As a child, waking up to music was not an unusual thing. My father has a deep love for all types of great artists and has in turn given us a very eclectic look at the world of composers and performers. Classical music was usually the genre of choice in the morning. Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach…they all had a place at the table. However, one held a special place in my heart. When you woke up to the stunningly powerful voice of Michael Crawford belting out the score of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera, you knew that my father was down in the kitchen making pancakes. The pancake batter that my father makes is from a very small paperback New England cookbook that has duct tape holding the spine together and has numerous spatterings on the “griddle cake” recipe page. I don’t think we have used this recipe book for anything other than these pancakes, but it’s older than me, so I’ll let me parents tell us if they have used it before my time.
We would wake up in our rooms and groggily make our way down the stairs in our pajamas with the scent of coffee in the air and the orchestra coaxing our sleepy eyes up to full mast. In the kitchen we would find the blinds on the slider door in the kitchen open all the way to let in those bright beams of morning light and, if it was a nice day, the door would be open as well letting in the fresh morning air. My father would be in the kitchen in his red terrycloth bathrobe measuring flour and melting butter. He would undoubtedly stop what he was doing when he saw you walk in and would come over for a hug and kiss and a “morning sweetie”. If it was me, he would ask if I wanted a cup of tea, because I, unlike the other women in the house, did not drink coffee. If not tea, he would pour me a glass of orange juice and proceed making breakfast. You were then welcome to sit and read a magazine, listen to the beautiful opera and chat in the kitchen with him as he worked. He would sing along with the music and I think seeing him that happy made breakfast just a little bit sweeter. It was almost as if the vibrations of those powerful notes made their way into what we were cooking and flavored it in a way all it’s own.
Now, not everyone can make a good pancake. It takes a gentle balance of sweet and savory and also a gentle hand when mixing the batter to not over do it. The MOST important part of the pancakes is the egg whites. The only way to get a very light airy pancake and not a lead disk is to whip the egg whites into a fluffy mass that forms soft peaks when you pull out the beater. After whipping the whites, my Dad would then lovingly fold them into the rest of the creamy batter. The pancake mixture then seems to take on a life of it’s own. It not only grows in size but takes on this very spongy quality that makes your mouth just water waiting for them to hit the griddle. A little butter on the non-stick surface and we are ready for the main event.
He would put the pancake batter in this opaque tupperware mixing bowl that had a spouted side so that it was easy to pour 2 inch wide disks of batter. I’m sure these containers are in like 99% of American households. It seemed like it took forever to have the pancake form those small bubbles on the surface, signaling it was time to flip it over. This he did with a practiced hand and flipped the golden cakes easily along the surface. He would then pile them onto a larger plate that was in the oven on warm so that we could all sit down and eat together. Pancakes undoubtedly came with breakfast sausage or bacon, whichever one was in the fridge at the time, but it didn’t matter, the pancakes were the important item of the day. With everything on the table, we were ready to sit down and enjoy not only the wonderful meal, but each other as well. It was very rare in our childhood that we were not all together in the morning on the weekends. A big breakfast was time to re-connect, catch up, relax, and enjoy our time together as a family. I had two working parents and I’m sure that this was as much a breath of fresh air for them on the weekends as it was for us.
It’s time to dig in. Everyone has a wonderfully tall stack of hot pancakes on their plate, and everyone in the world likes pancakes differently. For me, I’m a pancake purist. I like plain pancakes with nothing in them, like blueberries or chocolate chips. I want to really taste the cakey batter and appreciate it by itself. This also means that I am not a huge fan of syrup on my cakes either. I like a lot of butter. Real butter. Some meat on the side, and if I’m REALLY lucky and my Dad kept the griddle going, he would make me a fried egg to put on top. When you cut through the soft yolk of the egg and it drips down into the light fluffy cakes, there is nothing better in the whole world. It is buttery on so many levels, the velvet texture of the yolk and the perfect give of the golden disk. Heaven has pancakes, I know it. After you have had your stack, there is usually one or two later on that are smothered in some jam or wrapped around a sausage or piece of bacon, but that first plate is always the best.
I am so lucky in my life to have a father who loves all of us so much. This is not a one time distant memory I have of him in the kitchen, but a regular occurance that happens still today. Even though none of us live at home anymore, and even though we will all be married by this time next year, we still come over for breakfast. We still love seeing our Daddy in the kitchen beating egg whites and singing to Phantom of the Opera. He still takes us in his arms and gives us morning hugs and I repeatedly feel like that little girl who stumbled downnstairs into a perfect world.
I appreciate every day the Father I was blessed with and thank God that he has given us so much love and happiness in our lives. My Dad taught us how men should act with their families, how father’s should treat their children and how husbands should worship their wives. My sisters and I often joke with him that he has ruined us for the rest of our lives because they don’t make men like him anymore. The truth is there is no one like him in the world. He is our protector, our strength, our comfort and our hearts. We are better women for growing up with him in our lives, guiding us along the paths we have all taken. He has shown us that men can cry, they can love unconditionally and they can be there. Every day. He has fed us so many mornings I can not even try to count. He showed his love through his food on these mornings like so many of us do. I have had pancakes all over from so many different places, and they are never like the ones I have at home. They don’t have my Father’s love and they don’t have Phantom.
Love you Daddy.