Sunday Brunch: Blueberry Oat Pancakes and “Salty” Carob Steamed or Salad Kale

by Maria Theresa Maggi on August 11, 2015

blueberry oat pancake and Kale salad

Down several blocks on Alberta Street in my new neighborhood is a rather famous Ice Cream Shop called Salt and Straw. There is almost always a line stretching down the sidewalk as people wait to get scoops of their innovative flavors that mix savory and sweet, vegetable and fruit. I’m not one of the people who stands in their line, of course, but the whole concept of combining sweet and savory always appeals to me. One of their flavors, salt with caramel ribbons, reminds me of other treats I’ve seen on the internet.

But it wasn’t Salt and Straw that made me try savory in my carob dressing. It was disorientation and laziness. One night I mistakenly added carob powder to a dish I had mixed up some miso for my anytime sauce in. Oh well, I thought, too late now. But rather than being too late, it ended up being the start of something very interesting.

I’m lucky enough here in Portland as a member of the Alberta Co-op Grocery to be able to buy South River Chickpea Miso in bulk. As a few of my readers have insisted in comments on much earlier posts, it is absolutely the best chickpea miso ever. They weren’t kidding. So now that I have this heavenly stuff in my fridge, I’m happy to find any excuse to experiment with a little dab of it here and a little dab of it there.

This past Sunday morning I knew was going to be a pancake morning. It seems that favorite quote of mine from The Brothers K, “It’s funny, Karamozov, so much grief and then pancakes afterwards,” has become a theme for me this summer. Last week a house got shot at in my new neighborhood, just a couple of blocks from where I now live. Thankfully no one was hurt, and the guns were confiscated. The shooter ran away, eluding the dozens of police on the scene searching for him. There were no sirens, no tazoring, but lots of talk and lots and lots of careful looking.

I was actually out walking a couple of blocks over with two friends from Idaho coming through town. We had stopped a couple of blocks over to visit the vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free goats (yes, you read that right, I got it off the sign on their fence) who live in a front yard complete with a goat house and a ladder they can climb to the roof and look out from.

Goat screen shot


There is a new baby goat among them, just 3 weeks old, and we were all enchanted, when we heard loud popping sounds. The husband of the couple who owns the goats said, “That wasn’t fireworks.” But his wife and the rest of us thought it surely must have been. So we walked on down the street, heading for the little garden growing from a soil reclamation project of Groundwork Portland that I have taken an interest in. I wanted to show my friends the drawing of a borage blossom I had put up on the bulletin board there, in anticipation of bringing the garden some seeds I had promised at a garden party I attended the previous week.

Borage Flower and Buds by  MTM

about borage


But when we got to the corner, it was apparent we could not get to the garden, which is just two houses down from where the shooting, not the fireworks, had resounded in the evening air.

So here I am again, eating pancakes to assuage grief, and to remember the circular nature of life, and to try and celebrate how we triumph over such sadnesses. And to keep up my strength, I always eat my morning greens, this time with a little “salty” in their usually sweet morning dressing. I did not think to stage a photograph until it was mostly all eaten, but hopefully this will tempt you enough to try it if you need a little something different for a comforting Sunday brunch.

Wherever we live, and  perhaps especially in a neighborhood like the Alberta Arts District, where some houses are worth half a million or more, and others hark back to a not-so-distant time when the area was exclusively relegated to poverty, disenfranchisement and the violence that comes with those conditions, there is just no getting away from the tragic and the beautiful being all mixed up together. Perhaps that borage flower and message I drew for the garden was really for the intense tapestry of the whole neighborhood, and for me, too. I was happy to see when I got brave enough to return to the garden that it’s still up on the bulletin board.

The day after the shots were fired, I went to the Safeway near my house to get batteries I had forgotten when Mike took me to another store. In my state of overwhelmed disorientation, I walked right past the batteries, and had to go to the customer service desk to ask where they were. The woman behind the desk must have seen how absolutely lost I was. She was going to give me directions, took one look at me, and just said, “follow me,” kindly leading me right back to where I had walked past all the batteries. Bless her heart. I had hoped to pay cash, not wanting to deal with my newly acquired debit card, and had carefully counted to make sure I had enough. Or so I thought. The store was very busy and I waited in line for a time. As my turn approached, I smiled at the woman behind me.  The cashier asked me if I had a Safeway card. Of course I don’t. The woman behind me said “I do,” and she gave her card to the cashier. “There, ” she said, “you just saved two dollars.”  A few days before as I groped my way toward finding Safeway (not yet knowing it was there), Romeo and I crossed paths with a street person who stopped to ask me what kind of dog Romeo is. I told him. He studied Romeo carefully, looked me in the eye and said, “that dog is an angel.” “Yes, he is,” I said, quite frankly, and smiled in agreement. And then he said, regarding me quite seriously, “You are an angel too. God bless you both. ”

It’s so important to acknowledge how all around me are these seeming “strangers,” in all different colors and walks of life, kindly buoying me up in my confused newness and disorientation. And as I write this, I can’t help but smile how the universe blesses me in the form of this pun: I am finding my “Safe Way” in my new neighborhood through the kindness of these strangers, and many others, too.

And then, of course, there are the goats. They seem to like kale as much as I do, so I save them my stems. And there is the moon, which hangs in the sky and reveals itself in the early morning through my bedroom window like a jewel in an azure ear.

So I try to be brave, and stay focused on being thankful for the kindnesses and pleasures I receive. I am not the only one in this world who gets frightened when her experience of how things are gets suddenly upended. Too many of us humans have to deal with far worse than having our own sense of safety or complacency disturbed. I feel very deeply for those who do suffer so terribly after my tiny brush with what could have been. And for some reason I can’t totally fathom, it does help to eat some pancakes. Dostoeyevski was right.

