I am a terrible cook.
A good meal to me is one where the smoke alarm does not go off.
Try as I might, it seems no matter what I attempt to make I either cook it too long or too fast, beat it too much or stir it too little or add one ingredient that is just plain wrong.
I often look at my four boys, pushing today's "oops!" around on their plates and realize that when they grow up and move away they will never hurry home for one of Mom's home-cooked meals. (The flip-side is that their wives will be pleased to hear "It doesn't taste like my mother's.")
Yet, in all my culinary despair, there is one dish I have conquered. There is one course I can prepare for which I actually receive requests.
It is my magnum opus of the kitchen -- my finest culinary delight.
That dish is pancakes.
I make pancakes that are an inch thick with a texture so light and fluffy they almost float onto your plate.
Some of my fans don't even use syrup on my masterpieces, so perfect is their taste.
Like every good cook, I have "secret ingredients" in my batter. The recipe is known only to me, and I keep it well-guarded in the recesses of my mind.
Because of the great demand for my pancakes, I make them every Saturday ... or whenever the children have friends over and they request my "awesome" delicacies ... or whenever the children have friends over and they don't request them ... or whenever we run out of cereal ... or run out of toast ... or whenever someone mentions "cake."
My freezer is full of leftover pancakes, stuffed in baggies, ready to be reheated. The freezer pancakes are good in a pinch. My pancakes are better fresh off the griddle, though.
Source of hope
I love to make pancakes even though I never eat them. The reason I love to make them is because I can.
Pancakes represent hope to me. The hope that if I try, try and try again, I will indeed be able to cook other things.
Because there was a time when I could not flip one flapjack.
I was in college and had taken a job with a local family as a nanny of sorts. (I was a "nanny of sorts" because I was no better at nannying than I was at cooking!)
Jenny and Carrie Bender of Canfield were like little sisters to me. While I took care of them, they often "took care" of me.
The girls learned early on that it was slim pickin's with me and food. They would often stare at their plates, stirring the "oops!" around like my own children do today.
They were usually polite and respectful. But, like my own children, every once in a while, when their stomachs were growling especially hard, they would rebel.
The first attempt
Such was the case with the pancakes.
One day after school, I "treated" the girls to my pancakes. They looked at the thin, hard discs on their plates and decided that instead of eating them, they would throw them.
A game of flying disks ensued.
Much to my despair, not one pancake broke. They held up quite well under severe tossing conditions.
While the girls tossed and laughed, a resolve was growing in my gut.
Initially, my goal was to simply make edible pancakes.
As I practiced my flipping and perfected my batter, I sought to attain a higher goal. I wanted to make pancakes that people considered "good."
Today, I have surpassed "good" and am well on my way to "great."
My goal now is to make pancakes that are "perfect."
I overheard my son telling his friend one night that they would be eating pancakes for breakfast.
"How do you know?" the boy asked.
"That's what she makes," he explained very matter of fact.
My children may not come rushing home for dinner after they move away from home, but every Saturday morning, I'll bet my breakfast table is full.