In another life, my name was Lulu. I worked as a waitress in a stainless-steel diner in Philadelphia, manning a 20-seat counter that required the nerves of an air traffic controller and the wit of a standup comic.
Weekend brunch was the busiest shift, with customers jamming the aisles and demanding coffee faster than you could pour it. We girls would take our scribbled orders into the kitchen and read them aloud to the line cooks in a language that, for the rest of the world, required an interpreter.
The line cooks were a pair of aging good-natured guys who often would come to work hung over. In spite of their complaints, they liked the excitement of working the line and talking dirty to the waitresses. As a way to spice things up, they’d change the kitchen lingo on any given day. I’d drop a ticket and shout, “Ordering: three blue cakes,” meaning three orders of blueberry pancakes.
And Tommy, who liked to wear satin red shorts behind the line, would scream in randy delight, “Ooh, Lulu has three pair of blue panties!” We would all laugh, and his raunchy antics would get us through another hellacious brunch shift.
It’s been years since I’ve served up a pair of blue panties. The diner has been sold, and I don’t know what’s happened to Tommy. While flipping through a new cookbook, though, I found a recipe for blueberry pancakes made with blue cornmeal.
Although much healthier and wholesome than what Tommy plated up at the diner, these ’cakes take me back to another time in my life, when all I had to worry about was matching panties to customers.
Blue Corn Blueberry Pancakes
From World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups blue cornmeal
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (granulated sugar is an acceptable substitute)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (my addition, which I think sings beautifully with the berries)
1 1/2 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Heat skillet over low heat and add butter, allowing it to melt. Pour melted butter into a bowl and leave it to cool slightly.
Mix cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, mix milk, eggs, and cooled butter. Add to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Don’t worry about lumps and overmix the batter. Stir in the blueberries.
Heat the skillet over medium heat. Pour the batter into a circle, no more than 3 inches in diameter. Allow the pancake to get dry and bubbly on the top, about three to four minutes. Flip onto second side and cook until golden brown. Keep pancakes warm in oven while you cook the rest of the batter.
Serve with good-quality maple syrup. Makes four servings.
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