Maria (moonwatcher)

Leave a Comment

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Silvia August 12, 2015 at 7:47 am

Dear Maria, I hope you feel more grounded and focused soon!
You speak of the circular nature of life. Yes life is like that. But sometimes it just feels too hard to bear.
A few weeks ago I learned that my old dog has a terminal illness and it shook me up a good deal. I am a bit disoriented without having to deal with MS.
Sometimes we have to give ourselves the time to cope with things. All the time that is needed.
I really hope you are feeling well soon!
Best wishes from Silvia in Germany


2 Maria Theresa Maggi August 12, 2015 at 9:17 am

Dear Silvia, I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Life is full of these disorienting experiences, and I so agree and thank you for your kind words about taking all the time that is needed to catch up and begin to adjust and cope. I am doing well enough, considering. My kids say it is normal to be overwhelmed when moving to a new city, and I think they are right. Sending you and your dog my best thoughts and prayers, and feeling grateful for your kind readership, always.


3 Kelly August 12, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Is the carob powder you use raw or roasted? Can’t wait to make the sauce and the pancakes. <3


4 Maria Theresa Maggi August 12, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Hi Kelly–I’ve used both. It just kind of depends on what I can get. When I lived in Moscow, the co-op there had raw carob powder, which I liked a lot. Here in Portland, there’s Bob’s Red Mill Carob powder, which is toasted. And at the Alberta Grocery Co-op they have an organic carob powder from Italy in bulk that seems lightly toasted to me, if I’m remembering correctly. That’s my favorite so far. But this recipe will work with either raw or toasted. If you use toasted that adds a depth or a stronger flavor so you might want to use water instead of tea to thicken the fudge sauce. Just play around and do what tastes good to you!!


5 Veronica August 13, 2015 at 9:04 am

Oh Maria, I’m sorry to hear about the shooting so close to your new home! Living in a large city is quite a change from the small Moscow life, I’m sure, and there will be ups and downs. I’m glad no one was hurt.
I do love the great variety of your neighborhood! I would love to walk by goats on the way to the store. 🙂 They are so full of personality and mischief. And I agree on the angel part! Both you and Romeo help others more than you realize. Those living in the shadows often see more than we do, and it was kind of you to chat with him for a bit. I used to walk by them all, but now I try to smile or say hello – nobody likes to feel invisible.
I’ll have to get some borage in my garden! It sounds quite lovely and delicious. Should it be in a pot or in the ground (i.e., does it grow like mint where you can’t get rid of it or is it easily contained)?
Moving is a huge adjustment – I hope your continued settling-in goes more smoothly and you find a happy peacefulness. And I’m glad the kindness of strangers is helping you along.
It’s about time you got some pancakes! xo


6 Maria Theresa Maggi August 13, 2015 at 11:35 am

HI Veronica, and thank you for all these kinds words about my neighborhood and this post! Yes, the neighborhood is definitely full of personality, which I actually like a lot, and the goats are just awesome. As someone who walks around on the sidewalk all the time, I am in the habit of stopping to chat with whoever wants to ask about Romeo, or whatever else comes up. It’s essential to our human spirit, I believe, to receive acknowledgement and smiles from others. I SO agree no one likes to feel invisible–it’s the worst!

The borage is an annual, and yes it will reseed all over the place. 🙂 But it’s not that hard to pull up and it’s very good for the garden in general. So yes, kind of like mint, but it has pretty little edible flowers to recommend it, and it not as hard to pull up as mint is. 🙂

Thanks for kind thoughts about continued adjustment–and yes, I SO agree it’s time I had my pancakes!! 🙂 xoxo


7 Susan Voisin August 13, 2015 at 9:13 am

Maria, this is one of my favorite posts of yours! I loved seeing the goats, and I worried when I heard about the shooting. I nodded in recognition when you walked by the batteries (I’ve done a lot of similar things myself lately) and I teared up when the man called you and Romeo angels (because you are). Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts. I’m going to try to remember to focus on the kindnesses and pleasures and stay brave in the coming days, thanks to your example.


8 Maria Theresa Maggi August 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

Dear Susan, Wow, so happy this is one of your favorites! Thank you so much for these wonderful kind words about it. (And so glad you can relate to walking right by the batteries–I’m doing a whole lot of that kind of thing lately.) Life keeps on teaching me it’s really the “safe way” to focus on the kindnesses and pleasures when it come to staying brave, so I keep trying to learn it. Hope your “lessons” in that work well for you, too, in this time of huge transition. Sending my gratitude, support and love to you and yours. 🙂 xoxo


9 Gena August 18, 2015 at 1:27 pm

What an inspiring post, Maria. I’m sorry to hear that your move was accompanied by news of this frightening and disorienting event, but I am so very glad that you have been the recipient of these special and random acts of kindness. Your post is a moving but non-sentimental testament to the wonderful potential of human nature, and it’s also a great ode to the balance we must all find between allowing ourselves to feel sorrow and sadness, and also encouraging ourselves to experience lightness and levity (and pancakes). For me, personally, food is always a source of comfort in darker moments.

Also, your pancake recipe looks incredibly simple and so, so wholesome. I love the addition of the whole grain blend!



10 Maria Theresa Maggi August 18, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Thank you Gena–these kind words mean a lot to me. I’m so glad you were able to experience this post as moving yet non-sentimental. I was really hoping for that. And here’s to good food to bring us through in darker moments! (with whole grain blends thrown in) 🙂 xo


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