As a kid I often ate waffles and ice cream for breakfast. Or a bowl of Lucky Charms without the milk. Or Sugar Pops, without a spoon, one sweet, sticky kernel at a time.
On weekends we’d have bagels and lox and whitefish from the deli. Sometimes my father made scrambled eggs with thick round slices of Hebrew National salami, or French toast with Log Cabin syrup.
But I don’t remember ever having homemade pancakes. The only time I remember eating them was on those rare occasion that the family would go to IHOP for breakfast and I would order a plate full of silver dollars with no butter. I’d drown them in the thick brown maple syrup from the fancy pitcher with the sticky metal spout.
My first attempt at making pancakes from scratch was for my friend’s 20th birthday. I mixed the flour and milk according to the recipe and poured the batter into the frying pan. I didn’t know that the pan needed to be hot before you started, or that you shouldn’t flip them more than once on each side.
My dream birthday breakfast turned into a battery burned mess, the apartment filled with smoke and my friend laughing at my lack of pancake making skills.
That was 32 years ago and, while I love to eat pancakes, in all those years I have never tried to make them again.
But several weeks ago I bought a box of Bisquick instant pancake mix (just add water) and a bottle of real maple syrup from Canada. I had an inkling that I wanted to try again and, since both items have a long shelf life, I wasn’t under any pressure to make them right away.
But last night I had a craving. So I pulled out the box, measured out the mix, added the water and whisked it together. I coated the frying pan with non-stick spray like the directions said, put the flame on medium heat and let the pan get hot.
Then I poured a four inch blob of batter into the pan and dotted the pancake with some fresh blueberries.
And I watched the clock, waiting.
The directions on the box said to flip it after a minute or a minute and a half, or when the edges started to brown.
I guess my pan wasn’t hot enough because when I peeked my spatula under the pancake, the bottom was still white and sticky.
So I waited some more.
As I stood there, watching the blobs of batter in the pan, I realized that this is why I don’t like cooking.
Because it is a lot of waiting. And not doing.
They say that, how we do one thing is how we do everything.
As I stood over the hot pan, watching for the edges to brown, it became very clear to me that I am a do-er, not a wait-er. I’m a person of action, of results, of energy in motion.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t sit still. Because if sitting still is the thing that I am doing, then I’m fine with it.
But when I think about how I step into any new habit, or begin a new project, I see how much I don’t like to just wait.
Even though I know that life is a flow of action and non-action, and that there needs to be space in between, I am always doing something else while I am waiting, keeping busy, stirring another pot of possibility.
I am never just doing nothing, waiting for the next step.
And it occurs to me that maybe I wouldn’t feel so scattered and unfocused if I leaned into this waiting space and didn’t try to fill up every minute with doing something, or something else.
Waiting is about giving up the need for control. It is allowing something to happen in its own time, giving a thing or a person the space to bloom, ready, or, in the case of a pancake, time to brown.
I guess I need to make pancakes more often so that I can practice waiting for things to happen in their own time. Without control. Without impatience. Without doing anything else.
As for my first batch of blueberry pancakes, I won’t lie and tell you that they were the best pancakes I’ve ever had. But they weren’t the worst either.
I drowned them in the maple syrup from Canada and was pretty proud of myself for sticking with it. And especially proud for seeing how this simple act of making pancakes could teach me something about how I do everything else in my life.
How do life lessons appear in your life? I’d love to hear your stories. And if you have a great recipe for homemade pancakes, I may just give it a try. Just click on the comments below.