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The glamour of having crêpes on hand
An essay and a recipe for crêpes. Words and photographs by Marlowe Granados.
Good morning and welcome to Cooking From Life: a Vittles mini-season on cooking and eating at home everyday.
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Cooking from Life is a Vittles mini-season of essays that defy idealised versions of cooking – a window into how food and kitchen-life works for different people in different parts of the world. Cooking as refusals, heritage, messiness, routine.
Our eighth writer for Cooking from Life is Marlowe Granados.
The glamour of having crêpes on hand
An essay and recipe for crêpes. Words and photographs by Marlowe Granados.
I am no expert in the kitchen. I’ve lived one of those strange lives where I know I eat, but I cannot recall what I regularly subsist on. My days spent writing at home are usually made up of crunching on raw vegetables and pacing back and forth between sentences. Much to people’s horror, I water down the same cup of coffee over several hours, heating and reheating the kettle. Within my friendship circle, the lore is: if you ever open my freezer, you’ll find cashmere sweaters.
Recently, though, I’ve made a concerted effort to rev up interest in the kitchen. This urge has developed since entering my thirties, interrogating all the bad habits I made in the previous decade, and correcting course. Besides, along with deep cleaning, cooking has become a productive form of procrastination – a worthy excuse to be away from my desk. Over the last year, and with much experimentation, I’ve learned that my proclivities tend towards making pantry items – things I can store and use later; things that elevate what I’m eating simply because they’re home-made. I have attempted baking my own crackers, blending perfectly creamy hummus, pickling red onions, and mortar-and-pestling pesto made from my thirsty basil plant. All noble attempts, to be sure (I once used a Stoli bottle as a rolling pin), but I’ve made nothing like an entire meal. Having lived alone for several years, the ceremony of cooking a meal for myself and sitting down to eat it seems strange. I’m always on my way out the door, or in-between engagements, and having a nibble or taking a sip in spare moments. In my house, food is made to eat standing up.
When I cook, what interests me is perfecting recipes to suit my taste. My senses have always been easily piqued, and I prefer things seasoned but with their natural flavours still peeking through. I write down the measure of ingredients each time, noting what is different in each batch – I have seen people do this with sourdough (which is far more complicated, and I dare not compare). I take the recipes from whatever arrives first on Google, which makes me feel less bad about my prodigious adjustments. I approach the process as scientific, which feels more fun as an aim than nourishing myself, and one of the more controversial things to come out of this is my recipe for crêpes.
There have been moments in my life where I’ve tasted something so delicious that I immediately regret it. Not in some caloric way, but rather because of the dish’s singularity. Forever after the first bite I am saddled with the knowledge that, if I may crave that one thing in the future, it would be too difficult to recreate its initial goodness. There was that deep orange cantaloupe in Nice, or the millefeuille at a beach gala in Miami. I guess I have platonic ideals for food, which feels romantic and tragic all at once. My platonic-ideal crêpe is the one I had in Paris at the age of sixteen. My mother was alive then, and she’d get up early to walk around the tourist trap that is the 7th arrondissement. She’d wake me up in our hotel room with a plain crêpe wrapped in aluminium foil. There was nothing to it – it was simple, warm, and filling.
It would be foolish of me to think I could attempt something remotely close to my platonic ideal, or even an authentic French crêpe (now that I think of it, maybe an ideal of mine would be something I had no hand in making). Instead, the combination of ingredients I land on creates something between a crêpe and a pancake (sacrilege, I know). As per my love of making things for later use, I freeze each crêpe with a layer of cling wrap in between, so I may easily peel one off and reheat it whenever I want. I think one of the most glamorous things is to have crêpes on hand.
There have been a few trials and errors. All the recipes called for too much egg, the colour of the batter ending up so yellow that the results tasted more like an omelette with a hint of flour. As one of my French friends pointed out, ‘But crêpes are eggy.’ As a woman who eats standing up, two or more eggs in a crêpe just feels so heavy – meaty even. Any flourish is duly ruled out – vanilla extract? A splash of rum? There’s no need for it. Maybe my recipe – still thin but served with sugar and lemon – more closely resembles the English pancake. (A fond memory of my time living in London is going to the local pub on Shrove Tuesdays and elderly women from the neighbourhood cooking stacks of these, served on mismatched China.) To maintain my preferred consistency – somewhere between French crêpe and English pancake – the recipe must be pared back, but also create an easily managed batter. Crêpes require such attention when on the pan.
There are several things you can pair your crêpes with, but as a childhood favourite mine will always be strawberries, bananas, and Nutella. Of course, for breakfast, sometimes I do an avocado and an egg, but for the purposes of this recipe I decided on the former because it photographs much better than I could plate a savoury version. Once finished, do like I do: stand at your kitchen counter to eat.
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
125ml single cream
1 medium or large egg
1 tablespoon butter
Handful of strawberries
Nutella, to taste
Mix together the flour, sugar and salt. (I use a magic bullet to mix this batter which is strange, but as previously noted I am not a kitchen maven.)
Add the water and cream and mix until just about smooth. Don’t mix more than is necessary, or the crêpes will become rubbery.
Add the egg, scrape the sides of the mixer or the bowl to catch any dry spots of flour, and whisk or mix briefly.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add a little of the butter and allow to melt and sizzle, brushing it across the surface of the pan.
Once the pan is hot, pour in enough of the batter to coat the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. When pouring in the batter, lift the pan off the stove and swirl the batter around to make the perfect circle.
Cook for around a minute or so, then flip and cook for a further minute. The crêpe is done when it’s set and mottled with brown spots. (The first crêpe is always garbage because it soaks up the butter and falls apart, but I always put it aside and snack on it as I go.) Repeat with the remaining butter and batter, cooking the crêpes one by one.
Cut up the strawberries and bananas and throw them on top of crêpes! Add as much Nutella as you desire – be liberal about it. I did not do that for the photos because it’s not very pretty but just know I eat my crêpes with plenty of it.
Marlowe Granados is a writer and filmmaker. She is the author of Happy Hour, a novel the New York Times called “confident, charismatic and alive to the pleasure of observation.” Her recently launched Substack features her advice column, essays, and more.
Vittles is edited by Rebecca May Johnson, Sharanya Deepak and Jonathan Nunn, and proofed and subedited by Sophie Whitehead. The recipes in Cooking from Life have been tested by Ruby Tandoh.