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Grain-free crepes and the gift of questions

2015 December 17
by Rachel Turiel


It is early morning and two exciting things are happening. First, it’s snowing. It’s like someone flicked the winter switch to “on,” and big, fluffy flakes are swallowing the yard whole. Little birds flock to the feeders. The blackness of crows are tossed against the white sky like dice.

Second, the kids are on the floor of their room, Col drawing Depression-era Christmas portraits of Rose’s dolls. Just last night, they were so angry at each other, each so expertly escalating the power-hungry vitriol of their one person nation, it would have put the Cold War leaders to shame.


The dolls have not been left out of Christmas. See tree behind Col.

We’ve been studying The Great Depression (soon to lead into The Manhattan Project for our Los Alamos trip), and the kids are fascinated by the cardboard-constructed Hoovervilles, nickel movies, and the black blizzards of dust that swept through the Great Plains. I tell Col that people probably saved their pennies for very special Christmas portraits in those times. (I’ve also been explaining that kids in Great Depression were happy to eat any food available, just for, you know, historical perspective).

I decide to make crepes for breakfast and recruit Rose from where she’s hawking over Col’s drawing, giving him approximately 2.126 inches of personal space.


Go passive solar heat!

Spending time with Rose is like a high level meditation retreat, requiring that you shake loose any miscellanea rattling around your mind. She will scour your mental arena of flotsam with the scrub brush of her questions. She forces you to relinquish your trivial musings, like: “next career move” or “dinner ingredients” because there are always more pressing matters, such as, “Mama, is that a hair growing out of your mole?”

Rose awakes with her mind jammed with questions. “What are we doing today? What’s for breakfast? Did Col already come snuggle you?” Before I can answer, the yarn of her inquiries fully unravel, lassoing my brain to hers.

“It’s wonderful that she’s so curious,” my mom says in that magnanimous, slightly removed way of grandparents who aren’t awoken at 6am with questions unspooling into the darkness of morning.

And it is wonderful, even if it’s like mental athletics, watching my own thoughts bloom and get knocked off course by the next flurry of questions. She regularly busts me furiously scribbling her own quotes in my notebook, trying to capture it all, while she’s trying to ask me the next important thing! I recognize the tiniest bit of irony in this frenzy to record The Now while it’s being served, warm and fresh from the daughter right in front of me.


Rose is mixing ingredients while I warm the cast iron pans. There is a small pause in the kitchen action, and Rose’s mind is clicking open different files, each one flagged with urgency.

“Can you taste the pear sauce in these?”

“In the crepes? Maybe a little.”

“Are you going to put pear sauce in everything?”

“Lots of things!”

“What do the chickens think of the snow?”

“Probably not too thrilled.”

“What do you think when you hear nails on the chalkboard? When I hear it, it makes my bones shiver.”


“I like that image – of bones shivering.”

“Mama, is your hair longer than mine?”


“What do you think Nana’s doing right now?”

“Reading the paper and eating oat groats in a very quiet house.”

“You think our house is too noisy!”


For Rose, questions are her passport to this world. Information is a like a wide, swirling storm; if you don’t stand outside with your mouth open in receiving mode, you’re sure to miss something crucial. Rose wakes up every morning and slides an empty tray under the door of my consciousness, expecting it returned brimming with answers.



Between pouring batter and flipping crepes, Rose investigates our cabinets, turning on her microscopic lens. Nothing is safe, particularly not my poor old face, which she examines closely during early morning snuggles, probing my skin with her small fingers. And yet, Rose knows where everything is: the missing sunglasses, the toothbrush I use to scrub the sink faucet, the newly spouted chin hair.

“Why does this spatula have a hole in it?”

“Hmmm, good question.”

“Look, you have all these wooden spoons and spatulas – are they part of a set?”

“They are.”

(She is cheered by this news,  being attracted to items that deliberately match.)


This is Rose’s list of people she wants to buy Christmas gifts for, gifts which, incidentally, are chocolate-based. Notice, she has put herself (“me”) on the list. As my friend Sue says, this is great self care.

Recently, walking one of Rose’s dog clients, she was musing about whether to bring her dolls on our trip to New Mexico.

