Monday, February 27, 2006

Happy Pancake Tuesday!!!

Oh, heaven have mercy. It's that time again, my young friends. Pancake Tuesday is upon us. Sure, if you're in New Orleans, go on and do what you have to do to get a string of shiny beads. Your parents probably won't ever see that DVD anyway. Probably.

As for the rest of us, we're going to be eating pancakes. And why not? Some people claim there's like this whole history behind it and everything. For more, check out this "lovely" Aussie site where you can see a picture of Dwight Eisenhower grillin' up a mess o' pancakes. Like Ike? You'll love his pancakes.

Ooh, and I really have to insist that you take a peek at this site as well. Some of the same information, but with so many references sure to make an English schoolboy titter (titter! ha!) that I hate anyone to miss out. You'll see what I mean. And if you don't, well, don't admit it in front of the others. They won't think you're cool. Just laugh when everyone else does. That's called "socialization." You'll get the hang of it.

Now get out of here. Seriously. Go make some pancakes and prepare for the self-flagellating slog of Lent. I have to go get my hairshirt from the cleaners.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

buckwheat pancakes (not a joke ... an actual recipe!)

People often come to this blog--home to short fiction, digital snapshots, and occasional musings on the amusing--for actual pancake recipes. I feel bad for these people. Clearly the name of the blog is confusing to them, and in my small way I am therefore wasting precious seconds of their time. Worse, many of these visitors, from what the site's visit log indicates, are peeking in from far-flung areas of the planet: Russia, China, South America, Belgium, Detroit. What kind of ambassador am I being if I lure them in with the word "pancakes" and then fail to deliver on their expectations? Why, that's far too much like life!

Here then is my goodwill gesture. I hope it's delicious.

Buckwheat Pancakes
(makes 12 pancakes
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, egg, and baking powder. Mix until evenly blended. Add the water, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Stir until only small lumps remain.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Working in batches, pour the batter into the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bottom is browned. Turn and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until golden brown.

Remove to a plate and keep warm. Repeat to make a total of 12 pancakes.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

stray seeks mate

(Prospect St. and Hampshire, Cambridge, MA)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pancakes Dunst on Hair Care

Lorinda had cleared her calendar so she and Pancakes could spend the day together. She imagined a picture-postcard afternoon: a medley of fairy tales at the puppet theater, high tea, light shopping. But already it seemed she would have to contend with her daughter’s argumentative behavior.

Pancakes had been excited about the puppet theater, but soon after the performance began she had reacted to key moments with exasperated sighs that did not go unnoticed by the other people sitting near them. At intermission, Pancakes complained that the material wasn’t “challenging enough,” but she didn’t want to leave. “I think I should see what else they come up with,” she told her mother. “Maybe part of the problem is their source material.” So they stayed, but Pancakes didn’t seem any more satisfied with the latter half of the show.

Later, when they were in a cab and heading across town to have tea, Pancakes offered her critique. “Not a bad production,” she admitted. “I guess I’m just surprised by the kinds of messages they’re sending to kids.” This last part she said as if she were not herself only a few months into being nine.

Lorinda felt on shaky ground. She suddenly wished Emiliano were with them. He enjoyed these kinds of conversations with Pancakes. Plus, then she could hit him on the arm for turning their little girl into a precocious literature critic. “What messages are they sending, honey?”

“Well, like Rapunzel. She’s just so passive about her whole situation. All she does is grow her hair!”

“What’s she supposed to do?” Lorinda asked. “She’s in the tower. She can’t escape from there. It’s too far down.”

“I don’t know,” Pancakes said. “But I don’t see how having a guy climb up there is going to help. She needs to get down.”

“But she can’t get down. She needs someone to come help her. And her true love does that.”

“I don’t buy it,” Pancakes said. That prompted an eye-roll from Lorinda. Pancakes grinned.

“What don’t you buy?” Lorinda asked.

“If her hair is long enough for somebody to climb up, why doesn’t she climb down?” Pancakes asked. “She could cut off her hair and make it into a rope. Then she could just climb down.”

“But what about her true love?” Lorinda asked. “What does he do?”

“Well, if he’s her true love, then they’ll meet anyway, right?” Pancakes asked. “Otherwise, he was just in the right place at the right time. Anybody could have come by and climbed up there. I bet if Rapunzel figured out how to get down on her own, she might meet some other guy. The way it is, she just waits around for whoever comes along.”

