Hoe cakes, pancakes, and fritters
Copyright: 2009, Jim Penny
Word count: 2901
I don't know how we managed to get into this mess, but we're going to fix it right now. There is an astounding confusion out there regarding hoe cakes, pancakes, and fritters, which leaves us in culinary peril. Apparently, the schools no longer teach the differences among the three, much less how to make them, and daily I hear you saying the one and meaning the other. Why your parents didn't take care of this unfortunate omission remains a mystery to me, though I intend to discuss it with them. This nonsense has to stop, and it's going to stop right now with some much needed education.
Also, if you're one of the very few reared in a right-thinking home and you already know about hoe cakes, pancakes, and fritters, let me encourage you to take this opportunity to refresh yourself.
Going to Food Lion
Brace yourself for a trip to Food Lion. There's nothing you can do about it. The doom is yours to have and to hold. Enjoy your moment of despair. Not to worry, there'll be more.
Now, why are you going to Food Lion? You are going because the ingredients for what we're cooking today are far too exotic to be found in the typical pantry. Besides, you need some beer, preferably the cheap kind that you get in the 24-pack suitcase. Remember: This is why we shop at the Food Lion on Western Boulevard. They cater to the college population, especially the men, which means that not only is the scenery superb but also that the beer is cheaper than it is in most other places.
Let's work under the assumption that you're sober enough to drive. Yes, I know that's a stretch, but we have to start somewhere. Besides, if you're sober enough to be reading these instructions, you're sober enough to drive. If you can't read this page, call Bubba for a ride, or sit on the porch a while longer and shoot BBs at the squirrels and the neighbor's ugly dog until you're in a condition to drive. Which dog, you ask? The one with the pedigree, papers, curls, and bow between his ears. What an abomination unto the hound, he is. Maybe you should bring out the pellet gun.
You're gonna get in the truck regardless of your condition, aren't you? I knew it, so go ahead, and don't forget the BB gun. You'll need it for the yapping dogs along the way and those gnarly, whining, ill-disciplined children at the store. Somebody should slap their mamas for raising them with no manners. Now, make special note of the “should” in that last sentence. That words means you should think about it. You may even think about how you would do it and how good it would feel. However, you may not do it.
Now, make special note of the negated “may” in that last sentence. I'm speaking formally here. The use of the negated “may” in that sentence is meant to tell you that you do not have permission to slap the mamas, no matter that you can, no matter that you might, no matter how much they need it, and no matter how much you want to slap them. If you slap the mamas, no matter how deserving they are, you are now guilty of assault and battery. Assault and battery is a serious charge in this corner of the world, I am afraid to report. You will be found guilty of the heinous act by most juries, unless you are so lucky as to receive a jury of my peers, and given that I have few, if any, peers, you could be easily doomed for slapping the mamas.
Parking at and entering the Food Lion
When you reach Food Lion, park as far from the door as possible. If you park close, you'll be surrounded by lazy people who also want your parking space. They are not worth the trouble. However, do not park too close to the edge. At the very edge, someone who hates you has buried a magnetic something in the ground that locks the wheels of the carts. Now just who in the wide world of grocery shopping wants to steal a Food Lion grocery cart is beyond my mortal comprehension, but apparently, such strangeness exists in this world. If you park there, you'll lock the wheels of your buggy, and you'll need Bessie the mule to drag the danged thing back to the cart parking spot.
Let's assume now that you've parked the truck, secured the BB gun, survived the gauntlet of winos who want your pocket change, and you're safely inside the Food Lion. You need a cart. Try to get one with round wheels that all turn together and in the same direction. This is important, more important than you perhaps know because if you violate the rule and select a cart with square wheels, wobbly wheels, wheels that aren't, or are the type of wheel that precludes your travel in a somewhat straight line, then you're going to be in trouble. Doom and damnation will be your friends.
Now what kind of trouble follows the selection of a cart with odd wheels? The kind of trouble that gets you bounced from the store if you're lucky, and given that you are not lucky this way, you'll probably want to slap one of the mamas just to distract the local constabulary as you crash through one kiosk after the next, all the while scattering cans of spaghetti with meatballs all over creation.
