Breakfast for Dinner

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Dear Will:

The thing about pancakes is that you get to douse them with syrup. Goopy, sweet, and delicious, syrup is one of the great nectars of childhood. Remember when you first discovered that—even though they were super-indulgent, dessert-like wonders—pancakes were a featured item of the Most Important Meal of the Day? Talk about beating the system! You would look at your siblings incredulously, blinking in amazement as if to say “Can you believe this?” in some sort of eyelash-flapping Morse code.

When I was growing up, I probably ate pancakes at least once a week. My mother would fry up a pound of bacon, cook a dozen or so eggs, and throw in the flapjacks just for good measure. It was both wonderful and no big deal. But then some fool invented cholesterol and spoiled an otherwise great thing for generations of kids to come. Add in the complications of over-programmed childhoods and it’s perhaps easy to understand why, one generation later, my children have pretty much subsisted on Cheerios and Quaker Oatmeal Squares for breakfast throughout their lives. It hardly seems fair.

So in order to assuage my guilt and keep them from reporting me to authorities, when they were small I began the practice of making Special Breakfast on Sunday mornings. It was an important bonding ritual for me and my kids since my wife, Dana—who has never been much of a breakfast-eater—was rarely around to cast a disapproving motherly glare at our mounds of goopy goodness. Guilt-free and giddy, we would slather and stab, forkful upon sticky forkful, unconcerned with caloric intake or the latest in nutritional science. And for one hour each week, I got to be the cool parent while eating breakfast the way it was meant to be eaten.

As a consequence, my kids and I have come to take our pancakes very seriously. We don’t use Bisquick (please) or Krusteaz (don’t insult me) or any other variety of ready-made mixes. As for me and my house, pancakes are strictly from scratch, with real buttermilk and a variety of other not-very-secret ingredients that, over the years, have turned the basic recipe from The Joy of Cooking into my own signature line against which my children judge all other so-called hotcakes. Straight from the griddle, we smear them with butter and genuine maple or homemade apple syrup. If Dana is around we’ll throw in a few blueberries so that perhaps she’ll cave in and join us.

Or at least, that’s what we used to do. These days, I’m in meetings from early to late most Sundays, and I get through the day without any breakfast, Special or otherwise. For his part, like any good teenager, Seth (the only kid left at home) would rather sleep in till noon if given the choice, so as with so many other essential family rituals, Special Breakfast now happens only once or twice a year. It’s just not the same. We’ve lost something important—and it’s not (I hasten to add) weight.

So with Dana’s complete (if unenthusiastic) acquiescence—we have declared that tonight shall be Breakfast for Dinner, an indulgent shout-out to years gone by when calories didn’t count and it was still possible for Dad to be cool.

And in so doing, we shall feel virtuous because we are fulfilling a mandate given by prophets of God, who said (and I quote): “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, wholesome recreational activities . . . and pancakes.” At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what they said. And if not, surely it’s what they meant.

PW

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2 thoughts on “Breakfast for Dinner

  1. Bob Wells

    Thanks! In our family it is waffles. The batter is always made from scratch with egg whites beaten stiff to get the perfect lightness and old fashioned electric waffle irons (hard to find now) to get the perfect golden, crispy outcome. The first waffle is just to prime the waffle iron; after that they are considered edible. I make waffles, but Judy’s special syrup recipe breaks all her healthy guidelines. She gives a nod to health by using brown sugar and sucanut instead of white sugar in the syrup, but she won’t actually eat it herself, preferring natural maple syrup from Canada instead (health snob!). The syrup is always served hot (cold syrup is offensive). Eating gluten free means she has to make her own batter with non-glutinous flours, but Judy joins our party with some abandon. For advanced waffle eaters, we can add grated cheese, ham and creamed corn to the batter. Yum! Judy will also cook up thick slabs of perfect bacon. And for dessert (why not have dessert at breakfast?), we love to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and pour syrup over the concoction. These days, the holy breakfast is reserved for general conference, which becomes a party at our house with friends invited to join us and to stay and watch conference with us. Pajamas recommended for all. Thank you Peter for reminding me of the special nature of this tradition and allowing me to share our twist.

  2. Helen Wells

    I think I’ll make pancakes tonight—oops, have a dinner elsewhere- –so I’ll make them Sunday night! Love your Letters to Will, Peter!

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