The Night of 70 Pancakes

The founder of the dorm where I’m living, who’s an American, started a tradition: When he comes to town, he makes pancakes. Or, more accurately, everyone makes pancakes.

By the time we’re ten pancakes in, I’m spattered and battered, my hair back in a scarf, hot oil, hot pancakes, hot kitchen. We’ve got a top-notch operation: Two frying pans downstairs, two in the upstairs kitchen. Each station has its own crowd of helpers. One girl ladles batter, one checks the edges for done-ness, one spoons oil.  I’m flipping. Between the two kitchens, we need to make 70 pancakes, because there’s a hungry crowd outside.

Basically the girls are acting like the Beatles have come to town. There’s screeching and jumping, squealing and singing. I have never seen such exuberance over breakfast — and I like me some breakfast. But breakfast in Cambodia looks a lot like lunch and dinner, rice with meat and vegetables. So … this was like saying: TONS AND TONS OF DESSERT FOR EVERYONE!

Soon it’s a free-for-all; as pancakes come off the stove, the girls slather them in Ratanakiri honey and jam. I’m still flipping, but they keep handing me stuff to eat while we cook — chunks of sticky sweet dragon fruit, the juice and seeds dribble down my wrist; and of course — pancakes. At some point they learn to cook them into heart shapes, and they pass one around and pose with it, like it’s a celebrity.

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