Pancakes


In my 20s, I started making pancakes on Sunday morning. It became a tradition. Whenever I make Sunday morning pancakes, I think back to being young, newly wed, and poor, and bringing pancakes and coffee to my wife in bed, which was only a mattress on the floor of a tiny studio apartment.

In my 30s, I had young children who were excited about pancakes in the morning — they wanted chocolate chips in them or for them to be made in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Whenever I make Sunday morning pancakes, I think back to being young parents with little kids who would giggle over a special breakfast.

In my 40s, the kids were becoming teenagers, and sleeping until noon was what they wanted to do on Sunday mornings, and I made Sunday morning pancakes less and less frequently, and most often it was just for one or two kids at a time — a quiet breakfast together. Now when I make Sunday morning pancakes, I think back with pride in young independent people we’d managed to raise.

In my 50s, the kids were moving out, we were alone again. I made pancakes less often. When I did make them, every time I’d be thinking about what Alaric & Connlann & Skatje were doing, far far away. Those were lonely, wistful pancakes.

In my 60s now, I made Sunday morning pancakes and coffee and brought them to my wife in bed, and I thought all of those memories at once — I was an old man in a mostly empty house, I was a father to a very serious teenager, I was the parent of a small swarm of adorable little kids, I was a newly wed student, I was all of these people.

I think this is what getting older means. Everything, every little thing, even making pancakes, begins to reverberate in your head and floods you with meaning.

Also, it means I’m well practiced and really, really good at making perfect pancakes.

Comments

  1. davidw says

    And what you need to go with them is REAL maple syrup, not the fake crap. I’m lucky to live in an area where there’s a small maple industry – indeed, I tap about 8 trees myself and get ~2 gallons of syrup every year. I’ll never go back to fake. A bit pricey, but worth it. Enjoy your pancakes!

  2. says

    What a lovely post. Also, your pancakes look like what I recognise as pancakes. Though, have you ever made them savoury with chives?

  3. Big Boppa says

    Becoming a grandfather seems to have softened some of your crusty edges PZ. It did the same to me. I’m just a couple of years older than you and have spent way too much time over the last 2 years recovering from a series of medical issues, so I’ve taken a bit of mental inventory myself. Here’s hoping your future includes lots of pancakes with your grandkids.

  4. randall says

    Perfect! The answer to that timeless question, ” What is the meaning of life?”.

    Pancakes.

  5. says

    No. I expect to die before I can fix pancakes for my grandchildren.

    Huh?
    Last I looked you had two and the older one definitely looks like he’s on solids now you could fix him pancakes literally the next time you see him. I hope you’re not planning to drop dead on us within the next few weeks?

    I remember visiting my uncle and aunt once for a few days when my cousin was about a year old. We made cherry pancakes and sure she liked them, but only the ones that came from MY plate. That particular babe is getting dangerously close to 30…

  6. captainjack says

    Looks like buckwheats. I’m a big fan. I do waffles on Sunday morning. What’s in your recipe?

  7. says

    #10: My father died unexpectedly on Christmas, when he was significantly younger than I am now. I go through life expecting to go poof at any moment.

  8. says

    #14: Yes. A cup of buckwheat flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, one egg, a cup of milk, a little melted butter, a pinch of salt. That’s it.

  9. Mark says

    For Christmas, I once received an expensive bottle of the tastiest maple syrup. A few days after opening it, I reached for the bottle and found a mass of dead ants floating inside. They’d squeezed their way through the tiny gap in the threads of the bottle cap. Every time I make pancakes, I remember those tenacious ants.

  10. cartomancer says

    Tsk, the indulgence of you transatlantic types! Over here in England we have pancakes precisely once a year – Shrove Tuesday – and we have them with a squeeze of lemon. Flagrant libertines will add a sprinkle of sugar, and the terminally shameless and depraved will add a smear of jam.

  11. nomdeplume says

    “Everything, every little thing, even making pancakes, begins to reverberate in your head and floods you with meaning.” Yes indeed, and floods with memories. For Proust of course it was madeleines, not pancakes.

    Time for a grumble. I remember pancakes as being beautifully thin and light, so thin that you would put your topping(s) of choice on wnad then easily roll it up like a fat cigar to eat. You could eat them all day, no trouble. In my part of Australia in recent years “pancakes” have become thick fairly dry slabs in a stack which I struggle to eat. Is this yet another American influence?

