So I’ve been watching Oprah, thanks to my sister’s collection of episodes on Tivo. Oprah told me, yesterday, that whatever I thought about would come into my life. It’s “The Law of Attraction”, she said. Like: she got a silver-plated bubble-blower from Tiffany’s just by thinking about blowing bubbles. The perfect gift from the Universe, for the woman who has everything.
Today my mother was clearing out her recipe book, which is less an actual book and more an overstuffed manila folder with clippings, Xeroxes, handwritten scribbles. I happened to look over her shoulder as she leafed through these and, lo and behold, she flipped to a recipe for the Original Pancake House’s Apple Pancake and German Pancake, photocopied from a cookbook featuring “top secret” versions of popular chain restaurant dishes. The book states: “It was in 1953 when Les Highet and Erma Huenke opened their first Original Pancake House in Portland, Oregon, using traditional pancake recipes handed down through generations. Now, with over 100 restaurants in 25 states, this breakfast chain is generating a huge cult following.”
So I may be making these delights at home, if I can get my hands on a cast iron skillet.
If only I’d been thinking about winning the lottery instead of… eating pancakes.
Sleeping: in the office, on a pull-out couch. Zipper, our 15 year-old golden retriever, has been guarding me every night.
Eating: so much spaghetti and raviolis and cookies and cheesecake and pie and calzones and homemade pizza. And cannoli. (My dad: “It’s GA-nolli.”) Plus diner breakfasts. Plus scones and tea.
Watching: cable news about some dead kid named Caylee, episodes of Oprah on Tivo, romantic comedies (Sleepless in Seattle made me cry, I am ashamed to admit) and re-runs of Friends.
Reading: The Sun Also Rises (which makes so much more sense now that I’m not in high school).
Wearing: whatever my sisters tell me looks good. A second opinion and a live figure model really helps one get dressed.
The Original Pancake House in Williamsville, New York serves fresh orange juice and enormous pancakes. That’s really its thing. That, and being a destination brunch spot for all the surrounding suburbs. On weekend mornings it has that over-warm, over-loud, elbow-to-elbow bustle of the bar/restaurant down the street here in Chicago that serves high-end beers and mussels, that fogs up your glasses when you step in from the street and makes you confer with all your friends: Do we really want to wait an hour for a table? When I come home to visit family, this is where my mom wants to take her three girls. If the wait isn’t too long.
This weekend Kevin and I were walking around the Lincoln Park neighborhood here in Chicago and saw a sign for the same restaurant, same logo — little dude in a chef’s hat, scripty font for the name. It had to be the same place. I squeaked out some kind of joy-noises and Kevin followed me down a set of stairs to the place, which was tucked away below street level in the downstairs of what looked like an apartment complex. It was closed. Which makes sense, for a Friday night. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same place, or if it got the same kind of traffic, or if it’d serve me a giant apple pancake and some fresh-squeezed juice. Anyone who got the apple pancake, when we were kids, was always given a stern warning from the waitress: Yours will take longer than everyone else’s. Implicit meaning: Yours will be better than everyone else’s.
Reading Mark Bittman’s blog today, I found out he also has apple pancake memories of the Original Pancake House, except in New Jersey, and also hadn’t realized it was a chain.
It’s -1 degrees outside here in Chicago. That’s just the other side of the lookingglass, just beyond the knife-edge of zero, into the netherworld of cold that sends me under the blankets, under more blankets, wishing I could be reading Little Women or something, or maybe I just feel like Beth, the sickly sister, looking up from darning a sock to note that it’s minus one degrees right now and the moon is bright but maybe too bright, like it’s really a giant snowflake ready to fall once its heavy enough with ice and mirth to descend like that ball on New Year’s Eve, and we missed it, the countdown should’ve stopped at zero, but it’s minus one.