Then she looked up at me and said, “Now, you ask me a question.”

“Why do you want me to ask you a question?”

“Because it’s like receiving a present,” she answered, her hand swinging in mine.

Grain-free Crepes

~makes approx 8-10

These are so very delicious. Very eggy, light and flexible. We like them with fruit sauce and yogurt. Grain-free baking does include a lot of eggs, but seems like a good swap for white flour.


4 eggs

1 cup tapioca flour (What is tapioca? It’s a starch from the Cassava root. Found in most natural food stores)

1/2 cup almond meal

1 cup milk

1 mashed banana (or 3/4 cup pear butter, or apple sauce)

4 TBSP melted butter or coconut oil

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1 -2 tsp spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger etc…

1 tsp salt



Mix everything together. Warm 2 cast iron pans to medium, or until a drop of water sizzles. Your pan may need a little melted oil/butter for priming the first crepe. After that, hopefully, no sticking. Flip crepes when sides start to brown up, approx 4 minutes per side.


A certain 10-year old can’t quite resist feeding the rat parts of our meals, for as he says, “She’s part of our family! She deserves good food.” Please don’t tell anyone in a 3rd world country.


Chickens, on snow: “Thanks, but no thanks.”


Happy cooking and extreme questioning,


12 Responses leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    December 17, 2015

    Rachel, this is what I shared with my older daughter, Robin, who was a bit like Rose when she was that age…

    “This is written by our Durango neighbor (lives up the street from our little house), the mom who wasn’t sure if she could homeschool, but she can, and does. I love seeing her writing and how she perceives her children growing. And she shares little things about Durango only she would notice.

    You were not quite that curious (you asked yourself these questions and read books and found the answers, but then Rose is still young), and of course Sarah [with Down Syndrome] never has asked why or how. But she does listen when I talk, assuming she has asked a question, so long as I make it short.

    I don’t know where Hunter [my grandson] fits in to their scheme, probably more like Col.

    I wish I was a real neighbor. I’d sit at Rachel’s feet and ask questions, because she is wiser than I.”

    Rachel, the last line is precious. Rose is right. She is wise like you!

    Enjoy your foray into New Mexico. It has been way too long since the girls and I traveled through the state from Texas to spend time in Durango. One trip, near Santa Fe, we drove through the end of a rainbow in white rain.


  2. Ellen permalink
    December 17, 2015

    Rose is right. Questions are a great gift.

  3. Baba permalink
    December 17, 2015

    Rose keep those questions coming. I love your inquiring mind

  4. Tara permalink
    December 17, 2015

    Hi Rachel, Love your writing as always! So many well put images. I totally totally relate to the crazy feeling of children butting into my headspace! It feels like the questions are going to explode my brain open! I am interested in the neuroscience behind thinking your own thoughts and then having another person’s come crashing in – feels like an uncomfortable wrenching sensation. But yes, a way to keep us in the present moment.

  5. Rebecca permalink
    December 17, 2015

    “Why do you want me to ask you a question?”
    “Because it’s like receiving a present,” she answered, her hand swinging in mine.

    Wow! That made me tear up! How often in the busyness of mothering do we miss receiving these “presents” from our children, pushing them aside as unimportant even considering them a nuisance? Thank you, Rose, for blessing the world with your beautiful spirit and insight.

  6. Jessica permalink
    December 17, 2015

    There are so many freedoms in childhood, but one I’ve never thought of is the freedom to ask questions. Beautiful post.

  7. Ellen permalink
    December 17, 2015

    2nd comment: it was a pleasure to get your blog today. It’s always a special day when you have a new blog post!

  8. Kayleigh permalink
    December 17, 2015

    Oh, look, Mom (Tara), you commented! I wish I could question more often. Rose should be a reporter.

    Mommy pwwwwease make crepes?!

  9. December 18, 2015

    Yummmmmm!!! All of it delicious : )

  10. December 18, 2015

    Beyond words…

    you so rock!

  11. Molly permalink
    December 21, 2015

    Sometimes I say to my girl, “I need my brain for me, for a little bit.”

  12. December 29, 2015

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