Pancakes

Pancakes.cooking-933208_640

She wants pancakes this morning.

Of all the concoctions breakfast has to offer, I find pancakes the most objectionable. Arguments about the health benefits of the meal go out the window when the word “cake” becomes entangled in the discussion. It is the cakes part of their name that draws interest. They would hardly come into consideration if they were called panbreads, which is what they really are.

The sickly sweet smell of them. The toasting flour as the batter hits the pan. The caramelization of sugars. I can see myself clearly on the bus, when I was barely older than her. Covered in vomit from a morning meal of pancakes and orange juice. Waiting morosely to arrive at school, so that my father could come bring me home. I still remember the sugary and acidic taste in my throat, and the look of horror on the face of my friend Brian who had made the poor choice to sit next to me that morning. His parents would have to bring him a change of clothes. I would be shunned for weeks afterwards, such is the way childhood goes.

Edges bubble as the first side is nearly done. Water evaporating, escaping the batter. The staggering recollection of countless hours spent sweating over that damned cast iron griddle, crafting these foul things for the masses of the ungrateful neurotics that came to eat brunch every Sunday over that three year period. Each man, or woman, bringing their own ideals of pancakeness. Just slightly off that mark, even once, too dark or not brown enough, too few blueberries or too much whipped cream, they would be sure to send their waiter back with the appropriate reprimand. From then on I would receive weekly reminders, as their tickets came back with little notes on them, listing my past transgressions against pancakes.

My wrist twitches in practiced motion and the wretched thing flips easily. I stare absently for a moment at the golden disc, listening to the wet batter on the other side sizzle against Teflon. I think to my friends who are celiac, or have some other dietary intolerance towards wheat, and others only refuse it because of some fitness or health craze as well. What do they all do about pancakes? Are their lives blessedly devoid of these, things? No doubt there is some convenient solution involving sorghum, or sweet potatoes. Somehow sweet potatoes always have something to do with it. My friend who is doing Atkins or some such mentioned something about psyllium husks. I somehow doubt I would find pancakes more appealing if the word husk became involved.

Lifting up the edge of the cake with the edge of the spatula, to take a small peek at the underside. Knowing it will never brown up so nicely as the top. The pan tilts to let it slide on to the plate hiding the first and slightly misshapen attempt this morning. The landscape of each one dotted with semi melted chunks of chocolate. A pat of butter placed on top, allowed to melt completely before serving them. She likes butter on her pancakes, provide that she can’t see butter on them. She beams at me as I place down the plate. I watch as she swirls syrup on them, until I tell her that she has enough.

I walk back into the kitchen knowing she’ll add just a little bit more.

I don’t like pancakes very much. Instead I’ll just overthink myself some scrambled eggs.

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Bacon Is Bad For You and, Vegetarian Hot Dogs Are Made Of People!

It’s hard to believe it’s only Wednesday and I think the internet may have already spewed forth my favorite headlines for the week. On Monday while I was busy trying to fit a cup of coffee into my schedule, everywhere I looked, my news feeds were flooded with links and headlines that said things like:

Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats cause cancer, World Health Organization declares 

or,

Bad Day For Bacon: Processed Meats Cause Cancer, WHO Says

At the time, all I could visualize was my vegan and vegetarian friends, with their arms folded across their chests and a triumphant little smirk on their smug little hippie faces. So delighted to be able to push the share button on that one. I mean here it was right, it’s science right? Who’s laughing now? I bet you don’t have anything smart to say about this one.

Relax it’s the internet, just wait a few minutes.

In those minutes we got:

Human DNA found in two thirds of vegetarian hot dog samples, according to report

and

Study Finds Pork And Human DNA In Vegetarian Hot Dogs

Leave it to a FOX News affiliate to cherry pick just the right info out of an otherwise pointless study to slant things enough to get it reposted into my social networks. I was a bit miffed to see the second headline from IFLScience, but I suppose it pays the bills. Usually by the same people who busy themselves with defending the confederate flag and spent a large part of 2012 worrying about the Twinkie Crisis. To be frank none of them seemed to notice that this report in question was about all types of hot dogs not just vegetarian ones. In fairness I’d like to note how skewed that first headline is by quoting the Clear Food, who conducted the study, so you can compare the two:

  • Hygienic issues: Clear Food found human DNA in 2% of the samples. 2/3rds of the samples with human DNA were vegetarian products.

