The Pancake - My Ultimate Comfort Food
There is something about the smell and taste of a pancake that makes me feel really good. Watching the batter bubble on the griddle, flipping the flimsy piece of dough over with precision so as not to splatter it over the rest of the kitchen, and then serving it up with warm maple syrup is, for me, the ultimate comfort on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It goes back to those Saturday mornings as a child. That smell of pancakes cooking evokes images of Looney Toons, The Lone Ranger, Casper, and a whole slew of other weekend morning TV shows from childhood. Usually, I woke up well before my parents. I'd sneak downstairs, love on our d
ogs a bit and then click the "on" dial on our giant TV console and wait as the tubes warmed up and the picture faded into view. The farm report would be on and I'd have to wait till it finally ended before cartoons would broadcast. Soon, my younger siblings would arrive and we'd all stare and laugh at the corny animation and black and white westerns. But, the morning would never be complete until mom came down and pulled out the old horizontal, plug-in grill and started cooking our breakfast. "Ok, kids, time for breakfast!" With those words, we'd run to the table and feast on hot pancakes with syrup before a day of playing outdoors with friends.
Later in my life, when I became a teen it was a different story. Now, it would be at the Burkholz household. Mrs. Burkholz would be working away in her kitchen way before sunrise. It was opening day for deer hunting, in 1976. A number of us gathered in their kitchen before dawn to feast on a wonderful meal of pancakes, sausage, bacon, and everything in between. I can see some of the hunters in my mind today. I can see the old red and black checkered hunting jackets hanging on the chairs around the table. I can smell the hot coffee, my hot chocolate, and of course, the wonderful pancakes. In reflection, I could have sat at that table all day. Bathed in the wonderful smells of breakfast.
I used to bicycle tour and race. Pancakes were a staple before each ride. And years ago, probably in the late 1990s, friends and I would meet down at the Whistle Stop Cafe at 6th and Greene for some of the largest pancakes I have ever seen. Literally, they were about 1-2 inches thick and in diameter of about 10 inches wide! We loved to fool first-timers and laugh when they'd order the "three-stack" knowing there was no way in hell they'd even dent this monster cake of dough. After the carb and fat loading, we'd get on our bikes, feel the morning sun on our faces, and peddle with great energy over the Sand Bar Ferry Bridge to the backroads of South Carolina. There was no need for snacks...we had had plenty to fuel us for most of the day. During Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG), there was a guy who literally had a mechanized pancake maker. Using a giant grill with robotic nozzles, he'd make upwards of 20 pancakes at a time. And when a carb-loading cyclist would say, "Hey, I need another pancake!" He'd take his spatula and throw the cake through the air to the hungry patron. It'd roll in the air, twisting and turning as it made its way over the seated bicyclists and to the catcher. When the pancake and plate collided and it was a good catch, everyone in the room would applaud.
In the early 2000s, it was on Saturday or Sunday mornings that I'd pick up my mom from her assisted-living home, bring her over to my house, and prepare her pancakes for breakfast. By this point in her life, she was suffering from memory loss and we focused on those good memories of the past often to keep her grounded. I'd sit her down in the den. Turn on a movie and as she watched, fix pancakes for her. She'd say, "it sure smells good!" And, I would smile, knowing that in some small way, I was giving her back the same memories I had. Those instant memories of the past which we associated with this simple food such as pancakes.