I spent 25 years in pain and suffering. Pain and suffering and deprivation and denial and dark, dark sadness.
Then I tried pure maple syrup.
The world righted itself again.
And happiness knocked on my door.
I looked through the peephole, asked who it was, made sure I was wearing something (somewhat) publicly appropriate, and let her in.
We’ve been together ever since.
My life is unquestionably sunnier with real syrup. More vibrant. On Monday mornings I can’t shake the desire to try sqeeeeeeeeezing-no- sliiiiiiithering inside that old fashioned glass bottle and holding my breath, letting dark amber ooze into my nose and mouth. I picture bathtubs of thick and sticky and sweet.
I feel the same way on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
What I can’t wrap my head around, what keeps me up at night, is: “What in the world was I dipping my hotcakes in for 25 years? What filled the open tiles of my waffle? And for the love of God, what was my French toast shacking up with?
I mean, come on.
I’m thinking of penning a letter to Mrs. Butterworth and Aunt Jemima. Here’s my final draft:
Dear Mrs. B and Auntie J,
What the hell?
Sorry. What the heck?
The thing is, the syrup (pronounced seer up) I grew up with (Mom, I’ll get to you later) tasted nothing like true maple. They’re sweet and mock buttery and dark brown, pleasantly thick, but not rich or intense like a Grade A maple tapped tree.
When I lost 135 lbs (I’ve become breezy about it, haven’t I?), I switched to sugar free syrup. Essentially, a thick molasses of splenda. I simply couldn’t reconcile 200 calories for ¼ cup. Simply could not. Wouldn’t do it. Never wanted to trade calories for sauce.
And then, about 3 months ago, I threw caution to the wind and poured thick caramel syrup from Vermont (Hi Ben, Hi Jerry!) into a shallow baby bowl and dipped hot and custardy homemade Belgian waffle squares into it. Let each forkful take a good long soak. Swirled my fork around for three Mississippi just to be sure the syrup saturated each square. Sticky ran down my chin.
I licked my plate in that way you only do alone.
I moved to the counter and dipped my finger in the bottle for another taste. I ran my tongue along the roof of my mouth and made that smacking sound that would ordinarily make me cringe if witnessing someone else do it.
A flash scene of me upending it into my mouth made the corners of my mouth turn up and my eyes glaze over.
Then Daniel reminded me I was drooling.
And that was just the start of it. Nearly every weekend since, I’ve made sweet breakfasts more lovable with pure maple syrup. French toast glazed with syrup. Pancakes spongy enough to sop it up. Drizzling syrup into waffle caverns like I’d fill up an ice cube tray.
It’s lovely and blissful and…did I say lovely already? If so, a synonym for that.
Moral of the story?
Pure, 100% maple syrup is worth every single calorie. And the flavor is so intense and rich that often times, two tablespoons is all you’ll need. One of the few instances where “just a dab’ll do ya” makes sense to me.
Because you don’t need to drown your flapjacks in brown sauce, you don’t need to keep adding more when the ones on your plate have soaked up every last drip drop and become syrup-logged. Just fill your smallest bowl with Grade A maple, warm it just until it begins to bubble, pierce a pancake with your fork tines, dip into the syrup soup, hold for two Mississippi, and chew for at least 15 Oklahoma.
These pancakes embody the perfect balance between salty and sweet. The bacon is savory and rich, flecks of jalapeno add gentle heat, and maple syrup, oh maple syrup, where do we start with you? It soaks into the already moist cakes like glaze on a hot cake donut. Each short stack is tender crumbed with a sweet grittiness from the cornmeal. Make them, eat them with someone you love. But don’t share. There’s not enough to share. Oh, and be sure to use real maple syrup. I’d like to give you an ultimatum on that, but really, I can’t hold you to anything. So just…pinky swear you’ll spring for a $6 bottle of the good stuff?
You’ll be so happy you did.
Bacon Jalapeno Cornmeal Pancakes
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 slices bacon, pan fried and chopped
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Pan fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on a paper towel lined plate, and when cool enough to handle, crumble them into small pieces. Clean out your skillet.
In a medium bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, salt, and sugar. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk the egg with the milk. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the sour cream, followed by the jalapeno, bacon, and parmesan cheese.
Ladle ¼ cup of batter onto a nonstick pan coated with oil. Cook the pancakes for about 4 minutes per side. Flip when bubbles begin to form and pop on the top and sides of each.
Serve with warm, 100% pure maple syrup and additional strips of bacon.
Nutrition info for 1 serving (1/3 of entire recipe): Calories: 291, Fat: 9g, Carb: 40.5g, Fiber: 2g, Sugars: 8.6g, Protein: 11.7g