The shopping in the Food Lion
You need stuff for making hoecakes, pancakes, and fritters, which would present generally straight-forward shopping except for that beer-thing you have going on. That's gonna be distracting and perhaps even challenging. Do your best here. People will starve for want of a hoe cake if you don't, and that's an ugly sight.
You need to pick up some self-rising flour and cornmeal. It doesn't matter that the corn meal is white or yellow, but the self-rising part if critical, and yes, you also want the flour to be self-rising. I suggest buying the Food Lion brand of both these products to be consistent and to avoid product confusion later on today. By the way, the flour and corn meal are on the same aisle, which is about the second or third from the right side of the store as you enter. They will not be on the same shelf unless some unescorted child has rearranged the shelves for us. They can be so helpful that way.
However, you need to be careful of one very deadly thing in this aisle, that being corn muffin mix. The inedible mess is a mixture of flour and corn meal. Do not be fooled by the seductive print that suggests perfect baking. If you use corn muffin mix, you will be danged for the rest of time. The problem is that you cannot control the amount of corn meal and flour in the mix, and we do not need some homesick Yankee working on our allocation of corn meal and flour.
Now that you have the flour and corn meal, you need some corn. I prefer to get frozen yellow corn, though the last time I was shopping for corn, I bought frozen white corn because it was on sale, and we all know that cheaper is better, even when it's something you really don't want. You can also buy canned corn if you want. Canned corn will be heavier, giving you something to whine about as you carry the groceries up the steps. Later on, the empty cans will give you something to shoot at, and that's important because at some point, the squirrels and dogs will stop coming around. Those heavy cans are also good for propping doors open, and they're even better for accidentally dropping on Bubba's toes.
Now that you have the corn, you can noodle over to the milk area, and if you insist you can buy some sweet milk, but you're really there to get some buttermilk. Pick up at least a half gallon of buttermilk, which means you'll get two quarts, and complain to the store manager that the store does not have buttermilk in gallon jugs. If enough of us complain, maybe they'll do something about it.
Bear in mind during these times of trials and tribulation that you are not going to purchase real buttermilk in a Food Lion. No young man sat by the churn on a summer's day under the spreading pecan tree working the churn up and then down until the whole milk from the morning's milking separated into butter and buttermilk. What you have to buy is cultured buttermilk. I know. Cultured buttermilk is an abomination unto the udder, but there is nothing better that we can do in this disturbed and tribulated time. Besides, we can only fight one battle at the time, and the battle before us this day is the detestable confusion and misidentification regarding hoecake, pancakes, and fritters.
Now that you have the buttermilk, and perhaps some sweet milk for the children, push the cart over to the butter. You want two pounds of lightly salted Food Lion butter. If some medical personnel is going to be inspecting your pantry, get the butter, and then snook back over to the other aisle and get some olive oil for the cover it'll make during the inspection. Alternatively, you could just get some lard, which will distract your reviewers by sending them into an apoplectic state. You must, however, feign ignorance to this ruse, lest you be held liable for the damage resulting from the apoplexy.
Of course, you already know that whatever we cook with lard is better. We just avoid lard now to preclude the unnecessary conversation with the dullest of the dull people.
Finally, you can pick up some of what you really need, that being the beer. You already know the kind you want, just make sure it's on a special because special is better. You'll need at least one suitcase, but two would be better. Three would be excellent, but you'll probably need a liquor license to get home. That, or stealth mode on the truck, which I know you don't have because that Ancient Technology has not yet been released for civilian use on Earth.
Now, get some chips or something, pay for your mess, and get out of there before the bill looks like your house payment.
You mostly know the drill. Load the truck, get in, crank, drive away. We've done it a thousand times already. The only difference this time is the colorful light display coming through the rear window. Isn't it pretty how it flashes like a strobe in a disco? This light show is a special show created just for you by a uniformed representative of the governor of our fine state. You probably want to stop and introduce yourself. This is no time to play hard to get, and we all know you're easy anyway.
