Coconut-black pepper-rice flour pancakes

Coconut and black pepper roti

Coconut and black pepper roti

My favorite word at the moment is “perplex.” I like the sound of it–I think it has just a few more consonants than it needs, in just the right order, to make it perplexing to pronounce. And I like the idea of it, it’s not as dire as confusion or as final as bafflement. I find it pleasant to be perplexed, to puzzle over something that I don’t quite understand. It makes me feel awake and alive, although of course sleep and dreams are perplexing as well. Unpleasant things are confusing, like calculus tests and taxes, but perplexing things can be pleasant or even beautiful, like love or a poem with many layers of meaning. Something perplexing doesn’t need to be solved or fixed, but can linger raising questions, indefinitely. I love this quote from the Hagakure, “There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things.” I love the idea that rain is perplexing, because of course it is. Water falling from the sky! The very smell is unsettling and stirring, because it signals a change. It reminds me of an interview with Tom Waits in which he said he named his album Rain Dogs because he liked to think about how perplexed dogs must be after a rainstorm, when everything smelled different to them. He imagined them saying, “Hey, who moved all the furniture.” I love the perplexing phrase, “I don’t want no woman got hair like drops a-rain.” What does it mean? I like the etymology of the word “perplex,” it means entangled, intricate, or braided. I believe that everything is interwoven, and this is both what makes the world so perplexing, and what makes it worth puzzling over. I believe this to be a beautiful summation of the complicated fact that words will never be adequate to describe our perplexities, but they’re all we have. “I am perplext, and know not what to say.” “What canst thou say, but will perplex thee more?” Indeed. And with that, I’ll wish everybody a pleasantly perplexing day, and get on with my work!

IMG_3666I found these cakes perplexing to name. They’re loosely based on Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe for rice flour dosas, but they’re almost like crepes or just pancakes. They’re sweetish, but I thought of them as part of a savory meal, and we ate them with a curry of pigeon peas and raisins in cashew sauce, which I might tell you about some day. They’re quite easy to make, light and tender, and the boys liked them, too. I actually used plain old sweetened flaked coconut, but they’d probably be better with unsweetened.

Here’s Skip James with Look Down the Road.

1 cup flour
1 cup rice flour
1 t baking powder
3 T cream cheese or yogurt
3 T flaked coconut
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
lots of black pepper
2 (+/-) cups warm water

In a food processor combine all of the ingredients and process until completely smooth and silky.

Warm a griddle or skillet and put a tiny bit of olive oil in. Put about 1/2 cup of batter on the griddle, and with the back of a spoon or spatula, spread it, using an outwardly spiraling motion, until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Let it cook until it’s bubbly on top and brown on the bottom, and then flip and cook till the other side is brown. Keep in a warm oven until you’re ready to eat.

Olive oil to fry.


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