Sometimes I am asked what kind of man I am. Here is an answer: I am the kind of man who sometimes has pancakes for dinner.
And why not? Only babykillers and Communists dislike pancakes, their beady red eyes burned by the sight of simple carbohydrate pleasure, the butter’s luxurious rolling moooo, the crisp but distant sweetness of syrup–real syrup, not flavored corn sugar. Of course since October I haven’t splurged for maple syrup, but butter is enough. Who doesn’t like butter?
Saturday and/or Sunday mornings my father would make pancakes. Real pancakes require Bisquick, he said, and so we had that when my mother would allow the substitution from whatever low-rent store-brand premix she had bought four boxes of. I first remember the ritual in Canada, the TV on cartoons and snow three feet deep out the windows, my father whipping batter in a white Pyrex bowl. Margarine–both because it was cheaper (of course) and because the Seventies broke the scientific truth that chemically altered candle wax was better for you than milkfat–stung the black cast iron and the batter calmed it, bubbling. They came in sizes: big (my child’s head sized) or little (my child’s hand sized). I would eat them, then run out to play, or run to watch the TV, or just run. Growing older, in Texas the ritual only seemed proper during those rare months or weeks when it was actually cold, the sky flat and sullen, air heavy with humid woodsmoke. I was slower then, more sullen, and I didn’t notice until college that pancakes made me leaden and heavy.
Now I am wise enough to eat them at day’s end instead of start. I tried various compensations–whole wheat flour, mostly buckwheat and wheat germ–but there is no getting around that the things are only a half-step removed from pure sugar. The morning I figured it out was embarrassingly recent, in my late 30’s I’d guess: out walking, feeling drugged, it came together. I remembered in high school rejecting the school lunch for an instant breakfast bar, and I could stay awake and focus the whole afternoon. Here I am again, in the school without walls.
Take heart. Say yes backwards. It isn’t the dream of youth, but it’s still yes.