John Locke’s Personal Pancake Recipe: “This Is the Right Way” to Make the Classic Breakfast Treat

No stu­dent of West­ern polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy can ignore John Locke, whose work defined the con­cepts of gov­er­nance we now know as lib­er­al­ism. By the same token, no stu­dent of West­ern cui­sine can ignore pan­cakes, a canon­i­cal ele­ment of what we now know as break­fast. The old­est pan­cake recipe we’ve fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture dates to 1585. Ernest Hem­ing­way had his own pre­ferred pan­cake-mak­ing method; so do Simon and Gar­funkel, though theirs are of the pota­to vari­ety.

Locke, as you might imag­ine, opt­ed for a more tra­di­tion­al­ly Eng­lish recipe. Three cen­turies on, how well his vision of lib­er­al­ism has held up remains a mat­ter of active debate. As for his pan­cakes, Maris­sa Nicosia at Cook­ing in the Archives put them to the test just last year. “When David Armitage post­ed this recipe for pan­cakes in the Bodleian col­lec­tion on Twit­ter, I knew that I want­ed to try it,” Nicosia writes. Her tran­scrip­tion is as fol­lows:

Take sweet cream 3/4 + pint. Flower a
quar­ter of a pound. Eggs four 7 leave out two 4 of
the whites. Beat the Eggs very well. Then put in
the flower, beat it a quar­ter of an how­er. Then
put in six spoon­fulls of the Cream, beat it a litle
Take new sweet but­ter half a pound. Melt it to oyle, &
take off the skum, pow­er in all the clear by degrees
beat­ing it all the time. Then put in the rest of
your cream. beat it well. Half a grat­ed nut­meg
& litle orange­flower water. Frie it with­out but­ter.
This is the right way

“From the start, I was intrigued by the cross-outs and oth­er notes in the recipe. It appears that it was first draft­ed (or pre­pared) using sig­nif­i­cant­ly few­er eggs.” As metic­u­lous in his cook­ing as in his phi­los­o­phy, Locke clear­ly paid close atten­tion to “the details of sep­a­rat­ing and whisk­ing eggs as well as adding just the right amount of orange blos­som water (‘litle’) and nut­meg (‘Half a grat­ed nut­meg’) — an excep­tion­al, expen­sive amount.”

Draw­ing on her sig­nif­i­cant expe­ri­ence with ear­ly mod­ern pan­cakes, Nicosia describes Lock­e’s ver­sion as “a bit fluffi­er and fat­ti­er than a clas­sic French crêpe,” though with “far less rise than my favorite Amer­i­can break­fast ver­sion”; her hus­band places them “some­where between a clas­sic Eng­lish pan­cake and a Scotch pan­cake.” Per­haps that some­what norther­ly taste and tex­ture stands to rea­son, in light of the con­sid­er­able influ­ence Lock­e’s non-pan­cake-relat­ed work would lat­er have on the Scot­tish Enlight­en­ment.

The final line of Lock­e’s recipe, “This is the right way,” may sound a bit stern in con­text today. But whether you work straight from his orig­i­nal or from the updat­ed ver­sion Nicosia pro­vides in her post, you should end up with “pan­cakes made for a deca­dent break­fast.” Lock­e’s inclu­sion of an extrav­a­gant amount of nut­meg and splash of orange-blos­som water “ele­vates this spe­cif­ic pan­cake recipe to a spe­cial treat.” Nicosia includes a pic­ture of her own hon­ey-driz­zled Lock­ean break­fast with the a copy of Two Trea­tis­es of Gov­ern­ment and a cup of cof­fee — the lat­ter being an espe­cial­ly ide­al accom­pa­ni­ment to pan­cakes, and one that also comes thor­ough­ly philoso­pher-endorsed.

via Rare Cook­ing

Relat­ed con­tent:

Intro­duc­tion to Polit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy: A Free Online Course from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Hobbes, Locke & Rousseau: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Their Polit­i­cal The­o­ries

The Polit­i­cal Thought of Con­fu­cius, Pla­to, John Locke & Adam Smith Intro­duced in Ani­ma­tions Nar­rat­ed by Aidan Turn­er

What Makes Us Human?: Chom­sky, Locke & Marx Intro­duced by New Ani­mat­ed Videos from the BBC

A 1585 Recipe for Mak­ing Pan­cakes: Make It Your Sat­ur­day Morn­ing Break­fast

Tast­ing His­to­ry: A Hit YouTube Series Shows How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, and Oth­er Places & Peri­ods

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Susan says:

    He lost me at ” beat for quar­ter of an hour”. Cooks in those days must have had very strong arms.

  • Laurie says:

    I’ve been read­ing an Eng­lish recipe book cir­ca 1700. It con­tains cook­ing recipes for smoked ham, pre­served fruit and baked cus­tards but also home reme­dies for bruis­es, coughs, con­sump­tion and plague. My favorite nota­tion comes at the end of the home reme­dies. Much like Lock­e’s nota­tion: “This is the best way” the author writes: “Pro­ba­tum est.”

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