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.
- 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.