We’re off to Rome in less than two weeks.
If you’ve any Roman restaurant suggestions or any general Rome or Italy suggestions – or cautions – let us know!

This got me thinking about some quintessential USA food. Comfort food. Pancakes.

This website almost had this name: pancakemixisanabomination.
It gets to the heart of a lot of issues. Plus I like the word abomination.
Perversely, the word historically has been applied to now-minor or no-longer-punishable infractions – at least in this country – and pancake mix angst nicely fits into the minor category.
Have you ever made pancakes? (Or flapjacks, or hotcakes.) Crazily easy and dirt cheap. Some notes on making them below, but really, they’re nothing.

But pancake MIX?

Why does this get to the heart of a lot of issues? Because there are some fun philosophical questions around how to choose between two options. In one sense, in deciding on a course of action, one has a spreadsheet with one side the pros and the other side the cons. It’s the values and possibilities that you place on those pros and cons that tip the scale and often it’s all so complicated and rife with contingencies.

But pancake MIX?
This is pretty straightforward. Because in this case, all you need is this deep analysis: cheaper and better ALWAYS wins the day.

What is pancake mix? It’s flour and leavening (baking powder), some sugar and a bit of salt. Those elements are in the manufacturer’s determined proportions. But wait – you still have to crack an egg, beat it, add milk and then add in the mix and cut some butter. And you still have to measure out the amount of mix.

The cost of the mixes range from ~ $2 to over $5 a pound.

Flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in the appropriate proportion costs ~ maybe $1 a pound. Maybe even 75c. So the mix is two to more than six times the expense if one refuses to measure out the addition of salt, sugar and baking powder.

Of course there are some mixes that already have a milk component (dry powdered milk) and somehow an egg component along with some other items on the ingredients list that are better called food-like products. So you only need to measure out this mix and add water. But do we really have to analyze this one?

So, cheaper is a given for the pancake batter you put together. But is your own “scratch” batter better? It’s true you do not need to measure out a teaspoon or two or three of baking powder and true you need not go into your own stores of salt and grab a big pinch of it and true you need not measure out a bit of sugar. But you’ll still need to measure out the mix itself and measure out the milk, etc. So, yes, you do save three measuring steps. But no savings in cleanup. And then the fact of some unpronounceable names in the ready-mix ingredients list. Will your batter taste better? Yes. It. Will. And the tiny extra satisfaction of doing it yourself.

Don’t get me started on bottled salad dressing.

Making pancakes.
For two

1 cup flour
Big pinch of salt.
Half to a full tablespoon of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup of milk
1 egg
3 tablespoon meted butter.
1 tablespoon lemon juice, maybe a bit more.

. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in one bowl.
. In another bowl beat the the egg and add the butter and milk.
. Then add lemon juice to this milk mixture. It should become noticeably thicker because of the acid in the lemon juice and it also will boost the leavening effect of the baking powder.
. Mix the thickened milk mixture into the dry ingredients gently. If it looks too impossibly thick add some more milk.
Don’t wait – make the pancakes now.
. Heat a pan and add butter to it and wait until the foaming subsides – it’s now quite hot – and spoon in the batter.
A couple of minutes and the top of the pancake will begin looking dry, flip over and cook another very short bit, and…done. The butter still in the pan may be flirting with being burnt, if so remove the pan from the flame and wipe out the butter with a paper towel and add a bit more and you’re ready for the rest of the batter.
. And sure, want to substitute all purpose flour with whole wheat flour or some buckwheat, or add some brown sugar instead of white, or add some cinnamon, or instead of milk use buttermilk (if so, you won’t need the lemon juice), instead of meted butter in your batter and on the pan use an oil (olive, vegetable). All good. Let alone banana, other fruits, and it doesn’t get more Americana than this: chocolate chips.