Love in the Batter


This morning, Katie asked me to make pancakes.

As I got out the bowl, the pan, and the spatula, the kids hovered around me like moths. “Can I help you stir, Mom?” “Let’s add nuts this time!” “Can I flip them over, please? I promise I’ll be careful!” One reason pancakes are so popular around here is the team effort that goes into making them. Caleb dragged the step stool from its hiding place next to the refrigerator and in a moment he and Katie were both vying for position on the top step, the better to see into the magic bowl.

I’m not going to tell you that I make my pancakes from scratch. Pancake mix is cheap, and easy to whip into a nearly instant stack of fluffy flapjacks. Just add water. Besides, I have to make two batches–one gluten-free, casein-free batch for Katie, and one regular batch for Caleb and Paul. Starting from scratch would just take too long. But I do like to add things to the batter. An egg, for protein. Nuts, for texture. Sugar and cinnamon, just because it tastes better that way. Katie is my little kitchen experimenter, and she is always suggesting new additions. “Chocolate chips, Mom? That would be yummy.” “How about some coconut?” I’ve had to veto some of her wilder suggestions, like gummi bears and marshmallows, but I usually try to accommodate a special request or two. We dump it all in a big mixing bowl and take turns stirring it until every last lump of powdery pancake mix is blended in.

Then comes the fun part.

Dribbling pancake batter off of a spoon and onto a hot griddle in the exact shape of a bat is a lot harder than it sounds. Fortunately, Katie and Caleb have well-honed imaginations, and can easily see horses, snakes, and porcupines where most objective observers might conclude that the chef simply suffered a small seizure while pouring the batter. I also do letters, numbers, and various punctuation marks. “Hey, Mom, make a C, for Caleb!” “Will you make mine say ‘#1’?” I honor nearly any request, as long as I know what it is (although I draw the line at characters from video games.)

The hot pancakes come off the griddle a beautiful golden brown (well, after I burn the first batch, which I always do.) The kids enjoy drizzling the syrup themselves, making big, swirling loops across the tops of the hot cakes with it and letting it pool in honey-colored puddles underneath.

The first silence of the morning settles over the kitchen as everybody falls upon the food, and, in a flash, the pancakes are gone. The dishes are whisked away to the dishwasher, the counter is wiped down, and breakfast is over. Everyone scampers off to meet the day with full bellies. Invariably, that night, whether Katie or Caleb says the prayer, a “thank you for pancakes” finds its way in somewhere between the Dear God and the Amen.

Pancakes are a breakfast for Saturdays, or vacation days, days when the harried pace of the usual weekly routine gives way to the delicious languor of hour upon unscheduled hour. To my kids, pancakes say that I love them, and love spending time with them. They say that I value their contribution, and that they are worthwhile to me. Such a little thing, really, but a big thing, too. I can see it in the glow of their eyes.

I hope I never get too busy to make Saturday morning pancakes.

13 responses »

  1. Pancakes are much the same in our house, too, only this past KICK’N, when LM cooks dinner, he chose to learn something new and asked me to teach him how to make pancakes. We didn’t do any fancy designs, and we didn’t add any special ingredients but they were extra delicious when made by the hand of an eleven year old boy. I, too, love the pancake tradition!

  2. Yay for pancakes!! We had some this morning, but my instant pancake mix box was so close to being empty that I actually had to get out my cookbook and make them from SCRATCH. This happens so rarely that Andrew said, “Mom, you MADE these?” He did find them to be extra delicious. 🙂 Great post. You have always been an extraordinarily fun mommy and I know your kids are so blessed by your attention to the kinds of details you described. May you have many, many pancake mornings to come.

  3. Mmmm, pancakes! What a great picture of your morning you’ve painted. You are so good with words (and with encouragement, thank you, by the way, very much!)

    Oh how I can’t wait to have family times like that one day.

  4. Wonderful post! I remember pancakes meaning much the same to me as a child when my mom made them.

    I currently cut out sandwiches with cookie cutters and that makes Bella eat them! It is so WEIRD but awesome!

  5. We tend toward micro pancakes from Schwan’s for breakfast, but when we pull out the batter bowl and boxed mix, it’s a sign that ‘breakfast for dinner’ is in the cards 🙂 Every now & then, we end up with waffles, but my kids have never asked to add things to the mixture since they like it just plain and boring. We have, however, added cinnamon and vanilla to our mixture and haven’t gotten any complaints – thanks to Cori’s hubby for the vanilla idea! Anyway, sounds like a wonderful tradition for your kiddo – our biggest meal tradition is tacos…a real family favorite when we add queso and chips. The kids love to make their own tacos, then eat 1 plain tortilla by folding it a few times, then biting holes into it so that it looks like a snowflake when it’s opened up.

  6. I hear ya on the not wanting to make the batter from scratch. Especially gluten-free batters! We have to make the gluten-free variety in our house too. And we add all kinds of stuff to the GF batter to make them extra tasty. That way I don’t have to make a second batch for the folks that can eat gluten. Coconut sounds like a fun ingredient to add! Thanks for the idea.

  7. My Dad used to make us pancakes when we were little – it would give my Mom the morning off on a weekend.

    They weren’t “pancakes” though… it was always Art In A Pan.

    We were allowed to make requests, and my dad would spoon out lumpy shapes that we would accepts as whatever we had asked for.

    Sigh… one of my favorite childhood memories – thanks for bringing it back.

    He makes pancakes for the grandkids now… but I guess they are too hands-on for “art” – they just want to flip ’em.

  8. So what is the key to not burning the first batch of pancakes? I do the same thing every time I make them for us. We like to do our pancakes at dinner and have “breakfast” for dinner.

  9. I love huckleberry pancakes. My mom is the best breakfast cook. However, at our home John is more proactive about weekend breakfast than I, thus my children are a bunch of waffle lovers! I am curious about the whole waffle vs. pancake debate. Does it really just come down to whatever brings back the best childhood memories, or is it all about the texture?

  10. I totally know what you mean!!! Kyle and I almost always make breakfast on either Saturday or Sunday. It’s our way of stealing a few minutes during an otherwise busy busy week just for the two of us. And yes, we always burn the first batch of pancakes we lay down too. Why is that!?!

  11. Oh my gosh, I’m such a sap — I’m completely teary-eyed over this post!

    Your kids are so fortunate to have such an awesome, loving and fun mother. I love that you all find so much joy in such a small thing.

    Plus, I really love pancakes. 🙂

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