped into a life preserver that swallows me whole. As my mom recalls, I’d been lured into a pre-breakfast outing by the promise of restaurant blueberry pancakes afterwards. The adults paddled, watched the sun rise, and buttered me up the whole time with descriptions of syrup-drenched pancakes. When someone spotted a little herd of moose on the bank, noshing on twigs, I asked (as only a two-year-old can) if the moose were eating pancakes too. My dad says that when we finally made it to the restaurant, I couldn’t stop chatting about the “moose eating-a-pancakes!”

My favorite home-kitchen blueberry pancakes may be whole wheat (read: hearty enough for a moose), but the buttermilk-soaked oats lend fluff to their heft, and their bursting fresh blueberries take me right back to those Maine stays of old. And guess what? With a batch of these on the griddle, and a pan of blueberry-banana muffins in the oven, I finished off my twelve-pound Blueberry Week stash with ease. Like my childhood summers, the fruit was relegated to a very happy memory.

WHOLE-WHEAT BLUEBERRY OATMEAL PANCAKES
Makes about 12 pancakes
Adapted from Gourmet

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (or the same amount of old-fashioned oats, spun briefly in a coffee grinder)
– 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. buttermilk, divided
– 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
– 3/4 tsp. baking soda
– 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
– 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1 large egg, lightly beaten
– 2 Tbsp. canola oil
– 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
– 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
– pure maple syrup, for serving

Preparation
1) In a small bowl, combine oats and 3/4 cup of the buttermilk. Let stand 10 minutes.
2) In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
3) Mix in egg, oil, brown sugar, oat mixture, and remaining buttermilk. Stir until just combined.
4) Over medium heat, warm a lightly-oiled griddle until water droplets jump from the surface. In batches, pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle. Immediately drop 4-6 blueberries onto uncooked surface of each pancake.
5) Cook until bubbles appear on surface and underside is golden to dark brown. Flip and cook for another minute, until underside is the desired color.
6) As you repeat the process, you may keep finished pancakes on a cookie sheet in a warm oven. Serve with maple syrup. If you’re not feeding a crowd, keep unused batter covered in the fridge until the next morning. Alternately, cook all pancakes, cool extras completely on a cooling rack, and store in the freezer under a layer of plastic wrap and foil. (It makes for a tasty weekday breakfast after a quick zap in the toaster or microwave!)