Sludge and I went home. We had to think about the case. I made pancakes for myself. I gave Sludge a bone.
—Nate the Great and the Stolen Base
Nate the Great was one of my most-loved books as a child. (Or maybe it was my dad’s most-loved book. I’m not exactly sure.) Whenever the young detective was at a loss in his case — recovering a purple plastic octopus in this instance — he would go home and make pancakes. His faithful dog, Sludge, would get a bone. And afterwards, the bits of the case would all fall together. Behold, griddle magic.
I spent Saturday recovering from a cold. Sometimes, when you’re sick, you want one certain food and nothing else will do. Yesterday, that food was pancakes.
Sadly for me, the state of my larder (as illustrated in my last blog post) is not exactly conducive to making anything that is not toast with peanut butter. One might think that that would be close enough to pancakes to satisfy. But I wanted *pancakes*, and I was too sick to want to go out to buy ingredients. So I pouted in front of my cupboard for a few minutes. And like Nate the Great, I watched the pieces of my puzzle come together in a way that made me feel extraordinarily grateful.
When I was in grad school, my friend Jennie sent me a care package. It was a marvelous box full of chocolate, green army men, granola bars and a small bottle of shake-and-make Bisquick pancake mix. This was not long before I left Phoenix, so I took the uneaten items back home to Squaw Valley when I moved and left them there. I didn’t know where I was going and didn’t want to cart them all over the country. So this pancake mix sat in my mother’s pantry for eight months. Over Christmas, while she was cleaning the pantry, she asked if I wanted it. I didn’t see the point in carting it back to Chicago with me.
Unbeknownst to me, my imp of a brother thought it would be funny to slip the mix into my suitcase without my knowing it. When I unpacked in January, I found the bottle, laughed, and stuck it in the back corner of my pantry.
Suddenly, standing in my kitchen nearly a year after I’d received the mix originally, the lightbulb went off. I dug it out and verified that you only needed water. Voila, pancakes.
But what to put on them? Pancake aficionados appreciate the importance of proper toppings. I had no syrup. Molasses? Ew. Honey? Maybe. Fruit would be ideal, but all I had was a boatload of oranges.
Back in January, Mom and I had gone grocery shopping. As parents do, she bought a few things that she felt I might need but I was certain I would never use.
One of those was a bag of frozen strawberries. “Just in case you run out of fresh fruit for your yogurt,” she said at the time.
So I fried me some cakes and chopped up a few strawberries. While microwaving them (to make them disintegrate into a syrup), I thought that the only thing that would make this the perfect breakfast was the presence of bacon. But I was out of that, too.
However, since it had previously yielded fruitful (see what I did there?), I checked my freezer.
Dad, like Mom, occasionally likes to buy me things that he thinks are important. The conversation usually goes like this:
“Will you use this?”
Usually, I end up with something like a flashlight, air pressure gauge, computer part or other gadget. But since Dad visited me in February and had heard that sometimes people in Chicago get snowed in, his focus was on making sure I had emergency food.
In this case, “emergency food” meant a pack of frozen, precooked sausages.
So, thanks in absolutely no part to my own doing, but rather due to about 6,000 miles of travel and the love of my family and friends from across the U.S., Saturday morning offered up the pancake breakfast I desperately wanted. I ate it in bed, watching the snow, feeling like the most blessed person alive.