American colonists called them hoe cakes or johnnycakes, and they were heavier than our modern day sandwiches, usually made with cornmeal or buckwheat, molasses and milk. There doesn’t appear to be any Johnny, but the title may have evolved from the term”travel cakes” since they traveled well. (Although pulling out some pancakes from a hot, smelly saddlebag is not the most appetizing of pictures.)
Thomas Jefferson, on one of his frequent travels to Paris, brought back a similar recipe called crepes, which was a thinner form of our griddle cakes, with no leavening, made with wheat bread and served with a sweet syrup. They had been gobbled up at state dinners, and once again that industrious President introduced a fresh and delicious French dish to the colonists.
Consider that they were simple to make, eaten by hand, and the pioneers could cook them on a hot stone around the campfire after a long hard day of traveling. Native Americans probably instructed the early colonists how to grind corn, combine it into a paste, add liquid, some fat and in only a couple minutes, they’d hoe cakes, hot and filling. Covered with honey, they were a delicacy. Without the need for a bread oven, they could be ready quickly, and if the cook had a cast iron skillet, then it could be coated in bacon fat and the batter fried. Those who were fortunate enough to have butter slathered it on and dug in, napkins be damned. (A top sleeve worked just fine.)
Early American hoe cakes definitely made way for hush puppies, cornbread and grits, also made with cornmeal, but that is a whole different story. By the way, hoe cakes got its name from field workers using a plain hoe held over a fire, and dropping cakes onto the hoe to cook.
Pancakes are enjoyed all over the world in a large number of variations, served plain, topped with sauces and spices, wrapped around fillings and eaten for lunch and dinner. The British-named flapjacks are different from our sandwiches and made with sugar, butter, and oats, usually served with honey.
Recorded history cites pancake-like foods in the first century (possibly sooner ), and historians who study Neolitic man speculate that flat cakes made with anything handy were probably cooked on hot stones, before cooking pots and utensils were invented, between 10,000 and 3,000 B.C.. Since ancient cave dwellers usually kept a fire burning to scare away predators, how simple to just whip up a batch of cave man pancakes while they were at it?
Many nations have their own version. Listed below are only a few.
These variations are generally sweet:
Pfannkuchen (German or Dutch )
Apam Balik (Malaysia)
Pannekoeke (South Africa)
These versions are usually served with vegetables or meats:
So don’t limit yourself to just our favorite pancakes. Experiment and revel in the many versions of other nations and discover delicious new variations at any meal. Pancakes. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.