I’ve been obsessed with them for years. I look for road signs during the week— especially if I’m passing through towns smaller than the one I live in. Where the firehouses of Occidental are raising their money.
It’s not the pancakes so much as the collective act of pancakes. This moment, eternal, frozen in time. Some candidate or marching band or firehouse needs the dough.
Pancakes seem the way to do it. The carwash fundraiser of food. Low overhead—syrup, batter, spatulas, butter, flour, grill. Long tables. Paper plates. It smells so good. So warm, cozy. So life affirming.
You’re not going to raise a million for the capital campaign. But you aren’t risking the fate of non-profit either — hiring that pricey band from and the fifties and hoping for a big sentimental turnout.
It obsessed. I note them. I imagine myself driving to work. Who I’ll meet. The grange halls and fire stations I’ll see. The causes I could support. The candidates I could catch.
Nikki and I are ever on the lookout as we travel cross-country on our sonic expeditions. Way before our quest for Hidden Kitchens began.
I think I’ve been to 3 pancake breakfasts in the last 20 years. With Pancake Breakfast, a little goes a long way. It’s a great way to launch a Sunday— pray the syrup is real maple. The pancakes made from scratch. The butter local and from a cow, not chemistry.
You takes your chances. But you’re part of something. You’re giving to somebody. You left your house and met some part of a community that needs a hand. Maybe you woke up alone and needed a place to go.
The last one we went to was in Canastota, NY. We were covering the boxing match between Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier, the daughters of Mohammad and Joe, when they fought at a casino the Oneida Reservation in upstate New York. Listen to that story here
Sunday morning we were on our way to the Boxing Hall of Fame to meet Sugar Ray Leonard and Felix Trinidad when it appeared. Like a vision. Pancake Breakfast. Firehouse. Every boxer known to man was there. And every fireman for a hundred mile radius. Not to mention granddad and grandma from Ithaca and their grandkids.
Tall men in tall hats flipped flapjacks in an endless line and playfully traded punches. The fire engines gleamed, and so did the bacon.
We lay down the microphones, found our places in line, and ate.