"Shake the hand that feeds you"-- Michael Pollan
The checklist looked something like this: find a school, sell the house, buy a house. Jump through a thousand hoops and off you go. We were racing through the necessary steps of a mid-life relocation, check, check, check. We said our long goodbyes to friends, departing from a state that we called home for 24 years, just as this wild and wonderful place was cleaning up from catastrophic flooding. We landed in a friendly new city in time for our youngest daughter Emma's first day of school.
Left to right: Saying goodbye to West Virginia at a flood relief benefit with my friend Danita Nellhaus and Charleston native Jennifer Garner. Emma's brand new school Lee Magnet High
Baton Rouge, Louisiana. You've seen this precious place making headlines of every sort. On the third day of school, Mother Nature drew back her protective wing and allowed the rain to fall for days without ever stopping. The news became a different shade of grim.
Before the storm even cast its shadow on the radar, this new girl went in search of necessities, starting with local growers. I discovered Iverstine Family Farms in one of the local magazines and started following their progress on Facebook. They were scheduled to open their sparkling butcher shop by the time LSU hosts their first kickoff, but instead of an opening day update, the Facebook post read:
“Anyone in the Central area who is working to recover and rebuild, Iverstine Farms will be serving hot meals at 18721 Magnolia Bend. Breakfast and lunch...Don’t bother your mind with what you’re going to eat while you’re cleaning up. Come out, take a load off, and hug your neighbors...”
Left to right: beneath the tarp, a cooler for Iverstine's butcher shop ready for transport. Emma Hamilton, 16, flipping pancakes in her Tiger tee. Galen Iverstine's friends make shelter during a brief period of sunshine.
The ‘Call Now’ button seemed to be in neon. I pressed it and was greeted by Galen Iverstine, the young farmer-entrepreneur on the line. “My daughter Emma and I would like to help,” I said, and he welcomed us out to make breakfast for the neighbors whose homes had been ripped apart by the flooding. Emma and I packed up the car with pancake supplies, including a jug of West Virginia maple syrup that made the move with us. We whisked, flipped, and served stacks of pancakes, witnessing sadness healed by Iverstine family hospitality. Galen crowned us honorary Tigers and in the midst of tragedy, this new town feels like home.
Nestled on a shady street that turned into a wrathful river, Galen's family's home was spared, perhaps a miracle. In between tending his hogs and herds, raising flocks and wrapping up the build-out of the new butcher shop, he and his friends rolled out their smokers and fed the community of Magnolia Bend. Banquet tables heaped with hearty plate lunches of farm-fresh chicken and salads, cold drinks and snacks to go. And every Saturday until his butcher shop opens, he is selling the bounty of his farm at Red Stick Farmer’s Market. Stop by and shake his hand.
Buttermilk Pancakes, Sunshine on a Cloudy Day
No need for a mix! Homemade pancakes are so easy and the perfect comfort food—this is my most requested recipe and a fun one for kids to master at an early age. When my daughter Emma was very small, she dragged a stool over to the stove and started pouring the batter on the griddle. “OOPS! Those are a little too close,” I warned. She knew exactly what she was doing, making a Mickey Mouse shape. I created a little song to help my girls remember the recipe: “Flour, sugar, soda, salt. Milk, egg, oil,” sung with a fun rhythm. Next they have to recall how much of each. One step at a time! I like to encourage kids to make an “X” and an “O” with syrup to help as a ‘serving size’
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk*
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Additional oil for greasing griddle
- Butter and maple syrup for serving
COMBINE the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the buttermilk, egg and oil to the dry ingredients and whisk together until smooth.
RUB a little oil all over a griddle or large frying pan using a paper towel. Heat the griddle or large frying pan over medium heat. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter onto the heated griddle or frying pan for each pancake. Flip when the pancakes begin to bubble on the top and the bottom is golden brown. Don’t rush the flipping or you’ll just end up with a big mess. Cook the second side for about 1 minute. Serve immediately.
*Some buttermilk is very thick. You may have to add a few tablespoons of regular milk if your batter is really thick. To make your own buttermilk combine 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of milk.
- To make blueberry pancakes, sprinkle a few blueberries on each pancake immediately after you have poured the batter on the griddle. Continue as above.
- To make apple cinnamon pancakes, add 1 peeled, shredded apple and ½ teaspoon cinnamon to finished batter. Cook as directed above.
Makes 12 4-inch pancakes