So get this: I’m around twelve or thirteen and learning that there is more to cooking than throwing some scrambled eggs in a pan and voila! Breakfast ready made…
For a little background so you can get the gravity of this situation: I am the first of seven children. My mother was pregnant with the fifth or sixth, my dad was working full time nights while attending school, and my aunt and her two boys came to live with us for a while after her divorce. We were home schooled, which meant that while my aunt attended college, my very pregnant, hormonal, (beautiful) mother was the primary instructor for seven (or eight) children ranging in ages from unborn to me.
Needless to say, the food budget was tight every month.
Which might be fine for someone like my mother, who knows how to stretch a pound of hamburger into fifteen meals–okay, maybe that’s exaggerating just a smidgen.
However, it meant that learning how to cook on a budget for a newly developing chef (aka. Me) was more stressful than fun. Wasted food meant the pound of hamburger had to stretch to twenty meals instead of fifteen. Given that my mother’s patience levels weren’t all that high before pregnancy and seven children that weren’t all hers, I’m pretty sure I managed to destroy her last shred when she taught me to cook.
So one day, she asked me to make pancakes for breakfast. She was either changing a poopy diaper, running math problems with my brother, chasing the younger kids out of our trees, or puking over a toilet–poor woman. I thought to myself, this is my chance to show her I can be trusted with responsibility.
Famous last words for a preteen dealing with her own hormone changes, mood swings, and frightening inner issues that no one but her fairy tale characters understand.
I made a triple batch–it might have been quadruple that day because the boys were going through a growth spurt and with four of them, that meant the food budget was even tighter since 1/2 of the meal went to feed the vile, cootie-laden, smelly, secret diary snatching males under three feet tall. (Since my brothers and cousins MIGHT actually read this, I am saying that was my thought process then. Now, I love you all dearly, though I still resent the diary snatching)
Let me tell you, this pancake batter was beautiful. It looked fluffy and delectable in the massive mixing bowl. I prepared the skillet and dropped three perfect circles carefully onto the hot grease. Taking a deep whiff, I salivated–yum. This was GREAT. I would prove to my mom I could do it and she would be so very proud of me for picking up the slack when she got too tired to deal.
I watched the batter bubble up and knew that these pancakes were my finest creation. I took a spatula and carefully slipped it under the first one, ready to flip it onto its other side. I lifted the spatula and turned it upside down.
Not a single drop of that pancake landed on the pan.
Being a girl of very large imagination, I didn’t panic just then. I looked at the spatula and looked at the pan. Maybe I was dreaming, because this was a whopper of a nightmare. Not a speck of batter on either the pan or the spatula. I tried to flip another pancake–with the same result.
It completely disappeared.
Mom walked in just then and I realized it was a pretty good time to panic. She saw me hyperventilating and asked me what I’d done. I explained as best as I could through the oxygen deprivation, hating the horrified look on her face as she counted pennies in her head and stared at an entire quadrupled batch of pancakes that would follow their brothers into the aether.
She begged me to tell her what I’d done. Had I added too much baking powder? Baking soda? buttermilk? Salt (different story)? ANYTHING?
And I continued to melt down as she tried pancake after pancake on that cursed pan.
To this day, I cannot tell you how I made a quadruple batch of disappearing pancakes. It’s the only recipe disaster I will probably never understand this side of heaven.
I can tell you that my cooking has greatly improved–and I’ve learned to stretch one pound of hamburger into fifteen meals–okay, maybe just ten. 🙂