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Family Foods

Family Foods

Swedish Pancakes  

By Victoria Ico 

There are times when I’ve looked into a fridge or pantry and seen that oh, I haven’t visited the grocery store in a while. Halves of vegetables, handfuls of fruit, and hardly any juice left to drink. My stomach led me here in search of something to eat, but what could feed it out of these options? Susan Gardner, professor of English at Walla Walla University, has fed her family many times with an easy recipe that uses just a few ingredients. Her grandmother’s Swedish pancakes have filled many tummies since the Great Depression, and she hopes it will find its way into your tummy as well. 

When the Great Depression started in the late 1920s, Gardner’s grandmother was establishing her family in the Portland, Oregon area. She was a German woman who married a Swedish man, whom Gardner assumed her grandmother got the recipe from. [1] The Great Depression, noted as the worst economic period in American history, was caused by the stock market crash of 1929. The crash snowballed with other concerning money factors to ultimately leave 24.9 % of Americans unemployed. [2] 

Like many other families during the Great Depression, Gardner’s grandmother and her family were poor and survived off of rations that were cheap to buy. Gardner recalled her grandmother saying that there were three ingredients that you could count on having at that time: eggs, flour, and milk. [3] Coincidentally, these three were the key ingredients for Swedish pancakes. Milk and eggs came from animals the families would own and milk can be turned into butter, which is the fourth key ingredient for the pancakes. A bit of sugar and a pinch of salt would round out this cheap yet filling meal. Gardner said that her favorite toppings are fruits like blackberries, which could be picked off bushes for free in the Great Depression era as well. [4] 

 About two million men and women were estimated to have left home in search for work. [5] These men would leave their families at home to wander from city to city looking for whatever odd jobs were available. Gardner grew up hearing that her grandmother used this easy recipe to feed the wandering men. When they came knocking on the family door, she said, “My grandma could not turn away a hungry person, so she would whip these up!” Many plates of Swedish pancakes were served to these men, which was only possible because of how cheap and easily available the ingredients were. [6] 

Over the years more plates of Swedish pancakes were made and by the time Gardner herself was eating them as a little girl, they were more of a family treat. She said her grandmother and mother were such good cooks, she didn’t need to learn how to cook while growing up. Finally when she was older, Gardner went to her grandmother and asked how to make this family favorite. She recalls that first cooking lesson being so fast because her grandmother, who knew the recipe by heart, didn’t bother to explain the measurements of all the ingredients, saying to just add a little of this and a little of that. Things got easier when Gardner found the actual written recipe and could follow at her own pace. Now Gardner carries on the tradition of cooking this recipe for others in her family, just as her grandmother did years ago. She said, “It’s fun cooking for other people.” [7] 

Swedish Pancakes 

Start to finish: 1 hour 

Servings: 5-6  

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup flour 

1 tablespoon sugar 

See Also

1/2 teaspoon salt 

3 eggs 

1 1/4 cup milk 

1 tablespoon salted butter 

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. 
  1. In a medium bowl, crack in the three eggs and whisk until fluffy. Then slowly stir in the milk. Once all the milk is added, add in the flour mixture. Whisk until a thin batter is formed. 
  1. Heat an 8 inch nonstick skillet on medium heat. Melt some of the butter. 
  1. Pour in enough batter to coat the pan and make a thin pancake, like a thick crepe. 
  1. Fry for about 1-2 minutes and then flip. Fry until it is light brown on both sides. 
  1. Repeat until all the batter is cooked, adding more butter to the pan every 2-3 pancakes. 
  1. To serve, fold into halves or thirds, top with fruit of your choice and maple syrup. 
  1. Eat and enjoy! 

References 

  1. Interview with Susan Gardner, 4/12/2022. 
  1. Field, A. (2020). The main causes of the Great Depression, and how the road to recovery transformed the US economy. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/what-caused-the-great-depression?international=true&r=US&IR=T 
  1. Interview with Susan Gardner, 4/12/2022. 
  1. Ibid
  1. Konkel, L. (2018, August 31). Life for the average family during the Great Depression. HISTORY. https://bit.ly/3txOfFR  
  1. Interview with Susan Gardner, 4/12/2022. 
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
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