As a little kid, I quickly grew a reputation for being precocious. From the time I started talking, my sentences were direct, opinionated and loud.
I was born in Boston while my dad was in residency, so my poor mother spent most of her time carting me around in the snow while my dad worked — running errands and attempting to keep me occupied. After watching me crawl out of the grocery cart one too many times, she started packing the cloth belt of her bathrobe in her purse, to tie me into the cart while she shopped. Unconcerned, I simply strained against the belt and screamed church songs at the top of my lungs, shocking the shoppers around me. “I’M SO GLAD THAT JESUS LOVES ME!!”
I also took to standing up in my crib at 5 am, clutching the bars in my tiny hands and screaming “CAN I GET UP NOW!?” over and over, until someone came in to tell me to go back to sleep. My poor parents.
When I was placed in my highchair, I had three desires only: Hot dogs, couscous, and “newties” (Fig Newton’s). Despite my mom trying to mix up my diet, I begged for those foods over and over again.
Cooking with my mom was more of the same — I wanted what I wanted. When I was old enough to help my mom cook, she would set me up on a stool where I could see the bowl and watch her mix whatever she was baking. Usually, she let me help if she was making cookies or dutch babies (puffy german pancakes). In one famous Whalen family story, my mom laughingly describes tiny Jenni, standing on a kitchen chair with my chin on the counter, wearing my favorite Mickie Mouse slippers and a full onesie. My mom was making cookies and as I watched her roll the dough into balls, I decided I should try some.
“Want a taste,” I said nicely, widening my big blue eyes.
“No, Jenni, not now.”
“Want a taste,” I said a bit more loudly.
“WANT a taste!” I proclaimed.
Finally, unable to contain myself, I screamed, tears pouring down my cheeks: “NEED A TASTE!!!!”
Or The “Want it Right Now” Puffiest Pancake in the World
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla
- lemon, confectioners sugar and maple syrup
Place the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and put the skillet in a preheating 425 degree oven. While the pan heats, beat eggs with a mixer for 3-4 minutes, until pale and frothy. Then add flour, milk, cinnamon and vanilla and mix until smooth. Once the oven is preheated, take the pan out and pour the batter directly into the skillet. Put it back in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and puffy. It’s worth noting that this recipe can be a little bit finicky — based on temperature and how long you beat your eggs, your pancake might not puff up like it’s supposed to. That’s okay (it’ll still taste good), but if it doesn’t work, try again!
Serve the pancake immediately with fresh fruit, lemon juice and powdered sugar. Or, if you’re a purist like my husband, just eat it with butter and maple syrup.
*I recently made this pancake with gingerbread spices and it was delicious. To do that, substitute 2 T molasses for the vanilla, then add a pinch of powdered ginger and cloves to the mixture with the cinnamon before baking.