The first hurdle Albala must overcome in this comprehensive history of the pancake is differentiating the pancake from similar dishes. Does the pancake include the doughnut, the popover, the funnel cake, the crêpe, the Mexican tortilla, Ethiopian injera, Russian blini, and the ubiquitous waffle? Albala makes thoughtful distinctions, allowing some within the definition and excluding others. He then proceeds to trace the development of the pancake from the earliest recorded sources through modern times. He notes pancakes’ key role in many people’s earliest childhood-breakfast memories. Albala’s inquiries into the evolving image of Aunt Jemima as a trademark for pancake mixes have much to say about America’s enduring and evolving race stereotypes. He presents recipes for all sorts of pancakes, from Japanese okonomiyaki to elegant crêpes suzette. Albala’s bibliography lists much more than books; he inventories commercial Web sites and even includes some music videos. --Mark Knoblauch
"The Edible series contains some of the most delicious nuggets of food and drink history ever. Every volume is such a fascinating and succinct read that I had to devour each in just a single sitting. . . . food writing at its best!"
(Ken Hom, chef and author 2008-07-14)
"Books in Reaktion's Edible series are paragons of their type; concise and flavorful, jammed with interesting facts, period photos and just a handful of recipes, in case you want to 'do it yourself.' I recommend these books to foodies and academics alike."
(Robert Sietsema, restaurant critic for the Village Voice)
“The books in the Edible series combine straightforward historical data with affectionate ruminations on how the food shows up in culture: movies, music, TV shows, billboards, slogans.”—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
"Ken Albala has pancake credentials. He writes that during half a decade of graduate schoool, he made a pancake every morning, without exception. In any case, he clearly enjoys tracing the dish's global travels, from the hot stones that might have held the 'ur-pancake' of our Neolithic ancestors through such aspects of pancake history as Shrove Tuesday celebrations, mining and lumberjack camps, and kitschy American pancake houses, never losing track of the pleasures of the flat."--Nina C. Ayoub, The Chronicle Review
(The Chronicle Review
"The book is a lark, because Albala has fun taking pancakes very seriously, opening with a persnickety intro disqualifying all sorts of flattish rounds from pancake-hood. He offers exacting instructions about pancake preparation, and holds forth on crepes, latkes, Ethiopian injera, Mediterranean socca, Thai puk moh and North American pancakes in diner, IHOP, frozen, mix, and home-made form."
(Laura Penny Globe and Mail
“Albala perfectly marries [his] occupational penchant for facts with an innate literary style. His personal musings on the definition of the pancake often mirror a one-man, Socratic approach to problem-solving. Though the questions are posed internally, Albala is able to intelligently convey the results of his reflections to his audience, and the reader instantly becomes a willing party to the author's pursuit of the elusive pancake. . . . Albala's authorial voice and style is refreshingly consistent with his batter-born object of desire--light, sweet and immensely satisfying."