This morning, on our Indians’ game weekend, we went to Jack Flaps, a breakfast/lunch joint in one of the arcades on Euclid Avenue. I got the Jack B. Flaps platter, which consists of two pancakes, butter, whiskey brown sugar syrup, whipped cream, and — and this was interesting — puffed corn. With a side of savory country sausage and a good cup of freshly brewed coffee, it was an exceptional way to start the day. I can now say I’m ready to sit on my butt for a few hours and watch athletes perform.
Recently I’ve come under withering criticism about my eating habits. It’s not that I’ve got elbows on the table, or that I’m chewing things with my mouth open, or that I’m violating other basic rules of dining etiquette that you learned from your Mom when you were about five years old. Nor is it that my choice of cuisine is decidedly weighted toward the meat end of the spectrum, with a pronounced disdain for vegetable matter.
No, this complaint is more about the eating process. That is, when food is put down in front of you, how do you go about consuming it?
Consider the most recent instance where this issue arose. Kish and I were having brunch at the German Village Coffee Shop, and I ordered two of the plate-sized whoppers that you get when you order pancakes at the GVCS. I like my pancakes with butter and a liberal amount of syrup, like any other rational human being. So, my eating process is straightforward. First, while the pancakes are still piping hot, I slather on butter, making sure to spread the butter both on top of the stack and in the area between the two pancakes, in order to ensure an even array of moist butteriness. Second, I carefully cut the pancakes into bite-sized pieces, so that the fluffy interior of the pancake is exposed, the better to soak up the forthcoming syrup cascade. Then, and only then, do I apply the syrup — taking care to add enough syrup to flavor each bite, but not flood the plate — and begin eating.
This seems like the only proper way to consume good pancakes while achieving the squishy butter/syrup/pancake combo that any pancake lover strives for. But by the time I have completed my preparations and begin eating, Kish has finished her food and is checking her watch, tapping her fingers on the countertop, and looking at me with a friendly, bemused, yet mildly impatient expression.
Or take Indian food. At Indian Oven, which is the only place to get lamb korma in Columbus, Ohio, you are served a dish of well-prepared, steaming basmati rice and a separate dish of the lamb korma itself. How, then, to proceed? The only reasonable course is to dump the entire portion of rice onto your place, spoon the lamb korma on top of the rice, and then carefully mix the two, so as to ensure that every grain of rice is adequately coated with the spicy korma sauce. Admittedly, this takes some time and attention to detail — but who wants to eat plain basmati rice, or end up with extra korma sauce in the dish that you have to eat with a spoon because you don’t have any remaining elements of the rice delivery system available to you? And yet, the Jersey Girl finds this well-conceived, entirely rational approach to consuming lamb korma hilarious and, in all likelihood, evidence of some deep-seated psychological issue.
What can I say? I guess I’m a deliberate eater. Say, have I ever explained the right way to apply mustard to a hot dog?
The griddle is a pretty amazing invention, when you think about it. Virtually everything worth eating can be cooked on a griddle — from eggs to burgers to hash browns to grilled cheese sandwiches. When you’re done with one effort, you just scrape the griddle clean, towel it off as the steam rises, and then move on to the next dish. And, in any true diner, customers get to sit at the counter and watch the griddlemaster working his magic.
Kish and I had heard that you can find that true diner experience at the German Village Coffee Shop, so yesterday we walked down to Thurman Avenue to check it out. I’m pleased to report that the word-of-mouth is right on the money. From the paper placemats touting tourist stops in New York City (of all places), to the piping hot mugs of coffee, to the savory sounds of all kinds of food cooking on the griddle, the GVCS has it all. We grabbed seats at the counter to take it all in.
It was about 12:30 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten yet, so . . . what to get? I’ve long had a passion for burgers cooked on a griddle, ever since Grandma and Grandpa Neal took UJ and me bowling at Riviera Lanes in Akron on Saturdays, and we would end our visit with cheeseburgers and crinkle-cut fries from Riviera’s in-house diner. Griddle-cooked burgers have a wonderful taste and finish that you just can’t get with a grilled version.
But yesterday I resisted the burger temptation when I saw that the Coffee Shop had a corned beef hash special, because corned beef hash also is better cooked on a griddle. Hash and pancakes sounded good. Boy, was it ever! The corned beef hash was delicious, and the pancakes were larger than a man’s head, with that perfect golden griddle crust. I polished off the hash, slathered the pancakes in butter and syrup, relished every bite, and did my best — but standard stack of three was more than I could finish.
As we left, I thought that Grandma Neal would have said that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. But my stomach was happy, anyway.
Today, on a whim, I made pancakes, because pancakes are fun to make.
Get your box of pancake mix, measure the amount you need, and dump it into a bowl. Deftly crack a few eggs and plop them into the bowl. Splash some milk in there. Get out your hand-cranked beater and whale away, seeing if you can create a rooster tail in the mixture — or whether you’ve become a weakling wuss since the last time you made some pancakes. Ladle big spoonfuls onto a sizzling, butter-coated frying pan and watch for the bubbles to form. And then, the final test: get out your spatula and see whether you have the eye-hand coordination needed to flip the pancakes over into the vacated portion of the pan.
When I was a kid, our family used to have big Sunday morning breakfasts after church, and I was in charge of the pancakes. They may have been the first food item I ever cooked. I made them on a big electric griddle that allowed you to make about 12 at a time. Making pancakes was fun then, and it’s still fun now. Today’s batch tasted pretty good, too.