10 Pancakes I Have Known

Fluffiest Pancakes
1. My grandparents lived in a 40’s ranch-style house in the hills of LA County. Spending the weekend at their house meant blueberry pancakes during Sunday morning breakfast. My grandfather was a research chemist. He loved electric ranges because they had a scale, and a 7 was always a 7 and a 5 was always a 5. My dad swears that he kept a lab notebook in the kitchen and flipped his pancakes when cued by a timer. I don’t remember any of that, or very many of my own memories of my grandfather, but I do remember the frozen blueberries he would add to the batter. I remember their taste of burnt fruit sugar.
2a. In the summers, we would take vacations in Mammoth Lakes, where my dad had lived in his twenties. There’s a country cafe there called The Stove, the kind of restaurant where things come in skillets and has a gift shop. One day, I wanted to order buckwheat pancakes, something I had heard about from Literature, probably one of the Little House books. I felt very grownup, ordering such a sophisticated pancake. It was the first time I remember being aware that different flours, different grains, could have different tastes. They tasted like pancakes with a new dimension.
2b. Later, as an adult, I noticed that there was a buckwheat pancake mix on the shelf and put it into my cart. I learned to add extra water to the batter to create the thin, flat cake that I love, and to sweeten the batter with thick, black molasses. They still make me feel grownup.
3. I was eleven years old and we were traveling through Idaho on the way back from a trip to the great National Parks. We stopped at a beautiful rambling rural house, all screened porches and garden plots and plaster walls. Produce was in high summer season, and we ate from the garden. My job was to make sure that my brother and sister bothered me first about being bored, and to look like kids you would want to have to my dad’s old friends, they that owned the house. Everything went wrong. The tent–adventure!–my siblings and I slept in had a hole in it, and we were consumed by mosquitos and other summer bugs. My brother got a spiderbite that caused his whole hand to swell up and ooze clear pus from the bite marks. In the morning, they made us pancakes from expensive, organic pancake mix of various flours and nuts. The oils in the mix were rancid, and the cakes tasted awful. My sister and I were confused, because maybe they were supposed to taste like that? My brother has always been pickier, and he threw pleading eyes at me. My stomach turned at the thought of insulting a host. I was the oldest, and I knew that it was my job to say something, so I said something. And of course the hosts tasted the pancakes, realized that the flour had spoiled, and then felt even worse that my sister and I had tried to eat them anyway. Later, when I am asked to think of an example of when I was vulnerable, I think of this memory. When I think about a time when I was a leader, I think of this memory.
4. Once in Mrs. Kwazny’s 3rd grade classroom we all made pancakes. I loved using the flour sifter. O proud me brought back the paper handout with the recipe, so that we could make it at home. We never did, but it’s there in my mother’s recipe binder 16 years later because someone loves us all.
5. Pancakes and fried eggs taught me how to cook at the stove. The mistakes I would make! Pancakes with uncooked Bisquick in the middle. Burned black on one side, carbon dioxide holes like pockmarks on the other. My mom would never have anyone over to the house without having twenty people over to the house, and would never cook a meal without cooking three meals, in portion and number of dishes. I learned to cook by helping her entertain. I haven’t yet learned how to fill my house like she fills hers, but I think that when I have a single dish to cook, I’m just as good as her. She doesn’t know I think this. Please, gentle reader, don’t tell her.
6a. There would be buses to town on the weekends, and the rich kids that could afford to eat at restaurants would get breakfast on Sunday mornings. One of the restaurants was French, and had delicious crepes. These are technically pancakes I haven’t known, because I never ate there. My friend John would talk about how much he liked them, and I would say that I didn’t like them, and call him pretentious. One day, the dining hall made apple blintzes. I thought that they were very gross, and that they were what crepes tasted like, so I never wanted to try them again.
6b. Later, in Portland, a friend makes me try her lemon and sugar crepe from the carts on 11th and Hawthorne. When I feel myself getting too attached to a position, getting too entrenched in a dislike, I think of how much I like crepes now.
7. “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson is the best pop song about pancakes, by default.
8. We went to Albuquerque to scatter my grandmother’s ashes on the mountain that overshadows the junior high school where she met my grandfather. We stayed at a hotel that had a pancake machine with a tank of batter and integrated, hot plate-like griddle so that you could press a button and it would make a fresh pancake. I watched people make pancake and felt the joy of human enterprise & the earthy optimism of mechanical invention.
9. I have never been in love, but I would like to someday. My best friend and I talk often of first pancakes, pancakes that are meant to be thrown away. When I meet men I try not to think of their cakeyness, because when I make pancakes now I don’t need to throw the first one away. When I worry, I worry about batter, not burning.
10. My roommate Lauren made pancakes this morning. I never turn down pancakes, and I was right. They were delicious.

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