Pancakes are the perfect food. They are fluffy, warm, tasty circles of contentment. Pancakes are so beloved that they are present in every culture throughout recorded history. The Ancient Greeks made pancakes called τηγανίτης (tēganitēs). The French make crêpes. In Spain pancakes are called filloas. Germans make Pfannkuchen which is another of those fantastic German compound words*, from Pfanne and Kuchen meaning “pan” and “cake”.
There are huge, fluffy pancakes that you wish you could lie down on and curl around you like a tasty blanket. There are tiny silver-dollar pancakes that are bite-sized circles of joy, properly eaten by stacking several on the fork at the same time. There are blueberry pancakes, with gooey, tart berries bursting inside the sweet, buttery dough. There are stacks of pancakes with creamy pats of butter melting deliciously between them. Even O. Henry waxed on about the virtues of pancakes, writing, “’They’re golden sunshine,’ says he, ‘honey-browned by the ambrosial fires of Epicurus.’”
I have a certain personal etiquette for enjoying these delights. Here are my pancake rules:
- Each pancake should be consistently cut into nine roughly equal sections by making two horizontal cuts and two vertical cuts at intervals of 1/3 of the diameter of the surface.
- Traditional pancakes should be served with copious butter and maple syrup on the side.
- Each bite should be dipped into the syrup individually, allowing mere seconds for the syrup to coat the exterior surface, and avoiding a complete soaking.
- Pancakes are too esteemed to insult with fly-by-night toppings like various fruit compotes, peanut butter, cinnamon sugar, and oddly flavored syrups; pancakes should be enjoyed with traditional butter and maple syrup only.
- The only flavored pancake in which anyone should partake is blueberry, and they should be enjoyed only with butter, no syrup or powdered sugar and whatever other abominations with which some lunatics might spoil their pancakes.
- The last bite of any meal including pancakes as a component should be pancake.
*Other personal favorites include schadenfreude derived from schaden (damage, harm) and freude (joy) and zeitgeist from zeit (time) and geist (spirit). German words can be so entertainingly clever, especially fake ones. At Christmas time, while assembling the tree, the kids and I speak in a German accent as we say, “Fluufenbranchen on tannenbaumen,” or “Lichten der tannenbaumen” or “Watchenfallen tannenbaumen.”