My little sister Lisa and her boyfriend Sean came to visit this weekend. We roamed from the thrift store to the coffee shop to the diner to the handmade market to the record store, to Too Much Light, to the couch, and back again. Everything was just as it should be, until the morning they were supposed to leave. At 6am we bundled up — sleepy as hell, trying to be coherent — and made our way outside, braced for the long drive to Midway airport. It was pretty much the coldest morning ever on the planet. Like, I was shocked we saw no woolly mammoths and penguins skidding around. And my car, well… my car door was frozen shut. This has happened before, and a good kick and shove usually knocks it free. This time, no dice. More kicking, more shoving. Nothing. After a few minutes it became clear that I’d have to abandon this idea and put them in a cab if they were going to make their flight. I didn’t have enough cash on hand so we shuffled like a trio of penguins down to the corner gas station. The screen on the outdoor ATM was frozen over so I couldn’t see what buttons indicated which choices. Was I withdrawing 500 from my savings account? Fifty from checking? Press, press, press, hope. Finally with the right amount of cash in hand, I hailed them a cab and sent them on their way. We barely remembered to say goodbye, in the shuffle and hustle of things.
Later that day I was walking home from work and completely wallowing in the grumpiness of the temperature, the wind, the ice, inching my way down the sidewalk with my head down. Then some guy walking ahead of me on the sidewalk, similarly bundled up and looking down, just started sliding on the ice, taking quick short steps to get his speed up and then sliding like a snowboarder as far as he could go. I smiled. And after he’d crossed the street, I tried it myself. Ok, I almost fell on my ass immediately, but the walk home seemed a little less cold.
Here’s a word cloud of this site, thanks to the fine folks at Wordle.com. I’m not totally sure how accurate it is, because it seems heavy on recent posts, but it is true that I write a lot about being hungry, what things smell like, and, apparently, knowing. Or, more commonly, a lack thereof.
This has been quite the weekend: In the valley between sickness and health, knowing and not knowing, thinking of all those who are unwell and all those medical charts full of question marks. In front of the fireplace, with red wine and Reality Bites and Oriana, coming home smelling of campfire. In a circle of good cheer at The Neos’ holiday gathering, wherein those involved in our secret present exchange reveal themselves. In writing group, pondering one writer’s theme — the idea that we use X to get to Y, but then when do we let Y go? In this armchair in this bedroom, wearing a necklace with a charm that’s a sparrow with a key in its mouth, typing out this entry, wishing I had a more profound way to convey that this is where we cross the rope bridge suspended high above the cavern, with the planks missing and the rope fraying, and the only way over is through.
If you’re hungry, don’t read this: why Al’s Deli is awesome, a thread on the biggest Chicago food-loving web site.
Dear readers, you may recall my love of this place.
Lucy Knisely wrote a graphic novel journaling a two-month sojourn to Paris with her mother, which was recently published as French Milk. Here’s her story, via podcast, where she is interviewed by hosts who are supremely jealous of her.
I spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house that was packed to the gills with cool people, wine, food, board games, food, and… more wine. This was a good choice, for sure. But the next day Kevin and I realized we had no leftovers to bask in for the next umpteen days. And leftovers rule. So I went to the Jewel and picked up armfuls of everything, all super on sale, to make a new Thanksgiving dinner. (Without the turkey because I don’t know how to cook a turkey.) Turns out, every single recipe you could want is on the container that the food comes in. French fried onions have the green bean casserole recipe, stuffing in a box is just… stuffing in a box, powdered mashed potatoes are a just-add-water item, pumpkin pie — recipe on the can, candied sweet potatoes — same deal. I suddenly realized that an American Thanksgiving could be had for less than 20 bucks and could literally consist of cans and boxes and one frozen bird.
Kevin and I assembled these riches in less than an hour and have been leftover feasting ever since. I’m pretty sure my cells have been hypercharged with MSG and whatever chemical leeches out of tin cans. But I’ve got 51 other weeks this year to be a healthy rabbit.