Metro, Column

The Problem with Pancakes: A Breakfast Food Offers a Taste of Childhood

I’m not sure if any of you know about this yet, but this week is National Pancake Week. Maybe some of you have been awaiting National Pancake Week with bated breath. Some of you might even be like me, delightedly caught off-guard and ecstatic to find something that will give meaning to the nightmare that is (for me at least) the second consecutive week of midterms and papers.

But most of you might be confused as to why I even care about it in the first place. In a city where more sophisticated and mouth-watering breakfast foods like waffles or crepes are readily available at restaurants like Zinneken’s Waffles or The Paris Creperie, why would I be so excited about a week dedicated to the humble pancake?

Honestly, I’m not even sure that I could tell you. Pancakes are by no means my favorite food. And in a world where scones and pastries exist, they’re not even my favorite breakfast food, yet over the past few months they have become a noticeable presence in my life. In fact, I can practically trace my experience in Boston through my consumption of pancakes.

I had my first Boston pancake shortly after I arrived at school. It was actually my first off-campus meal, which is probably why the day sticks in my head so vividly, a brunch with people who would become two of my closest friends.

By some miracle, we had gotten seats at The Met Back Bay, and I was starving for something different after almost a month of dining hall food. As I glanced over the menu, the Red, White & Blue buttermilk pancakes jumped out at me, and before I knew it, I had ordered them without even giving a second of consideration to the Nutella stuffed French toast, or the three-cheese omelet.

Any regret I had vanished as the pancakes made their way toward me several minutes later.

Light and fluffy, each pancake was almost the size of my head and topped with intricate swirls of whipped cream and berries. They were so simple and sweet, exactly what I needed that day.

And apparently they were exactly what I needed not much later, when I ended up at a sub shop in Newton Center that for some mysterious reason had pancakes on the menu. A part of me knew that they wouldn’t even be that good (they weren’t), but they still made the perfect lunch.

It turned out that pancakes were also what I felt compelled to order the first time (and the next couple of times, if I’m being honest) I dragged my friends to Johnny’s Luncheonette for dinner one fateful Friday night.

Even though it was clearly dinner, and I had yet to eat anything even vaguely nutritious that day, I ordered pancakes with whipped cream and blueberries, and relished every last bite of them.

It eventually became a kind of pattern. If there were pancakes on the menu, I would order them, regardless of the time of day. There were even moments when I didn’t particularly want pancakes, but I would order them anyway. It was almost like I was driven by some pancake-obsessed inner force that I had yet to recognize.

But as time went on, I began wondering about why I was so drawn to pancakes when the opportunity presented itself. Back at home, pancakes were a frequent breakfast item, but not so frequent an item that arriving in the pancakeless-world of a college dining hall could have left me with a deep pancake void that I needed to fill up.

In retrospect, I think that it had something to do with the childish nature of a pancake.

Entering college can be a stressful time for even the most organized of people. There is suddenly a new city, a new workload, a new set of people, and everyone needs a coping mechanism. For me, that coping mechanism was pancakes.

I see pancakes as the definition of childhood. They are the ultimate diner food for a 6-year-old, and the breakfast that almost any child will request before he or she understands what a crepe is. Pancakes are a grasp at the simplicity of being very young. They represent an existence when my family surrounded me at all times.

So I think that the whole thing has to do with the fact that every time I eat a pancake, I can feel childishly young and carefree, if only for a few moments. But sometimes, a few moments are really all that I need.

Featured Image by Abby Paulson / Heights Editor

February 25, 2016