Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Last night I made a traditional Willi dinner.

When it is my turn to cook, which happens infrequently, I typically turn to one of the meals of my childhood - usually a meal my grandmother cooked for us on any given weekend occasion - no offense mother.

As a kid, one of the perks of staying overnight at Grandpa and Grandma Willi's house, on the weekend, which I did often, was waking up knowing that Gramma would prepare German Pancakes. I've seen recipes for German pancakes, baked concoctions that puff up in the oven, but Gramma's German pancakes were made of a light eggy batter that she fried. They were almost crepe like and crispy, golden brown.

Hot from the pan we would slather them with butter and spread on the strawberry preserves, usually homemade from Gramma's garden, and then we would roll them up, again like a crepe, and sprinkle powered sugar over the top.

Gramma would stand at the stove for a couple of hours each weekend morning, serving each one of us grandchildren an individual, piping hot serving and then she would return to the stove to make the next one with as much love as batter.

Weekend mornings at 2288 Beckley Road are some of my best childhood memories.

Some years later, I would make German pancakes for my children, hoping they too would taste the love in each bite - trying to instill a sense of tradition.

When Noelle came to live in Phoenix, one of the first things I did was start making her German pancakes on Sunday mornings. She was only a year old. By that time I also knew if I wanted to spend any time with her Aunt Christy, German pancakes were an easy lure. All I needed to do was text Christy to let her know of my plans to make German pancakes, and she would show up bright and early.

The German pancake tradition continues and I hope that one day Noelle or Christopher will ask me the recipe. My Gramma Willi lives through us in food.

Yesterday I had to go into work early (we had a 6:30 AM conference call) therefore I left early. Before leaving I texted Fettit to let him know I would stop by the market to pick up dinner, not having a clue what I was going to make.

I asked him if he had a suggestion and he said it was up to me so I went to the store and walked around aimlessly, not knowing what to make - then it hit me.

After getting the organic grapes that were on sale, and buying a bottle of tequila (with a $3 off coupon), I walked over to the meat counter and picked out some pork loin chops, then grabbed the Aunt Nellie's red cabbage and mashed potatoes.

This is the most traditional Willi meal.

Gramma never cooked pasta or chicken - ever - that I recall. Although she could throw anything at a minute's notice and have it turn out delicious. There were several signature meals, however, the most iconic meal in Margaret's house was breaded pork chops, mash potatoes, and red cabbage.

Fettit and I sat down to watch The Young and The Restless (our nightly tradition) and eat the traditional Willi meal. At the last minutes Fettit remembered we had seeded Jewish rye bread so we each grabbed a few slices and some butter.

With the first bite I was hit by a long ago memory and I told Fettit how the meal tasted like 2288 Beckley Rd - home. He didn't say a word, he just turned and gave a nod to the photograph of Gramma that sits next to my bed.

Gramma lives in each of us - even Fettit. She lives on - reincarnated through food.


Nicki said...

German pancakes are my favorite! I've tried them at a few places, and nobody can beat the Willi family recipe, I'm alway disappointed. My dad doesn't make them often, and my mom has the recipe, so I get them every now and then. Working on the recipe myself! Love and miss you...

Gpawilli said...

They ARE the best. Next time you come visit I will make em for you. Another family remember thinks she has Gramma's recipe but she doesn't.

Hope you mom has the right one!

Gramma's German pancakes were the best!