  12. robro says

    Oh boy! A classification problem: Are crepes thin pancakes, or are pancakes fat crepes?

    Lovely post, PZ. It resonants with my own experience as a child, an adult, and a parent. Of particular note as an adult: pancakes with friends at 3:00 AM in the Copper Penny after a night at Winterland listening to the Grateful Dead. Not great food, but a great memory.

  13. Onamission5 says

    This is a truly lovely post, PZ.

    I do birthday breakfasts. Whatever the birthday person wants, the birthday person gets, and most often what they want is some form of pancake, usually with bacon. Youngest always wants the pancakes– he hasn’t asked for anything else since as far back as we both can remember– with both blueberries and chocolate chips in them.

    I hope that 15 years from now I’m bringing Spouse coffee and pancakes on his birthday.

  14. Colin J says

    nomdeplume, #20:

    I remember pancakes as being beautifully thin and light, so thin that you would put your topping(s) of choice on wnad then easily roll it up like a fat cigar to eat. You could eat them all day, no trouble. In my part of Australia in recent years “pancakes” have become thick fairly dry slabs in a stack which I struggle to eat. Is this yet another American influence?

    That’s what we called pancakes back in the day (Australia also). The thick slabs might have been called flapjacks, if we called them anything at all. The distinction between crepes and pancakes came much later, in my recollection.

    Dad used to make a stack of pancakes (crepes, if you insist); maybe a dozen of them, with a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice between each one. Then he’d cut us a wedge, like a slice of cake, and you’d peel off each delicious, sticky triangle and eat them one by one. Fabulous!

  15. methuseus says

    Well, you can have thin pancakes and you can have crepes. Generally crepes have more egg than pancakes. Thin pancakes have a little extra milk or water in the batter. Crepes have an extra couple of eggs in the batter. That’s the main difference. Crepes are more eggy and lend themselves more to savory ingredients than pancakes. Though they are also delectable with sweet ingredients.

  16. wolja says

    nomdeplume, #20

    I remember pancakes as being beautifully thin and light, so thin that you would put your topping(s) of choice on wnad then easily roll it up like a fat cigar to eat. You could eat them all day, no trouble. In my part of Australia in recent years “pancakes” have become thick fairly dry slabs in a stack which I struggle to eat. Is this yet another American influence?

    Yeah that’s how I remember pancakes in Oz pre whenever McCrapples invaded us. Generally with lemon and sugar. Crêpes at the time were pretty much the same but usually fancy like Crêpe Suzette.

    The whipped butter?? that came with McCrapple pancakes is about the only thing I liked about them but otherwise very dry

  17. says

    An Englishman living in the US I would only make pancakes once a year, on Shrove Tuesday (not that we were ever shriven) many years ago when my kids were little.
    English pancakes tend to be thinner, more crêpe-y, than American ones and are traditionally turned over in cooking by tossing with a quick flick of the frying pan. I elaborated on this by tossing a second time and catching them on the kid’s plate (more often than not on my plate-holding thumb too—ouch; hot). Mmm freshly squeezed lemon juice and a bit of sugar. A lot of fun and I hadn’t thought about it in ages.
    Thanks PZ for reminding me and for sharing your pancake-ology.

  18. Reginald Selkirk says

    If you want to give yourself a treat, try some REAL maple syrup that is AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS. It is truly fabulous.

  19. Left Handed Atheist says

    Well, now I have tears in my eyes. Thank you, PZ, for such a lovely and thoughtful post.

  20. sparks says

    Thanks PZ. You and I are of the same era, but not the same life and I often wonder how my life would have been had I followed the path you did. What you wrote says it beautifully and brought back memories of my own father doing the same thing on a Sunday morning back in the day, was it decades or centuries ago? Dad was a stickler for not wasting food. He grew up in a time when it was damned hard to come by food and so never wasted it. Our St. Bernard just loved pancakes with butter and syrup. Not at all good for her, but she loved it.

    Warm wet cloth, clean the dog-lips if you please.

    Thank you sir for reminding me of something I thought lost to me.

  21. magistramarla says

    Awww. I hope that you soon get to make pancakes for the grandkids. I don’t get that privilege because several of the grandkids have gluten allergies and/or live too far away.
    Mary is so very lucky. I would love to have pancakes in bed!

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