Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.
– Edith Wharton

Ever since I started teaching (way back in August of 2008), I’ve generally had the early bird shift. My first ever Reading and Composition class was at 8 a.m.; I taught that section for one whole academic year. Then, my second teaching gig in the academic world—teaching Russian I and II–was at 9 a.m. (and again for the whole year). Following those crazy years, there were two joyous moments of respite in my life: a semester in which I taught an afternoon class and, best of all, one teaching-free semester. These were the moments when you could say that life really began to change for me. I would wake up and slowly enjoy my coffee. Some days I would wake up and make 2 or 3 pancakes, saving the remaining batter for the next day. In general, I felt calmer and, if I were to wake up early, I would bask in the the quiet of the morning and marvel at the possibilities for my day. It was such a contrast to everything I had known. My whole rhythm of life changed.

You see, the mornings when I taught would pass in a blur of activity: I would wake up and move quickly from the bedroom to the shower to the kitchen to the closet and back to the kitchen….I would make my coffee in a to-go cup (moments of leisurely sipping cannot be a part of this kind of lifestyle) and quickly eat a bowl of cereal with a banana. Or sometimes even less, depending on what I had in my cabinets. After gulping down the last drops of cereal, my main objective would be to grab my coffee cup and run so as not to miss the bus. Some mornings I would even have to run with my coffee cup in hand and my heels click-clacking on the sidewalk. I even got on the bus once to the clapping of the other passengers (that may seem crazy, but be honest with yourselves; it’s not every morning you see a person do a mad sprint in heels with coffee in hand).

And, lo and behold, here I am again in the midst of this lifestyle. But these days, there’s barely enough time for cereal. I’ve even had to skip the coffee a few times so as to ensure a timely arrival on campus. This past Tuesday my class was being observed by my supervisor, which meant that, on that morning in particular, I could take no chances. I had to abandon my morning “fix” and go into the classroom on adrenaline alone (sometimes a force greater than caffeine; the observation went well). Interestingly enough, it’s not even that I’m sleeping in; the real difficulty is that the bus services have been drastically cut in the past 3 years. A bus that used to run every 10 minutes now runs every 20-30. It’s as if the whole game has changed; on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, habit isn’t even a possibility. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are a little easier–at least I can drink my coffee and eat something that isn’t cereal. But pancakes, pancakes have again become a rare treat, rather than the breakfast norm (2010 will go down in history as my great love affair with pancakes).

 The weekend is when I can splurge–in terms of both cooking and savoring. And pancakes often make their way onto the morning menu. After a week of cold cereal, there’s something so refreshing about measuring out the flour, stirring the batter until it’s just moistened (and generally still lumpy) and then watching each cake fry to golden-brown perfection. There is comfort in this act; it’s like you’re throwing off the chains of the workweek and settling into the relaxing promise of the weekend. At this point in my life, I both know and love many pancake recipes (some of which have been featured on this blog), but, after I bought The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook, a certain recipe caught my eye for yet another take on banana-oat pancakes: Banana-Oatmeal Hotcakes with Spiced Maple Syrup. Both sweet and spicy, they’re the kind of thing you want to smell in the morning when you get out of bed–cinnamon, cloves, gently simmering maple syrup, frying bits of bananas. And then you want to eat them, bite by bite, ever so slowly…just because you can.

Banana-Oatmeal Hotcakes with Spiced Maple Syrup

slightly adapted from The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook (I substituted buttermilk for 1% milk, coconut oil for canola oil and whole milk yogurt for nonfat yogurt; in short, I added a few calories and grams of fat to the recipe. Such is the privilege of youth)

Yields enough breakfast joy for 6

For the syrup: 

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves

For the pancakes:

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup yogurt
1 banana, peeled and mashed, plus one banana for topping
1 egg, lightly beaten

-Combine the maple syrup, cinnamon stick and cloves in a small saucepan.
Place over  medium heat and bring to a boil.
-Let the maple syrup simmer for about a minute and then remove from heat.
-Let steep for about 15 minutes and then remove the cinnamon stick and cloves.
-Then, combine the oats and water in a large microwavable bowl.
-Place the oats in the microwave and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the oats are tender and the water has been fully absorbed.
-Stir in the brown sugar and coconut oil and then set aside to cool slightly.
-In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon.
-Mix the buttermilk, yogurt and mashed banana in with the oats and stir until well blended.
-Beat in the egg.
-Add the flour mixture to the oat mixture and stir until moistened (don’t overwork the flour!).
-Place a nonstick frying pan over medium heat.
-Once a drop of water sizzles when it hits the pan, add a small amount of coconut oil.
-Then, start spooning the pancake batter into the pan.
-Cook until the pancake’s top is covered with bubbles and the edges are lightly browned.
-Flip and cook until the bottom is similarly browned.
-Carry your breakfast treasure to the table, top with the spiced syrup and banana slices and start your (weekend) morning off right!

One thought on “Goin Bananas, Part III: Morning Madness and The Joy of Hotcakes

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