by Lindsey Schulenburg
When my sisters and I were growing up, my grandma would have us over for sleepovers and make Swedish pancakes for breakfast. She said when we were old enough to learn, she’d teach us how to make them. I was super excited when it was finally my turn since I’m the youngest and she had already taught my older sisters!
I helped her get the ingredients and mix the batter. I remember her talking about her technique of knowing when to flip the pancake by lifting the side with a spatula to see if it’s done. The first one's always bad and there are always mess-ups, which I loved because it takes an hour to make a batch and that tied me over until we all sat down for breakfast. Sometimes I would ask my Grandma to mess up one so I could eat it. Even though a batch of pancakes takes a long time to make, the cooking time was my favorite. During that time we would just talk and I loved being next to her. I don’t think I really helped much, but something stuck with me!
As we got older, we made pancakes every year on Christmas morning and still do. My grandma used to come to Christmas morning with us and she was so happy that we were still making pancakes. We would sprinkle them with powdered sugar and sometimes lingonberries, but those aren’t my favorite. I like strawberries and powdered sugar and sometimes we would get Nutella and strawberries and bananas, which is more French but still delicious.
My grandma’s parents immigrated from Sweden. I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago that has a large Swedish community. My mom is 100% Swedish and my dad is 75% Swedish, so all of my grandparents, except for my grandpa on my dad's side, are very Swedish. So it's fun because they all love Swedish pancakes and appreciate that my generation is into them too!
One of my second cousins lives in the DC area and sometimes when we see each other, we’ll have Swedish pancakes. It’s a special thing that connects us and brings back memories of home.
Growing up in Wheaton, I was a part of the Swedish American Children's Choir and every year we had a pancake breakfast. I think it was probably a fundraiser for the choir. The older ladies would make Swedish pancakes and it was so fun. I still remember the smell of the pancakes cooking. There were so many pans going and everywhere smelled like burnt butter and frying dough. It was just so good.
Every winter our town would celebrate Santa Lucia Day and there are two big performances for the children’s choir. We would dress up in white gowns and wear candle crowns. My oldest sister's name is Kirsten and she would look just like the American Girl Doll! Then every summer, we would celebrate Midsommer which was a big festival in one of the towns near us. They would have a big maypole and we would dance around it. I remember how everyone knew the dances. I don't know how the people who weren't in the choir knew the dances, but they did. It was fun. I didn't know how special that was until looking back on it now. I just thought everybody knew about Sweden and Swedish traditions.
This summer I’m going to Sweden and the idea of a “Swedish Summer” is really exciting to me. Swedish people love being outside which I do too, so I'm excited to see the spirit and be out in nature. I’m going with my family, and I’m excited to experience everything with them!
My grandma has had Alzheimer's for like 10 years now, so it's sad because I haven't really talked to her in so long, like had a real conversation with her, but I was really close with her when I was younger. Having her recipe is so special because even though she's still alive, it's different now with her condition. But I’m right back with her in her home when I make pancakes.
She also inspired me to stick with playing the piano. She played very well and my mom had all three of us girls take lessons. I didn’t like practicing but one time my grandma heard me playing and she said I was really good. I think just having her say that was encouraging. She took me to her piano teacher, and I started taking lessons and have kept it up. Playing piano is another connection point with her and something that I'll keep with me, too.
Grandma Phyllis’ Swedish Pancakes
Making an entire batch takes around an hour. I usually double the recipe for Christmas and I'll get my other pans out and have multiple going at once if I’m making them for a crowd. When I'm frying them, I usually butter the pan every other one, that's just a good butter ratio. Remember the first one or two will be mess-ups until you get the batter amount and temperature right. Als0, they're best the day that you make them. If I'm having people over, I'll make sure to make them right before they come and keep them warm in the oven.
1 ½ cups + 2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 cups of milk
¼ cup melted butter
Lemon + sugar
Strawberries & bananas
Put the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk into a blender and blend well. Melt the butter and add to the blender. Heat pan and fry on both sides until nicely brown. (butter pan every other pancake) Place on a very hot platter (a parchment-lined sheet pan in the oven to keep warm) and serve immediately with lingonberries. This is how I do them.
Lindsey Schulenburg is an Alexandria, VA based event planner. She is also the publisher and editor of the zine "Union Avenue". You can follow her DC adventures at @UnionAvenue