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

for the uninitiated, this is "snow"

So maybe Somerville didn't get 27 inches like NYC did. We don't go in for all that showiness. No time for it. And we don't have tourists to impress. Don't have tourists, actually. Unless they missed a turn trying to find someplace in Cambridge, which is always a possibility.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Detention Journal, part three

Is there some reason, by the way, that no one’s talking about how we’re reliving the Red Scare these days? Terrorism is the new Communism! Enforced Liberation is the new Containment! Gross Unchecked Consumerism is the new Gross Unchecked Consumerism!

Has it not occurred to anybody? Or is it just that our schools are really as bad as they say? Being in lockup makes you think about these things.

Well, being in lockup in addition to, say, all the geopolitical events of the past several years.

There’s this girl over in the corner who has on more makeup than anybody I’ve seen. At least anybody who wasn’t in a music video or playing a hooker in a movie. Or even on Jennifer’s sister, who one time had on so much eyeshadow that she couldn’t open her eyes all the way. We all thought she was sleepy for a whole day.

Anyway, the girl with the makeup never seems to turn her head. I keep seeing her looking around, but she does it all with her huge, huge eyes. Her mouth is all pursed up like she’s been eating supersour Altoids. She’s been like that ever since the teacher caught her text-messaging someone on her cell phone an hour ago and took it away. She got so annoyed, like she never expected it. Why was she surprised?

Plus, the teacher didn’t think to turn the phone off when she confiscated it, and in a couple of minutes you could hear it ringing from her desk drawer. There was some musical ringtone on it, and three separate people got the briefest of grooves on before we were all hushed up and she finally figured out how to switch it off.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

are you sensing a theme?

It's not my intention to start some kind of clown cult, I swear. I just grab pictures of things that draw my attention.

In this case, it's not the clown so much as the fact that this particular toy is one I'd completely forgotten about until my sister and I found it at my grandmother's house over Christmas. Who knows how many kids have been given nightmares by its like over the years?

This is just one of a whole collection of interlocking, vaguely human-shaped, wooden clowns. If you'll note, the shape of the thing's head is exactly the same as the negative spaces that fit into each of its shoulders. Very Escheresque. You're supposed to fit them together like they're insane, utterly still acrobats, from their stubby legs and squashed feet to their pointy shoulders and creepily truncated hands.

That's Bill Ding, folks. Isn't he great?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Your Lucky Numbers

She rarely showed such care, such patience and gentleness, but Pancakes took her fortune cookies very seriously.

She preferred the kind that didn’t come wrapped in plastic, obviously straight from the factory. It was better if the restaurant preserved some of the mystery by presenting the crisp, hollow fold as if it might have been created in some small, unseen room behind the kitchen. Pancakes liked to think that wizened elders composed the fortunes, baked the cookies, and tucked each narrow strip of paper into its edible housing with great deliberation.

Basically, the plastic messed it all up for her, and she often objected when her parents wanted to visit a restaurant where she’d already been faced with the harsh, cellophane realities of mass cookie manufacturing. Not that she told them her reason. It was simpler to say, “They use too much MSG.” Her mother, Lorinda, was particularly suggestible on that note.

The restaurant in which she now sat with her father, however, was of the plastic-wrapped cookie variety. That annoyed Pancakes, because it didn’t used to be one of those. She had liked the place a lot, actually, even if the Mu Shu pork was a bit drippy and made its little wraps (she refused to call them “pancakes”) soggy and hard to manage. It made for messy eating. But she secretly loved the sweet scent of the sauce on her fingertips later, assuming she was able to dodge having to wash her hands after the meal. Lorinda usually insisted, but her father frequently forgot—or at least pretended to.

Pancakes peeled the cellophane from the cookie, then tried to pretend the plastic wrapper had never been there, tucking it underneath the black plastic tray on which the waiter had delivered the bill. With great ceremony, she cracked the pale yellow-brown cookie neatly in half, almost but not quite preventing a few stray shards of the confection from dropping to the tabletop. All the while, her father watched in amusement. He never tired of this ritual, but he knew better than to be too obvious about watching. If Pancakes realized he found it funny, she’d become self-conscious about being thought of as cute. She’d suspect Emiliano of being patronizing.

