By Lauryn Ash
I walked through the brisk air, pressing my hood to my head. My friends followed me out of my apartment all the way past Market St. They were over-jubilant at the thought of parsley, basil, and potatoes. Or perhaps, they want egg rolls and cheese; but their thoughts were too cluttered for my taste. Their chatter became white noise humming in my mind. I just want pancakes.
When I first stumbled upon the local griddle gods’ pancakes, it was out of blind curiosity. Farmer’s markets provide fresh produce and handmade products cheaper and greener than any supplied in the local grocery store. Before discovering my true love, I shopped for the in-season vegetables and fruits. Already full of healthy granola, egg, or yogurt, I let the already warmed earth greet me around nine or ten. I was not—and remain not—an early riser.
Caught red handed by the pedestrian’s roadblock, the blinking crosswalk light only impeded my progress. It was too frosty for September, and I didn’t want to wait any longer. Then again seven-sixteen a.m. may have been too early to gauge the weather. The smell of autumn melded with the distant aroma of roasted meat and free trade coffee. Either of which served me no purpose. I clutched my 16oz thermos of my own brewed coffee— Starbucks, if you must know, because yes, I am a woman who needs a legitimate cup of corporation for breakfast. The commercialism offsets the home-created decadence of my succulent, delicious— I interrupted my own thoughts, amazed at my own drive. I darted diagonally through the street regardless. Past mornings have taught me that I won’t get caught. Hopefully, this morning wouldn’t be an exception.
I could see my breath. Making my own smoke stacks made the bitter cold seem more acceptable. I turned towards the entrance, littered with orange traffic cones, like a never finished construction site in high-traffic July. This scene always marked the boundary between commercial Iowa City downtown and local farmer’s goods and services. The stand—camouflaged under an orange-blue tarp—only differentiated by the portable grill and a chalkboard sign marked with two items—omelettes and pancakes.
My friends separated into their own corners of the market. It only took five minutes before I sat down in mine, situated on one end of a plastic picnic table with an elderly couple, a dog, and a pancake.
I attempted to nibble around the center. Redefinition in every bite, I begin to understand why the English decided to call such a decadent pastry pancake. Pan in almost every other language denotes unaltered bread. Yet for England, bread was not sweet enough for morning. The moistened honeyed pastry called cake must combine and create the sensation known as a pancake.
Taste overcame my desire to savor. Was it the home-created recipe? The early-morning wake up? The sheer complete and utter joy of knowing I was eating pancakes? Regardless, my mouth’s failure equaled my stomach’s immediate success. My etymology meant nothing to the serotonin flooding my system. I devoured every little secret lemon bit that offset the oncoming autumnal season.
From September until early November, I attended to this weekly ritual with the utmost care. Pancakes became my relief, edged into a staple of my budget. My grocery list consisted of fruit, eggs, and pancakes. This diet got me through midterm exams, science fiction theory papers, and mind-numbing Japanese dictation exercises. Pancakes had brought our shaking hands and smiling faces together. Unfortunately, the farmer’s market cannot withstand the increasingly frigid Iowan latitude. The winter months will pull us apart, but not for long. In spring, the season will succumb to dewy frost. The pancake princes will once again return to downtown Iowa City. My persistent patronage will begin again, continuing our weekly routine. Our hearts filled with friendships. Our stomachs swelled from the perfection known as pancakes
About the Author
Lauryn Ash earned a B.A. in English and Creative Writing at The University of Iowa.
This column originally appeared on Niche’s website on April 9th, 2013.