Making food wasn’t always a conscious pleasure for me, but as my mother recently reminded me, “You’ve loved cooking since you knew what it was.” And she’s right. Going out to eat as a family was not a regular tradition in my family. We cycled endlessly through the 10 easy meals my parents figured out my brothers and I would all reliably eat. These meals, and the education we received, were built on the provision of a choiceless structure. This meant less complaining, but ultimately increased the meaning of the choices we had to make at restaurants when we occasionally went out as a family.

 

Would it be the mac and cheese? The pizza? The chicken

Tony Renzema's Food Story

Family Pancakes (and a Spoon of Sugar)

The Renzema Family's Pancake Recipe

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup milk

Butter and maple syrup for serving

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar into a bowl.

  2. Separate 2 eggs, add yolks to ¼ c melted butter and whip the whites.

  3. Add 1 c milk to eggs and butter and mix well, then add to the dry ingredients bowl. 

  4. Mix until the liquid is absorbed, then add milk slowly until a thick creamy batter forms.

  5. Add fluffy egg whites to the batter and fold it together. 

  6. Portion ½ c scoops of batter into the pan, serve with butter and maple syrup.

caesar salad? The grilled cheese? Can we have dessert? Which one? These questions and uncertainty meant that over time, menu decisions meant less about trying new things and more about fulfilling a craving for something our parents didn’t cook. In that sense, not all restaurants were treats. Occasionally my dad would take us somewhere new, and we would revert to ordering something on the menu we were familiar with, like chicken strips and butter noodles. It took years to grow out of the comfort of expectations and into the excitement of an open mind. My mother taught me how to make pasta. My grandmother taught me how to make chocolate chip cookies. My dad made pancakes.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to feel addicted to sugar and sometimes hate myself for eating it or losing track of how much I’ve eaten in a day. In a study of pig brains and their relationship to a sugary beverage, researchers discuss findings that suggest sugar intake, either binged or sustained, reduces the threshold of tolerance to harder drugs and advertently promotes a general susceptibility to addiction.

 

While I have yet to develop any (other) serious addictions, this is interesting in relation to my story because the study’s findings correlate with my observations of myself and my body. For pancakes, a food that only really perpetuates sugar habits, the secret ingredient that keeps me in particular from giving them up is nostalgia. A dose of nostalgia, in moderation, is a beautiful reminder of the power of food and the reasons why I love cooking.