Apparently today is National Pancake Day, and IHOP is offering all its customers a free short stack for the asking in celebration of this auspicious “holiday” [that might have just been made up by marketers at IHOP]. In fact, if I had signed up for it in time, I might have had Marie Osmond, Miss America, or some celebrity I have never heard of call and wake me up to remind me! I was intrigued to read this information online this morning, even though it did not make me want to go and get some free pancakes. I usually would be all about eating some pancakes and especially at IHOP with their parade of multi-flavored syrups, but I had my fill of those last week on Fat Tuesday [or Shrove Tuesday] in the church parish hall at St. Mark’s. The men of the church cook up large trays of bacon and sausage and serve up all the warm, delicious pancakes you care to eat the night before Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. So, I was confused to find that today was designated National Pancake Day because I would have thought that Fat Tuesday would have this honor. In fact, in England, Shrove Tuesday is known as ‘pancake day.’ So, I did a little Internet search, and, yes, IHOP does sponsor this “holiday.”
In case you just moved to the US, IHOP stands for International House of Pancakes. It seems that IHOP is only a few years older than me, originating in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California. They spread like wildfire, though, because now there are now over 1400 of them all serving exactly the same menu.. which has, in fact, changed very little since I was a small child and frequented the International House of Pancakes somewhere in Maryland– probably Rockville or Gaithersburg.
I remember sitting in a large round booth with red vinyl seats and loving the seemingly giant, map-sized, colorful, laminated menus filled with pictures of perfect pancakes topped with apples, strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate chips, or bananas. My favorite as a small child were none of these. I usually settled on silver dollar pancakes–about the size of silver dollars, which we still used back then as currency. With all these little pancakes I could taste each and every syrup like an official taster and judge which was the best. The syrups came in pitchers that were like tiny coffee pots with latches you used your thumb to pull back. They reminded me of the toy coffee pitcher I had in my play kitchen that was made with a coffee looking liquid trapped in an outer layer that bubbled and looked like it was being poured when you tipped it. The syrups were usually choices like southern pecan, traditional maple, blueberry, and my personal favorite, deep purple in the pitcher and bright magenta on my pancakes– boysenberry. I am still not exactly sure what a boysenberry is and I don’t think I have ever seen one, but when I step into IHOP and pour some on a pancake, I am eight years old again.
The tradition carried on with my children who, of course, loved going out for pancakes any time of day. They too loved IHOP for many of the same reasons I did thirty-some years ago. We even have a family story that gets told every time we mention or visit IHOP. We were vacationing in Williamsburg one year when the boys were about 4 and 10 years old. The restaurant was very crowded and we had to wait a long time for our order to be taken. While we were waiting a man at a neighboring table cried out in pain and spit blood into his plate. He then uttered a few choice words and was quickly surrounded by staff trying to assist him and calm him down. You see, somehow shards of glass had ended up in his scrambled eggs. We were quick enough to avoid the eggs when ordering, and afterward made sure to check our food carefully for glass before eating it.
It’s after 8 o’clock, and so there less than two more hours to go by IHOP and get your free short stack. They ask only that you make a donation if you choose to do so the Children’s Miracle Network. I am still wondering why they don’t merge their National Pancake Day with the day only one week prior when everyone wants to gorge on pancakes anyhow, but then the men of our church might lose their claim to fame;)