To make the pancakes, you mix the starter—flour, water, yeast, and sugar—the night before. You let it work and raise and bubble overnight, then in the morning add the rest of the ingredients and cook your pancakes. So on Saturday night, I set out to make starter for a triple batch.
Remembering that the next day would be St. Patrick’s Day, I dumped in some green food coloring. Then it occurred to me that it might be fun to make shamrock-shaped pancakes, and I started considering the easiest ways to flip them. Maybe I was thinking too much about these things, because before I knew it I hadn’t just made starter, but had mixed in all the ingredients for finished pancakes.
Drat. Oh, well; if I let it set overnight it should still be okay. Just to be sure, I dumped in an extra tablespoon or three of yeast. Then I left the big stainless steel bowl of batter on the counter to work its magic.
It worked, all right. The next morning, when I walked into the kitchen, this is what I saw: The bowl was nearly empty. A lava flow of green pancake batter had oozed over the rim, streamed to the edge of the counter, and cascaded down to spread across the floor.
Whatever was I going to do? The kitchen smelled wonderfully of cinnamon and yeast, but it was a mess. I didn’t have enough flour and eggs to start over. And a dozen hungry people were showing up in half an hour, expecting pancakes.
Then I noticed something. In the warm spot over by the furnace vent, the edge of the pancake puddle was dry, with popped bubbles on top—just the way a pancake should look when the underside is perfectly cooked and it’s ready to flip.
This gave me an idea. Why not cook the batter right where it was?
It was spread out at just the right thickness. The floor, having been scrubbed only a week ago, was perfectly clean—well, clean enough. All I needed was a heat source.
My first thought was the hair dryer. No, not hot enough. The iron? Closer, but still not hot enough, even set on “cotton.” I needed to do this fast, and I needed to do it right. I went out to the garage and got the blowtorch.
My insurance agent would have had a hissy fit, but what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Besides, I happen to know that a blowtorch, properly employed, is a precision implement. I’ve seen my son-in-law use one to burn the peeling paint off the deck without charring the wood, etch a child’s initials into a 2 x 4, and delicately incinerate individual thistles.
True, I’d never done any of these things myself, but if a son-in-law could do it, how hard could it be? I put on my safety goggles, slipped on a pair of oven mitts, and set to work.
Half an hour later my guests burst through the door, to be greeted by the appetizing aromas of cinnamon, freshly-baked pancakes, and warm chokecherry syrup, with the merest subtle undertone of propane. The blowtorch was back in the garage where it belonged. The kitchen was, if not perfectly pristine, pretty much as clean as usual.
The few insignificant little scorch marks on the cupboards were hardly noticeable at all. That one little spot where the vinyl flooring had melted a teeny, tiny bit was in an inconspicuous corner.
On the table were two tall stacks of green pancakes. They may have been a little browner than usual—not necessarily a bad thing, since it served to disguise any odd bits of extra ingredients they might have picked up from the floor. They were not, however, shamrock-shaped. When you’re in the kitchen and in a hurry, there are limits to just how precise you can be with a blowtorch.
I kept my mouth shut and passed the pancakes. Everyone dug in. As he stuffed in the last bite of his third one, the oldest grandchild sighed and said, “You always make the best pancakes, Grandma.”
His mother put a fourth one on his plate and took another one for herself. “These are even better than usual,” she told me. “Did you do anything different?”
(My Toastmasters club had a “tall tales” day this week; this was mine. Feel free to decide for yourself whether it’s really a tall tale or merely a story of slightly exaggerated height.)