Pancake Secrets and The Land of Cockaigne

Who here likes pancakes? Raise your hand if you don’t like pancakes. First, find a mirror, raise your hand, and say into the mirror, “I don’t like pancakes.” Make eye contact with yourself. How did that feel? Were you indignant? Were you ashamed? I only ask, because, people, it’s not okay to not like pancakes. And those of you who don’t like pancakes, I’m wondering if there is really something deeper going on beneath the surface. Are you the same person who doesn’t like Coldplay because everyone else does? Finds anything canonized “boring?” Have you created your own form of currency? Are you ironical? Alls I’m saying is: there may be a deeper complex of problems here.

Golden, warm, creamy, butter-drenched, crispy-edged, maple-syrup-soaked flapjacks pretty much demolish the bullseye as far as satisfying a certain primordial craving goes–sweetness and warmth and fat. If you insist your strain of human genetics has evolved past that, well: 1). bullshit 2). so have pancakes! There is a pancake for everyone–the chic and elastic French crèpe; the decadent cream infused dessert pancake; the egg-y and bombastic German pancake; the healthy, earthy buckwheat wonder. They come in all sizes from silver dollars to wagon wheels. Am I really blogging about the variety of pancake sizes? I am!

What else? What other pancake inanity might I need to address? Well! You can stack them short or tall. You can put one on a plate, stalwart and stately as a ribeye steak and announce…”Here’s your pancake.” OR you could put two on top of each other, or one on top of two, or two on top of one, or three on top of five, or… the sky’s the limit actually. Then, when you are about to cut the ribbon on your griddle cake high rise, the best part: pouring enough syrup on the top layer to soak through to the ground floor.

And the endless variation of toppings! Peanut butter, fruits, jam, confits, coulis, confectioners sugar, Nutella, whipped cream, gravy. If you can smear it, you can put it on a pancake.

Yes. I know. This may be my worst blog topic ever: convincing a world that loves pancakes to love pancakes. But the thing is: I really really really love pancakes! We all do. We go to newlyweds’ houses in the middle of the night and refuse to leave until we get some pancakes. That’s called Shivaree. We have our own condiment that is designated ONLY for pancakes (don’t argue; waffles are basically filagreed pancakes) in special bottles shaped like maternal figures. We chase fugitive pancakes all over the town shaking our rolling pins in the air. In our folklore only foxes can outwit anthropomorphic pancakes. Foxes! We dream our pillows are pancakes and wake up to find we’ve eaten it. Eaten our entire pillow!

And I’m going to eat pancakes tonight. Sweet, sweet potato pancakes.

Now some tips for mind-blowing pancakes (paraphrased from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook):

1) Don’t overstir the batter! A few lumps are way preferable to flat pancakes.

2) Let the batter rest after you’ve mixed it–five to ten minutes–until bubbles rise to the top and it looks kind of frothy and milkshaky. Fluffier pancakes!

3). This seems pretty obvious, but: don’t flip the pancakes more than once.

4). If you want crisp pancakes, then you’ll resist the urge to stack the shit out of them. Stacking is fun, it’s true. But it instead, spread them in a single layer in a 200 degree oven to keep them toasty.

Also, apropos of pancakes–regard the above painting by Pieter Bruegel (The Elder). It’s the Land of Cockaigne–you reach it by tunneling through a large mound of pudding. Well, actually, in Dutch it’s Het Luilekkerland–Lazy Luscious Land. Some really crazy crap goes on there. Look very closely. Appetite is the great equalizer of the three estates, see? Priest, peasant, and knight are all under the same spell of gastronomical indulgence.  A half carved pig trots around at your beck and call, as does a funny little egg with legs. But is this a happy picture? No. No, I think not.

‘Tis is a fine line between satiation and gluttony. Between reverence for food and the doldrums of hedonism.

But I don’t mean to be a killjoy. I just intend that picture as a poignant psychological critique to balance out the pancake frenzy of which I was fanning the flames, earlier, in this very blog. Which is all I ever try to do–start fires and then stamp them back out.


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