Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When Life Gives You Chickpea Bugs, Make German Apple Pancakes

Mr. Cardigan is a rather healthy eater. When I spoke with him earlier today, he expressed a longing for vegetable soup for dinner--homemade, of course. I offered to prepare a family favorite: a spicy chickpea and vegetable soup that features the flavors of curry and turmeric. This being heartily approved by nearly all (Kitten's not that fond of beans) I popped the dried chickpeas into the crockpot.

One of the things I like about making this soup is that the chickpeas cook for several hours, bubbling along merrily; when they've reached their soft and fully-cooked stage, the other vegetables which include diced tomatoes, corn, diced potatoes, and so forth are added along with the delicious spices. At this point the soup needs only another hour or so to be ready (provided the crockpot is on its highest setting); the warm rich aroma fills the whole house.

This afternoon, I was on the phone with one of my dear little sisters, and I went to the crockpot to check on the chickpeas. They would be just about perfect, now, I thought, and it would be time to put the other ingredients in with them.

But as I leaned over the pot I got an unpleasant surprise: there were tiny brown bugs floating above the chickpeas.

"I've got to go," I told my sister; then I called my husband and told him what had happened.

He, good man that he is, immediately offered to bring home dinner. The hour was too far advanced for me to start cooking something else; I hadn't defrosted any meat, and what else could I do?

I told him I'd think of something. Fast food is sometimes necessary during a grocery shopping expedition on the weekend, but I hate to give into its flashy allure during the week. Besides, it's Lent; surely I had something to work with.

I looked around the kitchen, weighing possibilities. Spinach quiche? Pasta? They didn't sound all that appealing, not when I'd been expecting spicy chickpea and vegetable soup.

Then my eyes lighted on the bowl of Gala apples on the table. Just a week or so ago I'd been talking to my mother on the telephone; she was busily making German apple pancakes while we spoke. "I've got a plan!" I told the girls, and we all got to work.

Kitten started washing the apples and handing them to me to slice; she had helpful comments for me like, "Don't forget to cut off that stem," and "Don't cut your fingers, Mom." Meanwhile Hatchick vacuumed the living room, and then she and Bookgirl went and tidied the bathroom counter in their bathroom while Kitten and I finished up with the apples and hunted for the pans we'd be using: two round cake pans, and two square glass ones.

Soon I was assembling the batter while Kitten mixed cinnamon and sugar and watched me melt butter in the now-hot pans. We popped in the apple slices, poured the batter on top, and lavishly coated the pancakes with cinnamon sugar.

Back into the oven they went, while the girls emptied the dishwasher. I told them I'd be right back to wash the preparation dishes, but when I came back Kitten had already done them and put them in the dishwasher.

I set out some spinach to defrost; Kitten's suggestion of creamed spinach somehow sounded like a great accompaniment. Once the pancakes were out of the oven I started on that, while Kitten spread some frozen hashbrowns we happened to have on hand into a large flat baking pan.

It's all going to be ready quite soon, and it smells heavenly in here: not the rich spices I'd planned on, but the sweet tangy smell of cinnamon and apples with the crisp potatoes and earthy spinach adding their notes to the aroma.

I'd planned on an easy soup for dinner, but I got something much better: time spent in the kitchen with my lovely daughters.

(Oh, and the pancakes, of course.)

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