It’s Pancake Day. Or, to give it its proper name, Shrove Tuesday. It used to be the day when households used up all the foodstuffs prohibited during Lent, but it’s since become yet another opportunity to sell us stuff. Since that “stuff” involves lemons I don’t mind too much. I even made pancakes for lunch, though the Japanese kind, okonomiyaki, rather than sugar-and-lemon-anointed crepes.
When I thought about it, I also realised that pancakes feature in quite a few of my stories. Not surprising when both Ghosts and Swings & Roundabouts are set during January and February. Though in neither case did Shrove Tuesday get a mention.
In Swings & Roundabouts, Jack watches a disgruntled Gareth in the kitchen and eventually asks him: “What happened to the man who mixed batter in baked bean tins and cooked pancakes for a whole flipping platoon on canteen lids over a fire made from dried sheep’s turds?”
It makes Gareth laugh. It made me laugh. And one day I might actually write the rest of that scene. For now, for today’s Tuesday Teaser, I’m pulling out one of my favourite scenes from Ghosts: The pancake orgy.
For Pancake Day, that’s only right.
Leaning on the kitchen’s center island, Nico resembled an eager puppy. If he’d had a tail, he’d have been waving it expectantly. Daniel, red-eyed, puffy-faced, and sniffly, looked much more subdued by comparison, but he stood over the stove and carefully ladled batter into the hot pan.
“Not too much,” Gareth cautioned. “Remember, too thick and they won’t flip.”
“If I make them too thin they won’t flip either,” Daniel complained.
“That’s why I’ve shown you how to make Goldilocks ones.” Gareth smiled. “Just right ones. Now check that the bottom is cooked.”
Daniel gripped the spatula as if he was preparing to lift mountains, and peeked under a corner of the cooking pancake. “Um… yes?”
“Shuffle it to see.”
Daniel rattled the pan, watching the half-cooked pancake move from side to side.
“That’s right. Now lift it off the heat and—”
Daniel flipped his wrist and the dough rose up, flipped over, and landed back in the pan as if by magic. “Wow,” he breathed, a grin appearing as his gaze immediately sought Nico’s.
“No wow about it. Just skill.” Gareth smiled encouragingly. “Now keep an eye on it. The flipside cooks faster, remember? Nico, get yourself a plate.”
Nico didn’t need telling twice. He was right there when Daniel turned to slide the perfectly cooked treat from the pan.
“Can we even eat this?” Daniel looked with open want at the selection of fruit, preserves, chocolate spread, and cream that Jack set out on the kitchen table. Open want, and a hefty hint of trepidation.
At two in the morning, Jack didn’t give a shit about nutrition. Yes, the boys were on a diet of sorts to help them gain weight and combat deficiencies their imprisonment had left them with, but some days only an excess of sugar and chocolate would do. Some days… like today.
“You can eat anything you want, Daniel,” he said.
“It’s only a diet plan to help you get fit and healthy, not martial law,” Gareth added. “Now go grab a plate and sit yourself down.” He slid a large plate of cooked pancakes from the warming oven before he slapped a second pan onto the stove and proceeded to cook pancakes on two burners at once.
The two boys ate and ate. Pancakes filled with fruit and cream. Pancakes filled with preserves. Pancakes with chocolate spread and toasted hazelnuts, and pancakes with nothing but lemon juice and sugar.
The final pancake Gareth made was filled to bursting with dark chocolate, Jack’s favorite tart morello cherry preserve, and the last of the cream. They all shared that one.