Post Hoc

In the gal­van­ising spirit of New Year optim­ism, I set myself an arbit­rary chal­lenge. These are my inven­ted rules: shut eyes, pull book from shelves — it turns out to be The Dic­tion­ary of Dif­fi­cult Words - slap right index fin­ger down some­where on ran­dom page. Whichever word or phrase I land on will provide the mater­ial for both some­thing to eat and a semi-coherent set of ideas. And the phrase is, hon­est truth.….. post hoc, ergo prop­ter hoc.

I don’t like to admit defeat, so here we go. The mean­ing of post hoc, ergo prop­ter hoc is ‘a phrase to point up the error in logic of con­fus­ing sequence with con­sequence.’ The lit­eral trans­la­tion, in case you’re slightly baffled is: don’t be daft enough to think that just because it happened after this, that it happened because of this.

The phrase is designed to detach what hap­pens from the events that lead up to the event. I don’t want to sound smug, but I think I’ve found a way round the argu­ment. I’ve just been to Aus­tria and when I came home, post hoc, I made the sweet Aus­trian del­ic­acy of Kais­er­schmarrn. But if I hadn’t been to Aus­tria where I was told about the recipe by my god­son Arthur, I would never have made Kais­er­schmarrn because I would never have heard of it. If that’s not a solid case of iden­ti­fi­able and jus­ti­fi­able prop­ter hoc, I don’t know what is.

And if an Aus­trian winter tree smothered with snow doesn’t inev­it­ably come after an autumn tree covered with leaves, and isn’t fol­lowed by a massive stack of fire­wood, then I’ll eat my thermal vest.

Kais­er­schmarrn, with its over-generous sup­ply of con­son­ants, should, of course, be in The Dic­tion­ary of Dif­fi­cult Words itself. It appar­ently means The Emperor’s Muddle, although no-one knows pre­cisely why. Essen­tially, it’s a sweet pan­cake, but it’s cut up into little squares in the pan as it cooks. That way the chef makes enough for six people at once, rather than stand­ing for­lornly at the stove mak­ing one pan­cake at a time and los­ing the will to keep going after pan­cake num­ber three.

KAISERSCHMARRN

  • 60 g but­ter
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g flour
  • 150 ml full cream milk
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Pinch salt
  • Hand­ful sultanas
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • Sprink­ling of caster sugar

Whisk the eggs until frothy. Sieve the flour into the milk and whisk in as much air as pos­sible before adding the salt, lemon zest and eggs. The bat­ter will be the con­sist­ency of double cream. Melt 30 g of but­ter in a fry­ing pan on a low to medium heat. Pour the bat­ter into the pan and allow to cook for a minute or so until brown on the bot­tom. Scat­ter the sul­tanas over the pan­cake and then turn over using two spat­u­las. With a wooden or plastic spoon, and while the pan­cake is still in the pan, slice it across and down into small squares. Melt the remain­ing but­ter and caster sugar into the pan and stir it around so that everything is coated. Tip the squares out onto a plate and dust with icing sugar. Serve with fruit com­pote of whichever kind you like best. 

Post the pan­cake you will be happy. Prop­ter, Kais­er­schmarrn is good. Ergo, Arthur deserves a lifetime’s supply.