The Pancakipedia

Pancakes are quite possibly nature's perfect food. They're hearty, yet sweet. They fill you up, but taste light. They take external flavoring like syrup, butter, fruit, or powdered sugar with ease -- enabling people to personalize them to taste. A pancake is like a donut you need a fork to eat. It's like a big cookie. They warm your belly after you eat them, promote snuggling if you're able, and somehow have the intuition to know when to help wake you up (weekday mornings), when to give you a second wind (after-club Denny's/IHOP recharges), and when to help fill your morning need for food without cancelling out the all-important desire to take a nap/go back to sleep after a long night of partying.

The ability to make a good pancake breakfast is not only a primary dad skill and a boyfriend powermove, but it's also a unique way to make the people you care about feel special.
Because as easy as they are to make, it's only a select few who know how to make them right.
Of course, right for a pancake varies from person to person -- the thickness of each cake, the depth of ingredients used in the batter, the need for some of them to look vaguely like cartoon characters (not just anyone can make an Optimus Prime-cake on command). It's also important to have the restraint it takes not to overwhelm your audience.
A short stack is an expression of love. Expecting someone to
eat 50 silver dollars just because you made them is showboating.
It's weird how much pancakes have been on my mind lately. Partially because I'm kinda broke, and they were pretty much the only thing I had to eat in my house this weekend -- but also because they remind me of j, and the times that I cooked them for her and how much I miss those mornings together.

But oddly enough, the memory that comes to mind the most when I get on a pancake tangent is of the time my grandmother fed me so many homemade blueberry pancakes that I actually got sick and became convinced that I was allergic to them.

The truth of the matter was that I ate like 15 pancakes in one sitting -- which is simply too many for anyone to live through. But my love of pancakes is so pure that I simply wasn't ready to accept the idea that something as perfect as the pancakes themselves could have had anything to do with me puking my guts out -- so I chose instead to blame the blueberries.
And I basically refused to eat them for like 5 years after that.
It's strange though -- because it's one of the few good memories I hold of my Grandmother. The truth of the matter is that when I was a young child, my grandmother was one of my favorite people. I lived in a different state -- so visits were rare and special, and as a kid from suburban Colorado, her involvement in various Nature Conservancy groups and the nature hikes, rowboat trips, and craft fairs that came along with it seemed like the coolest things in the world.

She had this dock in her backyard that looked over a pond that she would let us fish off of. She made her own ceramic molds that she fired herself in the kiln she kept in her garage -- leading to years and years of handmade ornaments as Christmas presents, and there were two things she cooked that absolutely ruled -- these little mini-pizzas that she would make one at a time and serve to parties (people would line up for them on Saturday nights) and pancakes.

I think it's important to note that you don't just cook 15 blueberry pancakes for a hungry 9-year old kid. You make him like 4, and then when he asks for more -- you make him 3 more.
Anyone who sticks around long enough to cook 15 truly does love you.
My grandmother is very sick right now, and to be honest -- the outlook isn't so good. She's well into her 80's, and has led a rich and full life. It's no secret that she and I have not had the best relationship in recent years -- but it hurts my heart to think that she might soon be gone.

I don't know -- I've spent a lot of time on this blog running her down for her racist views and her history of hateful comments to her children, grandchildren, and their spouses, friends, and families. A lot of bad blood has passed over the years between us, and it's left it's mark on our relationship. All that being said, she is my grandmother and I hate to think of her suffering in a hospital bed, and I can only imagine that I will be more concerned with her welfare than our spotted personal history when I go to visit her this week.

You can't choose your family. But sometimes you have to look at them through the total lens of history. As a little kid, my grandmother was a magical presence in my life. In fact I think if you were to talk to my cousins, uncles, or even in remembrances from stories my late mother would tell -- Lorraine Clarke has always loved young children. She's certainly always had a special place in her heart for my son in the time she's known him.
But children grow up. And things don't always stay the same.
What I forget sometimes when I think back on some of the scars we've incurred is that somehow the same person who told my mother to "quit faking" her cancer was the same one who taught me the difference between pine and oak trees, the best way to catch crab on the Intercoastal, and sponsored me in her garden club so I could go to summer camp all those years when I was a kid.
The same woman who made the best blueberry pancakes I've ever tasted in my life.
So in memory of the good times with Mama Rainey (and there were a few), I thought I'd take a moment to discuss the various genus and phylum that you can find in the pancake universe, and the importance of each one. Not only because you need to know how to recognize them in the wild, but because when that time comes when you meet someone -- whether it's a beautiful woman you never want to be apart from or a child who's laughter warms your heart more than any ray of sunshine ever could, you need to make them pancakes.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:
  1. The Fish Pancake -- If at all possible, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a dedicated pancake pan/skillet. I know sometimes the cookware you have serves multiple purposes, and that's cool -- but if you really want the flavor to sing with each bite, you need to cook them on a surface that's reserved for pancakes ONLY. Because if you don't, you'll always have to deal with the fish pancake. Simply put, the fish pancake is the first pancake you make on a multi-use surface. It's the one that picks up all the minute traces of flavor that have been left over from all the other things you've cooked recently. You can clean cast iron all you want -- it's gonna keep just a little bit of whatever you fried up in it last, and nothing ruins the flavor of a good pancake quicker than the taste of porkchop. Luckily, the fix for this is easy. Pour a smaller than normal pancake out, and when you flip it -- try to make sure you get it into as many parts of the pan as possible. The cake will sop up the old flavors like a sponge, and leave your skillet fully prepared for the pancake goodness that is to follow. (Note: my dad sometimes called this the "dogcake" -- because that's who always got to eat it).

