Pancakes, and the Hands That Make Them

Want to be my kid’s hero? Feed her pancakes.

Early this summer, I drove Bee a few hours south down the winding lane of my parents’ neighborhood – all mailboxes and pine trees – and walked into the front door framing the same four walls I grew up in. The same welcome sign swacked against the painted door, same familiar groan of the hinges. We were here for a sleepover, among other things. Just the girls.

My mother set to work mothering Bee in the same way she mothered me years ago, and as I watched, the shared muscle memory flooded my now-older limbs. Her, still a mother. Me, still a daughter. How many times had I witnessed the familiar intonation of her story book characters, counted the peach-speckled tiles in the bathroom whilst spitting-and-rinsing away peppermint paste?

In the morning, I find myself drawn toward my old chair at the family table – only now, with a few more empty chairs. Where my towhead middle sister once sat on my right is a different towhead – my towhead – legs dangling, asking for sliced strawberries.

My mother serves chocolate-chip pancakes, a Saturday staple. I pile berries onto my stack, a few walnuts. The maple syrup tastes like a single childhood summer, like late afternoon bike rides and skinned knees and green, chlorinated hair. When I breathe deep, I can smell DEET, sun tea.

I love Grandma Mary’s house, Bee says, her fork stabbing a piled-high plate of pancakes, syrup dripping down her chin, her forearms, her elbows.

Me too, I say.

After that, it was only pancakes on Saturday.

In some minute of the seventh hour on any unnamed weekend, I can be found in the kitchen surrounded by a symphony of egg-cracking, banana-mashing, cinnamon-sprinkling. I mix the batter, serve my generation’s version of my mother’s generation’s version – a banana-egg pancake that offers both nutrition, speed. Simple clean-up.

It doesn’t realllllly taste like Grandma Mary’s, Bee says, even though she eats it just the same.

(She’s right.)

This is what it means to be a mother: balancing, forever, the ways you learned with the ways you will teach.

It was my girlfriend who first mentioned the idea of pre-made pancake batter, the kind that just sits there, ready-for-anything on your fridge shelf. Straight from the carton, she says. Open and pour, she says. Couldn’t be easier! she says.

She swears by it for those frenzied, rushed, off-to-school-in-under-20-minutes mornings.

Our mornings don’t feel that way, not yet, but something tempts me when I hear straight from the carton.

Bee wakes late, bedhead and a foggy brain. It’s Saturday.

I have a surprise, I whisper, and we tiptoe to the kitchen to heat the skillet.

The real kind, I tell her. Like Grandma Mary’s.

Her eyes light up, and I think of my own mother. Was this her drug, too? The meeting-of-needs, and then some? The above-and-beyond? The lighting-of-her-daughters’-eyes?

I pour my coffee, heap a tall tower of pancakes onto both of our plates. We eat by the forkful.

And this is what it tastes like: the space between ease and work. Syrup. Berries. The familiar spark of tradition, the beginning of a new memory. Pecans. The simplicity of a ready-made breakfast – ever-so-practical – made special at the hands of a mother.

Did you know Grandma Mary used to call these panda cakes? I ask Bee, keeping our voices low so we don’t wake Scout.

That’s funny! Bee says. What else did she say?

I watch her chase a pancake around the plate with a fork. I watch her stab for a pecan, and miss. I watch her dip the last bit of strawberry into a pool of maple, hands sticky, the counter a mess of crumbs, of breakfast chaos.

Everything, I think, and I remember it all.


This is an essay for Revolution Foods, and the everyday heroes who rely on ’em. Win a month’s supply of your kids’ favorite foods right here (Dinner Hero included!). Thanks for reading.


  • Pancakes have never been my favorite but Forrest really loves them. I think I need to make Saturday morning pancakes a thing for him (and have berries on hand to toss into mine, which is how I like them best). = )

  • This is such a beautiful piece! I loved all the imagery– I felt like I was right there beside you and your daughter at your mom’s house and at your own! I also love the pictures! They’re simple yet so beautiful and add a visual element to the written piece perfectly. –

  • We do chocolate chip pancakes around here too – and chocolate chip waffles on occasional – hello kitty style. . *wink* I’d love to know the mashed banana version you use. The muffin recipe you shared a few posts back turned out awesome!! I’ve made them three times now.

    • Yum yum yum! Our mashed banana version is soooo simple: just banana, egg, dash of cinnamon. The trick is to keep it mashy so it’s easily flippable – I’ve made so many that have fallen apart! I have a girlfriend who swears by adding vanilla protein powder to make it more “pancakey.” ;)

  • We didn’t always eat the same thing, but weekend breakfasts were a treat. In early fall, pumpkin pancakes became a tradition. Summer – strawberry-banana french toast. Its just the weekend breakfast tradition that is special. She is off and married now. Hopefully there will be more…I love your story about your special tradition and how you’ve continued special moments from your childhood.

    • Oh Carole, Saturday breakfasts at your home sound so warm and loving. And now I’m off to research a pumpkin pancake recipe for the fall! :)

Comments are closed.