Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Life Gives You Pancake Mix, Make Pancakes

I don't have much experience making pancakes. My pancake days have been limited at best. My participation almost symbolic. Watching me cook pancakes is like watching a politician throw out the first pitch at a baseball game. It's awkward and not worthy of press coverage. Oh sure on occasion I've passed through the kitchen and finished off a batch of pancake mix by doing the "guest pour" but that's the extent of my involvement.

No one has ever asked me to prepare pancakes for them. For some reason I've never been in charge of creating the mixture. I've never woken up and thought today I will make pancakes. Thus when it comes to the home pancake experience, I'm what you might call a role player. I eat. I close the meal. I'm there to finish up all the extra pancakes that come off at the end. The ones that no one else can handle. That's what I do. That's my job. And once in awhile...if I happen to find myself in the kitchen late in the meal...maybe I do the last pour or two. But that's it.

Due to my exceptional meal closing abilities, certain columnists have dubbed me the Mariano Rivera of Pancakes. They still love to talk of the time I spilled the pancake mix all over the kitchen counter in Arizona in 2001. No one forgets that night. And of course I also dropped the spatula in Cleveland back in 1997. It happens. Only two mess ups over all that time is still pretty damn impressive.

Looking back over my pancake career, I may not have poured the batter too often but I was a crowd favorite in the kitchen. The people would start clapping anytime I got near the ladle. In fact if you listen to old bootlegs of my 20th century pours, it's hard to tell if you're standing in my kitchen, or at Soldier Field in Chicago when William "The Refrigerator" Perry came into the game for one of his novelty goal line carries.

Mostly I was loved. Adored by pancake fans who knew I wasn't afraid to have fun out there. Not the people who started liking pancakes once they became popular. I'm talking about the folks who were there in the beginning. The same folks who will still be there eating their pancakes long after ESPN stops showing them. The people who actually appreciate breakfast and not the fad called breakfast.

Sometimes, if there were children around, I would try to pour an "R" in the pan to make them jealous that I could have a pancake in the shape of my first initial. This move can become rather dangerous if there is no additional pancake mix left for the young person to then make their own initial with. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Those of you who've had the pleasure of watching me cook before, you guys probably know to stand back at a safe distance. Everyone else however needs to be real careful. Sometimes food ends up in places it shouldn't and people get hurt in the process. It's one of the reasons I have you sign that waiver on the way in.

My wife is well aware of my cooking history. I'm messy. There are spills and occasional burns. So when I announced yesterday that I was going to make pancakes, you can imagine how surprised I was to immediately receive clearance from her to create the mixture.

She said okay? Did she hear me correctly? I said I was going to make pancakes.

My wife's only request was that I come and get her before I poured. Now sure I could have argued with her that pouring was the only aspect of pancake making that I might be qualified to do. But why ruin a good thing?

Meanwhile look who's getting full control over making the mix?

According to the box the recipe was simple. All I needed was:

2 cups pancake mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons oil

So like Joba Chamberlain becoming a starting pitcher, I began to make pancakes.

As a math guy I was all over the the liquid to solid cups things. They want 2 cups mix and 1 cup milk? No problem. The fact that I used different devices to measure each of these cups should calm everyone down.

The 2 eggs part was also pretty straight forward. I raised preflop and everyone folded.

The hand that got me in trouble was the 2 tablespoons of oil. I wasn't thinking and grabbed the extra virgin olive oil instead of using vegetable oil.

What? You want me to think too?

In my defense I've never made pancake mixture before. And all it said was oil.

(If that line of thinking doesn't convince people then I'm just gonna have my lawyer go on and on about how "the oven mitt don't fit." Mitt also happens to rhyme better with acquit than does glove. Talk about a lucky break.)

So that's the bad news. The olive oil did make the pancakes taste funny.

However the good news is that substituting olive oil for vegetable oil only matters if you care about how your pancakes taste.

I sure didn't get much help eating this specific batch of pancakes from my wife. As I sat there chewing endlessly I pictured Marv Albert chiming in with how "we're watching extended Gar-bage Time" in that Marv Albert way where he turns "Garrrrr-Baaggggge" into a French word.

So what did we learn here?

Well I definitely misplayed the recipe.

Olive oil instead of vegetable oil?

Embarrassing. I should know better. It's the kind of donkey mistake that results in getting flamed all over the message boards. The pancake blogger community can be tough like that.

Me? I'm trying to stay above the fray. I'm hoping that I've grown from the experience and that I won't make the same mistake next time.

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