Editorials, Opinion

For the buckwheat cake inexperienced

On the very slim chance you didn’t already know, it’s Buckwheat Festival weekend in Preston County.

Festivities started Thursday, but they continue well into today and tomorrow. There’s live music, carnival rides, parades, livestock shows, arts and crafts for sale, bingo and food down at the fairgrounds in Kingwood. And just about anywhere you go in Preston County this weekend you’re liable to find someone/some place serving up the main attraction: buckwheat cakes.

The festival’s namesake dish is surprisingly polarizing — people either love them or hate them. Very few fall somewhere in between. But everyone should try them at least once.

If you’re a newbie to the buckwheat cake experience, let us give you an idea of what to expect.

Buckwheat cakes are more akin to crepes than to pancakes. Pancakes are thick, light, fluffy and at least a little sweet all on their own. Crepes are thin, dense and, depending on how they are prepared, can be sweet or savory. Buckwheat cakes are a little thicker than crepes, and they are dense but speckled with air pockets; this keeps them from coming across as doughy.

The texture can vary based on how finely milled the buckwheat flour is, but you’re not going to find whole kernels in your cake. The ones a couple members of the editorial board had yesterday were wonderfully smooth.

As for the taste … Some people describe it as bitter or sour. We can best describe it as one step below a sourdough bread. It’s definitely not sweet like a pancake or a dessert crepe, but we can easily imagine serving it like a savory crepe, wrapped around sausage or bacon and sauteed veggies.

If you go looking for buckwheat cakes this weekend, you’ll likely find them being served as “dinners” (regardless of the time of day), generally with sausage. You’ll find butter, syrup and, in some places, even applesauce with which to top your cakes. We recommend you try at least one bite of the cake without any extras, just to give you an idea of the true flavor. After that, put whatever you’d like on them. Syrup will add the sweet you might be missing, while applesauce will give you a fruity tang, but you’ll still get the sourdough-like flavor of the cakes.

If you’re iffy on the taste of the buckwheat cakes by themselves but don’t want to waste a whole plate, try stacking a bite of sausage and a couple pieces of buckwheat cake, dipping (or dousing) it in the syrup or applesauce (or sweet condiment of your choice). The different flavor profiles balance out nicely, so you get a little sour, a little savory and a little sweet.

Since it is Buckwheat Festival weekend, you’ll find ample places selling cakes and full dinners — throw a rock in any direction (metaphorically speaking) and you’ll hit a booth, church or community center with hot buckwheat cakes fresh off the griddle, especially the closer you get to the fairgrounds. So get out, take a beautiful, scenic drive toward Kingwood and enjoy everything the Buckwheat Festival has to offer.