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DINNER AND A MOVIE: au revoir les enfants and chocolate chip pancakes

What better pairing exists than dinner and a movie? In the second article of this ongoing series we are excited by the challenge of sharing our favorite movies with a beffitingly themed dish. This week we combine Au revoir les enfants, whose simple portrayal of childhood in WWII era France inspired a dish that brings back our own memories of childhood: chocolate chip pancakes. También en español. 

I‘ve been watching a lot of movies lately in order to catch up on all the Oscar nominees before the March ceremony. Which is strange because I think the Academy Awards is a big scam. I mean, what if it’s all set-up and everyone’s just acting? Think about it: they awarded Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side for gods sake and the people applauded! I watch anyway, every single year.

In the last week I’ve watched both Nebraska and Philomena, re-watched 12 Years a Slave and have talked way too much about Leonardo DiCaprio snorting cocaine off of (from? out of? what’s the proper preposition here?) a prostitute’s butt. As wonderful as all of those movies are, none inspired a meal. I entertained the idea of some Midwestern diner food for Nebraska or making ice cream sandwiches to take the edge off of 12 Years a Slave but one felt uninspired and the latter felt inappropriate, even for me.

So I began to mentally compile a list of my absolute favorite films and one movie shot straight to the front. Its Louis Malle’s Au revoir les enfants, a semi-autobiographical story of lost youth set in WWII occupied France. Like childhood itself, this is a very uncomplicated film, beautiful and simplistic.

The film begins on a Parisian train platform where Julien is saying goodbye to his socialite mother, who sends her two boys to a Catholic boarding school in the safety of the French countryside. Julien is barely hitting puberty, which means he is full of angst and confusion. When he arrives to the school he meets a new boy, Jean, and although the two initially have a tense relationship they find refuge from their distinct feelings of isolation in one another.

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aurevoir2We learn early on the Jean is a Jew and that the kind priests are protecting him from the Nazis. Julien keeps
the secret, and their friendship grows over a series of small fleeting moments that are beautifully captured by Malle. Malle puts a lot of importance on these seemingly insignificant daily occurrences that make up the boys adolescence but is careful to juxtapose them with the looming darkness of the Nazi invasion. The boys mostly fill their heads with nudies magazines, books and recess. There is a really beautiful moment where they project Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant, and for a moment even the adults lose themselves in the simple pleasure of watching a film. Bomb threats are a welcome escape from the classroom; the seriousness of the war is almost completely lost on the children.

The fight between the boy’s pure human joy and the haunting realities of adulthood eventually come to a head in the film’s finale. The tragedy here is not the event itself, but what it represents: the loss of a child’s innocence is not something that can be escaped.

But just because it is unavoidable, doesn’t mean that we can’t revel in simple childish pleasures. If anything, we should celebrate them even more. So it’s fitting to pair Au revoir les enfants with chocolate chip pancakes, which should be buttered to your heart’s content and showered in powdered sugar (and if you are stateside, covered in your favorite maple syrup).

To make 8 medium sized pancakes you will need the following:

  • 1 ½ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams of semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients. Dig a well in the center and pour in the milk, butter, vanilla and eggs. Beat until smooth. Incorporate chocolate chips. If you have a sweet tooth, 100 grams of chocolate chips will get your fill; if you don’t want the chocolate to overwhelm you, use 50 grams.

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Heat a lightly oiled griddle or pan over medium heat. Scoop on batter, using about ½ cup for each pancake (for medium sized pancakes). Flip over when one side air bubbles become visible and the cooking side is golden brown. I also like to oil/Pam my griddle between each pancake.

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Yes, that’s syrup. I’m a lucky boy. When I’m not so fortuate, I like to mash up strawberries and smother it all over these things.

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Make a mess out of it. Shower this sucker with all the powdered sugar.

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These pancakes are super moist and fluffy, and the semi-sweet chocolate gives make everything taste so lush it’s nearly pornographic.

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