I know you want to, but do not offer the officer one of the beers in the seat beside you. For whatever reason, likely the result of letting the Yankees in, the federalies and constabulary do not care for beer, especially beer in trucks. You probably want to make sure the olive oil is clearly visible, and while the officer reviews your out-of-date license, registration, and inspection, you may expound upon the delights of hoe cakes, fritters, and pancakes.
At some point, you'll smile and thank the officer for the warning ticket about your turn signal that you never use. You probably want to work on that part of your driving just a little. Just because you're waving your fist and yelling out the window does not mean you are signaling your intentions. The governor of this states expects you to use those little blinking lights no matter how much you think they should remain as they were when you bought the truck.
Back at the house
You know the drill. Park under the tree, tote the bags in the house, put the stuff away, grab some beer, and hit the porch to recover. Keep the BB gun handy, as it'll help you get over the business with the turn signal. Let me tell you here and now that you're never going to understand it. Just accept it. Shooting a few squirrels with the BB gun will help the healing begin. So will about three beers.
At some point, you're sufficiently calm, if not healed, to start cooking. It's about time. We're getting a little gant.
Here is the recipe for hoe cake, straight from my mother's kitchen. In a bowl, add a few cups of corn meal, the self-rising kind. Pour in water. Stir until it's a gooey mess. Pour the goo into a greased skillet. Cook on moderate heat, flipping once. My mother made this mess in slabs about one inch think. Not even the dogs would eat it.
Folklore has it that the hoe cake is the same as a johnny cake. That is possible; I wouldn't know. The story behind the hoe cake name is that slaves in the American South cooked this form of bread over small fires on hoe blades for their noon meal in the field. All I know is that the hoe cake is mighty poor eating.
The pancake is more worth the trouble. Count the number of people you're feeding, and crack that many eggs in a bowl. Discard the shells. Use a fork or something to mix up the eggs. Add a big slug of butter, and remember to shake the butter milk container before pouring. Stir the eggs and the buttermilk better than you think they need to be stirred. Also, you probably didn't add enough buttermilk. I said a slug, not a dither. Can we get with the program?
Before you put the buttermilk back in the fridge, pour a tall glass for yourself, leaving room for two or three fingers of rum. Add the rum. Stir. Sip as needed. Cooking like this leaves us at risk for many injuries. Besides, the heat from the oven evaporates the alcohol from our systems.
Add self-rising flour to the bowl, stirring as you go. Stop adding when the mixture is thinner than you think it should be. It will thicken all by itself. Add some oil to a moderately heated iron skillet. The oil can be olive if someone is looking. Use butter or lard if you want edible pancakes. Regardless, use more oil than you think is necessary.
You are now faced with a choice. Formal or casual pancakes. Formal pancakes are small, and the thickening batter is placed in the skillet using a small ladle. The casual pancake is large, the size of the pan, where you just pour the batter until the pan is covered.
Let the pancake or pancakes sit and simmer in the pan. At some point, you'll see bubbles forming in the batter. When you do, just wait. The batter is still too thin. Wait a bit more until the bubbles pock the surface. Now you can flip the pancake or pancakes. Bear in mind that you'll probably make a mess flipping the large pancake. Just do the best you can.
You'll know the pancakes are done on the flipped side when the fire alarm goes off.
The canned or frozen corn changes a pancake into fritter. Add the corn to the eggs before adding the buttermilk, not that the order really matters. I just felt like you'd do better with some unnecessary rule in the process. I use about an espresso cup of corn for each egg, but sometimes it's more like a cup. The rest is the same, right down to the formal and casual fritter.
1.The rare fritter is best. The same is true for the pancake. However, if you serve rare fritters or pancakes, someone is gonna whine about salmonella from the uncooked eggs. When this happens, add more rum to the buttermilk.
2.I do not care for jelly and such on the rare fritter or pancake. If necessary to get a well done fritter down, I'll use jelly or something. You can use what you want.
3.Drink with the fritter what you will. I'm pretty sure we know preferences by now.
4.You can add corn meal to both fritters and pancakes. Doing so changes nothing. You may not add flour to the hoe cake.
5.Cold fritters make good snacks.
6.Cold pancakes make good dog food.
7.Cold hoe cakes make good weapons.