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The Year of the Pig

This Chinese New Year marked the beginning of the year of the pig!

As we've been working through the flavor list we came up with, we've been trying to coordinate our pancake with what's going on at that time of year. Not just to make the most of seasonal ingredients, but to incorporate the year of the pancake into a bigger picture. We also didn't have all 52 flavors picked out, so this gives us some room to think a little more about something we hadn't come up with before.

It's already been a way for me to dig deeper into my own traditions, and share those with Greg. I'm sure we'll have more opportunities like that through the year. But with Chinese New Year, it gave us an opportunity to learn more about another culture.

This brings up important concepts related to cultural appropriation, versus cultural appreciation.

How do you distinguish the two? The last thing we wanted was to offend a whole culture, and with it being a culture neither of us is a part of we didn't feel we had the authority to just start to interpret long standing customs and traditions.

As someone who has seen many instances of cultural appropriation with Indian culture, I've noticed what separates cultural appreciation is that the individual, if not Indian, has been invited to participate. For example, it's not appropriation to wear a sari to your Indian friend's wedding, because you have been invited to partake in a celebration, and you are making an effort to dress appropriately for the occasion. The invitation works as a sort of permission by the community for you to join in their culture and experience it; something you would have earned by being a good and respectful friend over the years.

So how could Greg and I feel as if we had earned 'permission' to celebrate the Chinese New Year? We couldn't just ask someone Chinese for permission, as that would one, be an awkward conversation and two, put a lot of pressure on one individual to act as a spokesperson for their community.

We talked about how much we knew about Chinese culture. Two of Greg's best friends are Chinese, and over the years they have introduced us to different foods and parts of East Asian culture that neither of us was familiar with. But delicious foods aside, we did not know much about Chinese New Year or other Chinese holidays. And just knowing someone who belongs to a particular community doesn't mean you've taken the time to understand their traditions. We knew that the color red was lucky, but we didn't want to just make red pancakes, or sprinkle some red sugar and call it a Chinese New Year pancake.

We ultimately decided that if we were going to celebrate the year of the pig with the year of the pancake, we were going to have to put in more effort to understand how the Chinese New Year is celebrated. We may not have been personally invited to participate, but we did not want to participate without having put in real effort to expand our knowledge and understanding of the holiday.

As we did our research, we found that a lot of the special foods traditionally made for Chinese New Year were savory, and many were meat based. Though we do want to experiment with savory pancakes, we decided making a dish for the first time, and trying to do it in pancake form would have been too ambitious.

We focused tried to sort through the list for foods we would be familiar with and that list consisted of apples and oranges. The words for both of these fruits are homonyms; apple for peace, and in Southern China in certain dialects oranges are a homonym for luck.

We already had some pancake ideas for apples, and decided to focus on the mandarin oranges for the Chinese New Year. As we tried to envision what these pancakes would look like, we realized that we hadn't seen fresh mandarin oranges in any of the grocery stores, despite them being in season from early winter to early spring.

We resolved to using a can of mandarin oranges. We picked up a can from the local grocery store, and I used one in a light syrup to try and avoid some extra sugars. I also imagined the little orange slices could be placed in a pretty pattern and maybe we could have fun making designs. Ultimately I just had them placed in a circle, a little as if they were fanned out. That's as playful as I got when it came time to make the pancakes.


  • 2 1/2 cups flour

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 eggs, seperated

  • 1 cups skim milk, plus additional for marshmallow glaze

  • 1 Tbsp low fat butter

  • 1 can Mandarin oranges, preferable in light in light syrup


1. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

2. Melt butter, and combine with milk, egg yolks, syrup from can of oranges, and dry ingredients in bowl. Stir until incorporated, batter does not need to be smooth.

3. Fold in egg whites.

4. Heat non-stick pan to medium, medium-high heat. Spray a little PAM before pouring about 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake.

5. Place slices of canned mandarin oranges, in a design or at random. The slices are larger than most pancake toppings, so this gives them time to sink into the pancake.

6. When the edges of the pancake start to firm, and there are a few air pockets forming, flip pancake, and cook for about another minute.

7. Drizzle your stack of pancakes with the syrup and enjoy!

We tried to use the full contents of the can, including the syrup as a way to avoid food waste. However, if I were to make these pancakes again, I would skip the canned syrup and include 3 Tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of orange extract in the batter, and increase the milk to 1 1/2 cups.

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