Friday, November 6, 2015

Pancakes Past and Present

  I was working at home a few weeks ago when the doorbell rang. Daisy and Baxter started howling and barking and I got up from my computer, settled down my noisy pair of beagles, and answered the door. It was Roger the young man from around the corner. Roger has a disability that makes him talk slow but I’ve rarely seen anyone work harder. He has a day job doing manual labor and does odd jobs for at least a half dozen people around the neighborhood. I can see Roger mowing lawns, clearing brush, shoveling snow, or some other odd job nearly every weekend.

Welcome to last Saturday's Matins Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast! My neighbor Roger is in the picture on the left wearing the red shirt.

  I assumed something was wrong because Roger had never rang my doorbell before but Roger was selling tickets to the Matins Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast on October 31st and wanted to know how many tickets I wanted.

  I’m not much of a pancake person. Over 35 years ago I was a dishwasher, busboy, and short order cook in the International House of Pancakes in Elizabeth New Jersey. On my first weekend one of the busboys showed me the ropes by taking me into the walk-in cooler and showing me this big pan of pudding that we were supposed to scoop into bowls when asked by a waitress. The busboy took the plastic off the pudding tray and proceeded to use his fingers to spoon two handfuls of pudding directly into his mouth.

  My ‘trainer’ offered me the opportunity to enjoy some pudding with my own hands while he was licking his fingers off. I declined at which point my companion’s freshly pudding-less hands used a big plastic spoon to smooth out any telltale finger marks before scooping out a bowl of pudding for the unsuspecting customer.

  The IHOP didn’t get any better when I learned the ropes of short order cookery. Once a top of a hamburger bun got burned so the cook grabbed a spare bun – OUT OF THE GARBAGE! Another time it was discovered that a big tub of tuna salad was left out overnight so the head cook promptly mixed it together with more tuna salad, whipping the two concoctions with such expert fervor that the crusty parts of day-old unrefrigerated left over tuna salad was undetectable to the naked eye.

  It should come as no surprise that the International House of Pancakes was closed by the Elizabeth Board of Health and couldn’t reopen until a week later when the owner (the Union County Sheriff) either paid off or threatened the right people. Some corporate IHOP types from Pennsylvania came to inspect the restaurant since in addition to being closed by the board of Health was the most unprofitable restaurant in the territory. They took a big hose and sprayed it under the grill late one Sunday when I was working. Three rats that were larger than some cats I’ve seen were rendered homeless by the cascading water and scurried out the emergency exit.

  Even though the IHOP pancakes sold so fast there was hardly any way for the cooks to gross them out I’ve never been a big pancake or IHOP fan and prefer restaurants like the Waffle House where I can see my food being made. I have good company in my distaste of pancakes. 9 time NBA championship coach Red Auerbach wouldn’t let his players eat pancakes on the day of a game. Auerbach once caught star guard Sam Jones eating pancakes on game day and fined him 25 dollars. Jones said that as long as he was getting fined he would finish his pancakes until Auerbach said the fine was $25 a bite!

  My dislike for pancakes is not shared by Kathy and the Matins Kiwanis is a respected service organization so I fished out $12 and bought two tickets for the pancake breakfast. Since the pancake breakfast ran until 12:30 we decided to skip our weekly Saturday lunch at Taco John’s and get our pancake breakfast instead.

  After our weekly excursion to the second hand stores to look for additions to Kathy’s Christmas Candle collection we headed to the Veteran’s Coliseum, host of the pancake breakfast, arriving around 11am. When we drove past an hour earlier we saw a line of people waiting to get in and nowhere to park around the building but now the coliseum was empty and there was plenty of parking. We handed in our tickets and went straight to the front of the pancake line.

The pancakes were kept surprisingly warm by the Styrofoam plate covers while the sausage met my approval and the approval of my beagles when I brought a link home for them.

  I saw Roger among a large group of volunteers making pancakes and sausages, cleaning up tables, and moving supplies to the front lines. Each Styrofoam plate of pancakes was covered with another Styrofoam plate. I thought that the pancakes were going to be cold but soldiered through the line. Kathy doesn’t eat meat so I got four sausage links instead of two and we saved one for Daisy and Baxter. We each got three pats of butter and I got a coffee. The ‘orange juice’ was really an orange drink that looked like a pitcher of melted butter which made Kathy pass on the ‘orange juice’.

  Kathy and I sat down in the now fairly empty coliseum and commenced to eating. I was pleasantly surprised that the pancakes were hot enough to allow the butter to melt on them. We covered our pancakes with maple syrup and talked while watching all the activity around making a pancake breakfast run. There was a DJ playing loud 1970’s music (this told me the target audience was old people with hearing aids) but he thankfully turned the volume down after a few minutes.

Kathy loves orange juice but she stuck to water this time around.

  The pancake breakfast was better than I thought. Even though I can’t say I’ve become a pancake fan I will probably go again next year if Roger tries to sell me some tickets and if the event ever becomes beagle friendly I’ll double my support and get four tickets instead of two.

  If the Kiwanis wanted to raise some real money all they had to do was follow my basketball predictions for this season as my 4-0 record has me 400 mythical dollars to the upside and thinking about adding a 'Donate' button so the gamblers in my readership can leave me some 'tip' money. Except for the Heat and Nuggets, no team is playing a back to back game which removes one of my favorite things to look for in a bet. Nonetheless I am going to press my luck and wager on using the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page and as usual for entertainment purposes only with no real money being wagered.

Phoenix Suns at Detroit Pistons
Detroit won their first three games in fairly impressive fashion but had shooting woes in Tuesday's game at home against the Pacers and now embark on a six game western road trip. Phoenix followed an opening night blowout at home against Dallas by winning three out of four with the only loss against the Clippers on the road. I think the Pistons will struggle on their road trip and will pick the Suns to cover the four and a half points and make me $100 on a $110 bet.

Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics
The Wizards followed an inexplicable home loss to the Knicks with an equally inexplicable home win against the Spurs. Tonight the Wizards go up against the Celtics in Boston. The Celtics have lost three of their first four games this season and I expect their struggles will continue against the Wizards who I will bet $110 to win $100 and cover the one point spread.

Atlanta Hawks at New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have followed last years playoff season with an injury plagued preseason and have lost their first four games this year. I predicted the Hawks would struggle to win 50 games this season. I looked pretty smart when the Hawks lost their season opener at home to the Pistons and less so when they followed the loss with a five game winning streak. The Hawks are favored by three which I think is rather low and will bet $110 on the Hawks to cover to win $100.

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