As was her custom, Pancakes put one half of the cookie in her mouth and chewed slowly while she pulled the paper fortune out of the other half, which she set on the table. She the message silently and pondered its meaning. She didn’t seem to like this one, her father saw. When she liked what she read, she smiled and read it aloud with her mouth full of cookie. When she didn’t like them, there was silence.

“What’s it say?” Emiliano asked. “Not one of the better ones?”

“‘Your love of life will carry you through any circumstance,’” Pancakes read in a near montone. “That’s a fortune? This place used to have better ones.”

“But that’s a good one,” her father said. “It’s positive.”

She lowered her head and glared up at her father. This was the withering look she’d been practicing for months, ever since she’d seen her mother do the same in a play. In another ten years, Pancakes might very well stun someone into silence with such a look. At seven years of age, it merely presented her father with a challenge not to laugh.

“Dad,” she said slowly, as if speaking to a child, “it’s boring. It’s not even a real fortune.”

“Oh, no?”

“No,” Pancakes explained, “it’s too simple. It’s not challenging. Like, what’s that word you used?”

Emiliano frowned. “What word?”

“When you were talking about that last Pancakes book. That one you didn’t like.”

Emiliano tried to recall. The quality of series had gotten so bad that he was ashamed to have his name still emblazoned across the brightly colored covers. Whatever he has said, he was sure it wasn’t good. “I’m not sure, honey. Insipid? Uninspired? One-dimensional?”

She shook her head. “It sounded like a number.”

“A number?”

She nodded.

He smiled. “Oh, benign.”

“Right,” Pancakes said. “That’s like this.”

Her father nodded. “Yes, I can see that. It is rather benign. You want to hear mine?”

“You probably got the good one. What is it?”

Emiliano wiggled his eyebrows comically. “I did get the good one. Mine says, ‘Someone dreams of being with you.’”

“Hey,” Pancakes said, “I think that was supposed to be mine. That sounds like the kind of fortune I should get. This one’s for you.” She offered the paper she’d been holding, but her father refused to take it.

“No, I don’t think so. Besides, if someone’s dreaming of being with you, I want to know who that is. You’re a little too young to be getting that kind of attention.”

His daughter grinned. “Maybe. But anyway, I bet I know who’s dreaming about you.”

“Oh, really?”

“Mom,” Pancakes said simply.

Emiliano smiled and looked wistful, wishing Lorinda were there with them. “Yeah,” he said. “She’d better.”

Pancakes noticed something on the back of her father’s fortune, and turning her own paper over in her hands, she saw that hers had the same thing. “What’s this?” she asked, pointing to the series of numbers. She’d never seen that before. It was something these new, plasticy cookies had.

He looked down. “I think those are your lucky numbers. They put that many on there so you can use them as lottery numbers.”

She frowned. “I don’t get it. What numbers do you have?”

He read out his numbers while Pancakes looked at her own.

“But those are totally different!” she exclaimed. “How do they decide what numbers to put?”

Her father shrugged. “I think they just make them up.”

Pancakes was stunned. She stared at her father in disbelief. “They make them up?” she asked. “How can they do that?”

“Well,” Emiliano began, feeling like he was treading into dangerous territory somehow, “they just make up the numbers. They can’t know what numbers to put.”

It made no sense to Pancakes, no sense at all. “But how can they just make it up? It’s too important. What if people go and bet on them? They can’t all win!”

He was sure the truth was just going to upset her further, but Emiliano didn’t know what else to say. “Then I guess they lose their money, Pancakes. It’s the lottery, after all. People lose all the time at it.”

Pancakes looked disgusted with the whole thing. She wadded up her fortune and threw it on the table. Usually, her father knew, she liked to keep them and later tape them into her scrapbooks. “Yeah, people lose, but they do it with their own numbers. Not numbers some fortune told them to use.”


She pushed away from the table. The waiter had taken Emiliano’s money and brought his change during the course of their exchange. “Can we go, Dad?” she asked.

“Sure, honey, let’s go. Are you okay?”

She nodded. “Sure. I’m fine. I just don’t think they should make up important things, that’s all.”

Her father nodded. “No, they shouldn’t. Plus, there’s something else I noticed tonight.”


“I think this restaurant has started using too much MSG.”

Pancakes took her father’s hand and led him toward the door. “I noticed that too,” she said, smiling up at him as they pushed through the glass door and stepped out into the dark night.