The reason I got such a kick out of these is, none of it is new information. We have been studying and talking for years about how processed meats are bad for us. Even the staunchest of bacon lover knew that with each delicious smokey, salt laden strip we were hurtling that much faster towards the possibility of a protracted, ugly, and, agonizing death. If you’ve been in denial about that, you’re probably an idiot to begin with so this new declaration of fact may have come as some sort of surprise. To those of us who bother to pay even the slightest attention to the information available about what we choose to stuff in our consumption orifices, we’ll probably just shrug and just keep doing what we’ve always done. We’re a stubborn lot that way. Besides put into perspective, a WHO official said,

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed”

As for what is or isn’t in your hot dog. I’d like to remind you that you’re eating a GOD DAMNED HOT DOG! Even if you choose a meatless one it’s still probably just random parts swept up off the floor after they were done making real food, that’s thrown into the hopper of some industrial grinder by some schlub, who’s supervisor is on his ass about production quotas, and then extruded into a tube-like shape for your face cramming pleasure1.  I’d like to think that we all got the memo that said the FDA2 has set what it views as “acceptable” limits of things we’d all rather not know about in our favorite comestibles. I’m not going to get into details, you can just Google that stuff if you feel like being slightly mortified for the rest of your day.

All in all I am glad that there are organizations like the WHO and Clear Foods that apparently have our interests at heart, or are at least willing to make the attempt at convincing us they do. The problem for me is how we get our information dispersed to us; in little packets with flashy names, with very little of anything digestible inside.

Or, am I talking about our food again?


  1. This is partially conjecture on my part and largely an excuse to use the words “extruded”, “tube-like” and, “face cramming pleasure” all in the same sentence. 
  2. Insert the appropriate puppet agency that is responsible for making you feel safe about the food supply in your country, if you like. 

Parting

He let the blade glide across the honing wand without looking. It was mostly for ceremony any way, so everyone in the room would know he was about to get to work, it was a way to put off the task. He knew that the knife would already either be sharp enough or it wouldn’t. It was a large knife, compared to his other tools. He hadn’t done this often but, enough to know that size would matter here.

He pressed the metal in on the bottom of the neck and slid it back slowly. The flesh split open easily as the blade sank in and came to rest on the bone. He always felt it would be faster to push on here, but it wasn’t the way. He withdrew his knife and set it on the steel table. Using both hands he rolled it over and ran his hand down the side of the glistening skin. Picking his knife back up he lined it up so the two cuts would me and began again. This time when he reached that same bone he put his other hand on the back of the blade for leverage and pushed hard once. There was a brief grinding noise as the knife wedged between the vertebrae, separating them. There was a crunch as it drove home severing the spine and passing through the other side.

He had once seen someone else, more skilled than he perform the rest without removing the head first. That wasn’t the way for him. The rest would be easier with it gone. Easier for him anyway. He moved his free hand along the inside of the body cavity. The viscera and organs had been removed by someone else, someone far removed from him. He had done the task handful of times as a child, under his father’s instructions. He supposed he could still manage it if he had too, but was grateful that the distasteful task didn’t fall on his shoulders these days. He pulled open the flap of skin and placed the point of his blade inside. He still remembered the wisdom imparted to him when he was first learning the task, “Find the backbone and stay there.”

He found the backbone.

As his knife slid along the top of the spine, farther into the flesh, he grabbed the lower half of the body in readiness. The tip of the knife began to protrude from the other side and he shifted his grip on the implement so that he could put his weight behind the next action. He inhaled and pushed forward, sawing the blade back and forth. Crick, tack, clack, click, the lesser bones were sheared off as the blade traveled along the spine. He lurched forward, and wrenched his wrist. as the knife came free at the top where the head should have been. He changed positions and cut down the lower half of the backbone. The side was off and he slid it down and out of the way, and rolled what was left of the carcass over.

