Pancake, full circle
An isle man recalls the lasting recipe that put him on the culinary map
DAVID EYRE vividly recalls when famed New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne came to his house for brunch 42 years ago. Claiborne asked for the recipe for a special pancake that Eyre served, but the host would share it only when Claiborne agreed to let the Eyres use his Manhattan apartment for several Christmas holidays. When told he had driven a hard bargain, the now-95-year-old Eyre laughed. "It worked."
Just last month the New York Times Magazine revisited "Pancake Nonpareil," as it was called in 1966, with a full-page story that included the recipe and musings on the error that doubled the amount of butter in the original printing.
Perhaps most interesting -- and unmentioned in the recent New York Times piece -- is that David Eyre actually stumbled upon the "David Eyre Pancake" in a 1919 edition of San Francisco's "St. Francis Hotel Cookbook." Some people might recognize it as similar to a German Pancake, or a Dutch Pancake, both of which are baked until light and fluffy.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
David Eyre gained fame in 1966 when New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne wrote about his pancakes. Eyre kept a copy of that original article, shown here. CLICK FOR LARGE
"I didn't invent it," Eyre recalled in his apartment at One Kalakaua. "I just found it in a cookbook, and (Claiborne) knighted me."
The public responded. After the story's publication, tourists traveling through Hawaii called to talk to him about the ingredients, ask about the type of pan to use (not cast iron, as it makes the pancake too crisp) or share family stories that revolved around the breakfast fare.
Then one morning on the "Today" show, Barbara Walters interviewed Claiborne in the set kitchen, and asked him to share his most popular recipe of all time. "That's easy," he said. "The David Eyre Pancake."
In short, the pancake made Eyre famous, and his 15 minutes seem to have lasted 40 years. "In a funny sort of way, yes," chuckled Eyre, who grew up in Salem, Ore., and moved to Hawaii in 1955 with his wife, Cynthia, who died of Parkinson's disease in 1989.
But what led to that fateful brunch in late 1965? Claiborne happened to be traveling through Hawaii with the West Coast editor of Vogue magazine. Cynthia Eyre was a correspondent for Vogue, so Claiborne ended up at the Eyre's Japanese-style cottage on Diamond Head Road. The story ran early the next year, and the rest is history.
These days Eyre is unable to cook, and he misses it. "I had a reputation of being a good cook, but that's in the past," he said. He has a tendency to fall, and doesn't want to hurt himself before the summer release of his book about Clare Boothe Luce. "That's why I'm hanging on," he said. "For the finale of my life." When asked how it feels to make it to 95, Eyre shook his head and said, "I don't recommend it."
But he's certainly enjoying one more go-around with the easy-to-prepare pancake that can make an average cook look like a chef. And he thinks it's high time a new generation learn how to prepare the David Eyre Pancake.