À Table: Kenyan Pancakes + French Read-along

A portrait from Brooklyn and Kenya

One of our favorite À Table meals to host, this is a meandering tale that began on a visit to Kenya, took on a new meaning once we returned to New York, and is something we now delight in sharing with others, whether or not we speak French.

Our “À Table” series provides easy weeknight French dinners paired with French music and activities and games to create a whole fun-filled evening of practicing spoken French.

Literally translating to “to table,” <à table> is a colloquial way of calling everyone to the table, much like a good old American “dinnertime!”

story

Kenyan Pancakes?

Ultimately, the joke is on me here. I didn’t want to have “Kenyan Pancakes” at all!

Kenyan pancakes on a table in diani biach
Omari’s Kenyan Pancakes, Summer 2018 in Diani Beach, Kenya

When Omari (the Kenyan private chef that came highly recommended at our Diani Beach Airbnb rental) offered to make “pancakes” for breakfast, I ignorantly assumed he just thought we were Americans who didn’t want to eat local Kenyan food.

But just as I opened my mouth to say as much, I decided to let it go. This was party because I hadn’t done my homework enough to know what a typical Kenyan breakfast might look like anyway, and partly because I reasoned that the kids could do with a solid pancake breakfast the next morning after a day of travel without much food. “And we’ll eat Kenyan the remainder of the meals, I reasoned.

The next morning, I learned that Kenyan pancakes are, in fact, a dream. They are more akin to soft crepes but flavored with citrus zest and spice. So surprising, and so incredible.

They are so good in fact, that I’d recommend you go prepare the ingredients right now, and then while you wait for the batter, skip down to how this recipe became part of our favorite French-speaking À Table meals to host.

recipe

Omari’s Pancakes

The type of Kenyan pancake that the book centers on is a savory version, which they eat, for dinner with fish and other things neighbors and friends brought for a communal feast. The recipe is noted in the book, and also talks about how to make the savory variety.

The recipe included here is Omari’s recipe, doubled. We may have to start doubling even this recipe, because our two kids could polish off the doubled version all by themselves, even with sides! They are that delicious!

story

Les Pancakes de Maman Panya

Soon after we returned from Kenya in September 2018, our friends Keli and Chloe asked us if we had read the book “Les Pancakes de Maman Panya,” and when we told here we hadn’t, Chloe gushed about why she liked it. We couldn’t wait to read it, doubling down on our own fun memorable story about Kenyan pancakes, and practicing our French at the same time.

We hosted an À Table brunch to eat Omari’s pancakes and read the book together. One of our guests that day is was Julie (Brooklyn, by way of Belgium), and she read it to us, and we talked about it afterwards. It turned out to be not just one more special way to share food, stories and sounds while practicing our spoken French, but one of our favorite ways to do so.

And now, a year after hosting that brunch and 18 months after the trip, we have young Chloe reading us the story, from her new home back in France. You are in for a treat when you listen to her recording below.

Bonus

Audio: Les Pancakes de Maman Panya

When someone reads to you, it can definitely sound like music to your ears, especially when it’s French! And doubly so when it’s the lovely voice of nearly-8-year-old Chloe.

You can find the book at the library, your local bookstore or via the links below (in English or French!).

Links to buy the book are above, and we highly recommend that you do! We love this sweet book, and the memories it evokes.

batter for kenyan pancakes resting before cooking.
Batter for Kenyan Pancakes resting