Our group was walking through the streets of Tunis. Hungry as usual. It was one of those cobblestone streets lined with trees, along a courtyard which was almost like a Spanish square, a city center. A place where people wander slowly, meandering from shop to shop on the wide boulevards, sitting at small tables drinking tea, shopping or simply passing the time.
I remember seeing a large woman sitting at the edge of an open shop, pouring liquid on to a hot, round caste iron griddle and using this long t-shaped stick to smooth, spread and work the batter. The long end of the device was filed into a flat edge almost like a screwdriver. She would work this under the edge of the newly formed crepe andflip it over effortlessly.
I must try that, I said to myself.
We ordered crepes and sat in the shade. Taking a bite of the rich, velvety pancake-like pocket of heaven, I asked myself why I’d never had this before.
Then I thought to myself…swedish pancakes. I grew up on them.
Smaller in size, a bit thinner. We would line them with butter, sugar, lingonberries, then (for good measure) syrup.
Roll it up like a cigar then drizzle syrup and lingonberries on the top…and, because I was six, sprinkle more sugar. Do two or three in an assembly line. Each of us had a certain way to prepare ours. I remember my grandma and my mom making big batches of them. Somethings in the morning, other times the night before and reheating for a party. Always with lingonberries. Some breakfast sausage links. Always ate one too many…never any regrets.
But today, in Tunis, crepes.
Several years later my love for crepes was consummated in the Dominican Republic. New neighbors with French and Haitian backgrounds, but in this case mainly the French side rekindles the love for crepes.
Rachelle would make a huge batch. Mixing the eggs, flour, milk…always by sight. I remember watching her take the ladle and scoop some of the batter up, pouring it back into the bowl to check consistency. She would artfully watch and mutter something in French and usually add more milk.
Colby and I would watch her make them. And, as if we were six again, try to flip or grab them before they were ready.
Sometimes we’d get away with it.
Most times Rachelle would catch us, mutter something else in French and flick our hands away. This didn’t stop us from trying again.
I make crepes at home now for my girls. In fact I just made a batch this morning.
I measure the ingredients but add more milk than the recipe calls for. I use a Calphalon crepe pan that’s been with us since we lived in the Dominican Republic.
I don’t have a fancy crepe T (not sure what it’s called, maybe a crepe spreader?) but I use a ladle to pour/spread the batter, then usually flip them with my hands.
Sometimes I fill them with eggs and bacon and/or chorizo. Other times lingonberries and the Swedish pancake routine. Sometimes just syrup.
When I lived in the Dominican Republic there was a restaurant, La Creperie. My girlfriend and I would go there often on dates. It was nestled near the river, below the main level of the plaza. Out of sight from a distance. When you walked down the steps it was like walking into someone’s garden for a party.
One time we went there for a date but before we went I insisted Julie dress up. She wasn’t having it, tired from a long week.
I insisted. She was a good sport and got dressed up.
We enjoyed a lovely meal of crepes, walked through the old city of Santo Domingo.
We stopped in a Spanish town square, Parque Colón, one of our favorite spots.
I read a poem.
I got down on one knee.
In spanish, I asked her to marry me.
She said yes.
A year later we were married.
Thirteen years and three girls later, still making crepes.