  2. The Steak -- A lot of people like to make same-size pancakes when they cook them, which is fine. But if you're making a stack, you need a good base. Which is why most people subconsciously make that first one a little bigger and thicker than the rest. The steak pancake also gives you a good visual reference for the others in the batch. I'm of the camp that staggers the size of each pancake, which enables syrup poured on the top to drip to the others below, which makes the steak an essential component. Try not to make too many of these though, because they increase your risk of unwanted leadpoint (see below).

  3. The Twins -- If you're making multiple pancakes at once, you'll always risk batter-touching. Batter touching instantly turns two perfectly sized pancakes into one elongated sort of crappy shaped one. Its not an oval, it's not a circle -- it's more something in-between. People screw this up a lot, because they try to separate them while the batter is still wet. This is a mistake, because the batter will stick to your spatula and dry there -- which increases the chances of tearing other pancakes when you go to flip them. The proper call here is to let the new mutant-cake cook to the flip point (bubbles on the surface), and then cut them apart after the turn. What you'll end up with is two mouse-ears with flat edges -- perfect for eating.

  4. The Waif -- I'm not really a fan of thin pancakes. There's such a thing as too thick -- but a skinny pancake is #1) a crêpe; and #2) more about the syrup than anything else, which is just WRONG. Seriously, I'm cooking you pancakes here, not creating some flimsy excuse for you to drink maple juice. The flavoring you add to the top of a meal should never be the meal itself. So if that's all you really wanted from this relationship, then get your purse and leave -- because I won't be making any more of these for your hoochie ass anytime soon.

  5. Leadpoint -- Leadpoint isn't technically a pancake as much as it is the result. Leadpoint is that unique moment where suddenly you realize that you don't want any more pancakes. It almost always happens when you're chewing a mouthful, and it starts to feel like work. A good pancake chef will recognize the possibility of leadpoint before it hits, and cut off the supply early enough to avoid it. Technique is essential, because really thick pancakes tend to bring this on faster than midsized ones do. It's sort of the opposite of the waif, where syrup rules the flavor -- because once you start getting close to leadpoint -- no amount of syrup will help. There's simply too much cake to work through, and it starts to feel like you're eating bread.
Like good loving, good pancakes should leave you wanting more. You never want to leave a pancake eating experience saying something like "I'll never eat those again." the way you do with say, tequila. A great pancake meal says, "Stay with me, and I'll make these again sometime." It's a power that should never be abused.

Or to put it another way -- I may not ever be able to forget or forgive some of the hateful things my grandmother has done or said during the time that I've known her,
But if she was somehow able to make up another batch of those
blueberry pancakes right now, I'd be the first one at the table.

[Listening To:  Ra"Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" ]


JerseySjov said…
i make great pancakes [the trick, as you must know, is to watch them like a hawk so you catch them at the perfect golden-brown-ness] but the great irony is that i don't care for breakfast food that much.
Anonymous said…
One day, I shall start my own religion. And I would like very much for The Pancakipedia to be included in the holy scriptures.

(This is the best post you've ever written.)
Heff said…
"A pancake is like a donut you need a fork to eat."

Heff watches his girlish figure. Pancakes are of the Devil.
Satorical said…
perhaps my best memory of college was Sunday mornings:ren&stimpy & pancakes, followed by basketball. Bliss.
Hex said…
Jersey -- You know what's really great? Sometimes making a full-on breakfast for dinner. Omelettes, pancakes, fresh fruit -- it's a killer switcheroo.

WIGSF -- You got it bro. I'll start jumping on Oprah's couch ASAP.

Heff -- Dude there's a picture of you on your blog holding like a gallon of mayonnaise. Whatchu talkin 'bout Willis!?

Satorical -- man those were the days. Dragging out of bed just to catch Dr. Stupid.
Werdna said…
Word! Great article.

@ Satorical & Hex- B-ball + pancakes + cartoons were the best. turns your head from cob-webby and crappy to golden brown!

If I could only shoot like Spruill.
Heff said…