Crick, tack, clack, click, the process repeated itself. Soon he held the gore covered spine in his hand, a momentary trophy for his efforts. He lay the knife down and shook the cramp out of his wrist, as he absentmindedly dropped the prize into the waiting bin. He wriggled his fingers unconsciously and then reached for the needle nose pliers. They were new, only having been used for about a week, and were still stiff and awkward to use. He rub his hand lightly along the newly exposed interior flesh, searching for tiny, sharp little bumps, as he found them he dug in with the pliers to grasp the remnants of bone, and extract them, one by one. It was tedious and he had to do this for each of the two halves of what now remained of the subject. He always meant to count them as he pulled each bone free, but somehow it never seemed to matter enough while he was at his duty.

He ran his blade along the sides of each of halves, trimming off  undesirable product. Then, starting at the base, angling the knife down slightly, he cut the thick outer skin away from the softer pink flesh of interior. The skin came free easily in one piece, with barely any meat left dangling from it. He held it up and admired it’s scaled surface for a moment before dropping it into the waste to join the head and spine.

Laying the side flat he straightened the now cleaned flesh and began to carefully slice it into fillets, taking time to weigh each to check his precision. Once done he wrapped the portions in plastic for the service tonight. Twelve in all, not bad, and four still from the night before. He cleared the steel table off and washed it down. As he was drying it off he wondered how many that came tonight would acknowledge or, even know that their meal was once part of a whole thing.

He doubted most of them would care.

Please, not her too.

My daughter is starting to show interest in cooking. She likes helping in the kitchen and recently she has begun watching the cooking shows that our PBS station airs on Sunday mornings. At first I really like the idea of this.  She helps mix the pancake batter for breakfast with her mom and later we sit on the couch sometimes talking about what the different chefs were making, It’s great that, at this early age she seems to share a common interest in food with me. It is starting to make me worry though. I also got interested in food at a young age and I suppose it was a near inevitability that I would end up employed in the field. It is, from my observations, a truly shitty field for a woman to go into.

The cooking world is tough for those just entering the field. Even today, cooking is highly dominated by a boys club type of mentality. The back bone of most kitchens are made up of a few lifers that define that kitchen’s practices. These jackasses generally feel that it is their sworn and solemn duty to dish out a healthy dose of abuse towards the slightest misstep in procedure, etiquette, or speech. Women entering into the culinary world are going to be facing a tough time getting employed in some kitchens and when they are hired they seem to get it a little harsher than the guys in the name of not getting any special treatment. Episodes of routine bullying and overt sexual harassment are too often the norm. Just as in a other fields of they typically are passed over for promotion and paid less than their male counterparts. However the pay is usually shite to begin with so, if someone made only seventy percent of what I currently receive my job would not at all be a viable means of supporting a family. Kitchen culture is rife with big, strong and extremely insecure men who are quite fond of exploiting perceived weaknesses, some of whom still count being a woman as a weakness.

Women who do brave and eventually thrive in the business often wind up being “tough broads” that tend to act like one of the guys. They have largely and unfortunately grown to accept the misogynistic behavior of their coworkers as just another part of the job. This includes participating in the demeaning of other women, often in the name of inuring the new chick to the slings and arrows that come as part of the territory.

The worst part, I feel as I glance at my daughter, is that I have been and in some ways am still part of that culture. I know that I make inappropriate, rude and more often than not insensitive statements. I try not to make my snarky comments have anything to do with someones gender or race but, I know I’ve done it. I know it’s wrong, I know I should hold myself to a higher standard but, there you go. I am part of the problem and I am working on that. Having a wife that keeps me in check, and a beautiful daughter who’s future I worry about is a big help.

I know that I am not raising a delicate little flower and we are teaching our daughter to stand up for herself and to be kind to other people. I also know that it will be several years before my darling and innocent little girl enters the work force and even longer before she settles on a career. Right now she is torn between the options of becoming a teacher, or a fire fighter, or a dancer, so I am most likely worrying over nothing, maybe that’s just being a parent.