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O.Henry Ending

Waffling Over Keto

Too much of everything might result in something edible

By David Claude Bailey

When my Pennsylvania Dutch mother went into the kitchen, forget about “a little of this and a little of that.” Salt was plunked into the pot using three fingers and her thumb. When she seasoned her iconic chicken’n’dumplings with black pepper, you could smell it two rooms away. A pinch was something I got for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. And yet she was a marvelous and adventuresome cook. And I, the apple of her eye, landed not far from the tree.

After marrying my high school sweetheart at 19, I learned to cook because Anne, my bride, had an 11 o’clock class. By the time she got home, the house would be redolent with my inimitable Sicilian spaghetti sauce. (The secret was too much of everything but ground beef, which we couldn’t afford.) “Garlic is a flavoring,” she’d say, “not a vegetable.” Or, “Tabasco is not your — or my — best friend.” It was much later in life that I actually became a reliable cook.

Having lost my job in 2009, I got on as, first, a dishwasher, and then a backline chef, at Print Works Bistro. There, I learned some restraint and how to follow a recipe. Nowadays, I, in fact, do the lion’s share of cooking, with Anne, by far the superior chef, often putting me to shame. Maybe that’s because I haven’t lost my who-needs-a-recipe spirit and, like Mom, still think exact measuring is for sissies.

Carb-conscious, we go on and off the Keto diet — the one where, counterintuitively, you lose weight eating butter, heavy cream, eggs, bacon, cheese and anything else loaded with protein and saturated fat. Meanwhile, we bid adieu to our old friends, sugar, wheat flour and potatoes — which allegedly trigger weight gain and speed the onset of diabetes.

Whatever. Any diet that embraces pork rinds and favors whiskey over beer is fine with me.

Still, we missed the comforting carbs of waffles, pancakes and biscuits for breakfast. So one Sunday morning while Anne slept in, I decided to surprise her with Keto-compliant crêpes. After browsing a dozen or so gluten-free recipes online, all requiring exotic ingredients (tapioca, millet, sorghum flour, potato starch and what the hell is teff?), I started rummaging around in our pantry. Anne had bought some almond flour and coconut flour that she baked into marvelous cakes, so into a bowl went a quarter cup each. I found some brown rice flour and white rice flour, so two more quarter cups were tossed into the mix. I had no idea what xanthan gum was, but had seen it online and we had plenty, so in went several heaping tablespoons. After beating eggs and milk and butter together, I added the ersatz-flour concoction and ZAP!

The result was a thick slurry that I could have picked up with the immersion blender and carried to the compost heap. And that’s probably what I should have done. Worried that my little handheld appliance might short out or be absorbed by the blob, I poured in more milk, some cream, water. RRRrrrrr. RRRrrrrr. RRRrrrrr.

But the blob simply grew and started wiggling threateningly.

I dumped it into a bigger bowl and took a wire whip to it with the idea of beating it into submission. I doused it with more and more liquid until the blob loosened up, no longer adhering to what I was whipping it with. I extracted a hunk from the quivering mass and tossed it in the frying pan. Even after flipping it, the gelatinous glob refused to flatten. When I pressed down on it, the blob squirted a gob of creamy stuff at me.

Not yet willing to give up, I cranked up the waffle iron, thinking of it as a submission chamber. The blob hissed. It sizzled. And made fairly decent waffles! Especially when served with ice cream and chocolate syrup.

Mom would have been proud.  OH

O.Henry’s contributing editor, David Claude Bailey, is known for his kimchi milkshakes.