March 4, 2014

The Meaning of Pancakes

We were living in Casa Limones, a ramshackle villa held together with duct tape and prayer and surrounded by loops of barbed wire sitting atop the ten foot security walls. There was marble --so, so much marble-- but no oven or stove. It was my first six months in Mexico and they were hairy.

We made do with a massive crock pot, a toaster oven and a temperamental hotplate purchased for 170 pesos at the local supermercado. Spoiler alert: 170 pesos does not buy much in the way of a hotplate.

It wasn't as bad as it could've been. Making meals in less than ideal conditions --something I knew I could do-- was an oddly welcome diversion from the things that didn't inspire so much confidence, like living in a developing nation or building a life with someone who wanted me to share a closet.


(I'm 90% sure that Hermès is the United Nations 50th anniversary version of Envol which they only made in 1995. It's my go-to funeral scarf. Way to go, wardrobe mistress.)

In fact, I only had one major come undone and it happened three years ago today.

I am Episcopalian and it's been rough moving to a country where you can be any denomination you like as it's Catholic.

So what does anyone in the diaspora do? Try to keep up as many personal practices as possible.

I read compline, listen to Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge each Christmas Eve --if you've never listened to Once in Royal David's City accompanied six competing strains of Norteño music, you're missing out on one of life's more bizarre experiences-- on Shrove Tuesday, which just happens to be today, I make pancakes. On Wednesdays I wear pink.

Lo, truly these are my people. Saint Alban's Washington, D.C. represent!

My first Shrove Tuesday in Mexico all I had was a cast iron comal and the aforementioned hotplate, but hey, if you can make pancakes on a garden hoe --well, technically hoecakes on a garden hoe-- surely I could make it work. After all, I baked a pineapple upside down cake in a foil-wrapped liquor box in fifth grade (my Girl Scout leader didn't mess around) how hard could this possibly be?

Answer: Very.

I'm not sure exactly what went wrong, but those botched flapjacks represented every doubt and fear I had about leaving my cushy, WASPy first world life for adventure and romance on the other side of the border and I lost it, big time. All manner of varyingly viscous liquids started leaking from my face --a rare occurrence for someone who remembers being the only third-grader in Ms Reisswig's class not to need at least a discreet shirtsleeve at the end of Old Yeller-- and I poured out my heart to sweet, confused Hot Latin Boy who, after drying my considerable tears, went on a mission to find someplace in the state that would sell a desperate-looking man unos hotcakes at three in the morning.

It's been nearly two years since we left Casa Limones and threw out that hateful hotplate. The comal is used for tortilla warming and frying the occasional piece of jamon and I still miss being able to go to a church that doesn't automatically think I'm going to hell. Yes, I'll make pancakes tonight, this time on a top-of-the-line gas range in a comfortable, fully equipped kitchen. And who knows? Maybe they won't turn out. The world is a funny old dog and even milk, eggs and flour aren't immune to its vagaries.

No matter if they emerge perfectly golden or mysteriously raw and burnt, this time I'll be okay. I didn't need those pancakes to stay Episcopalian and I don't need a parish either. Both are wonderful when done correctly (i.e., warm, nourishing and best covered in maple syrup) but neither are absolute requirements. I may have tacos in my belly (hint: I definitely have tacos in my belly) but I've got pancakes in my soul.




1 comment:

  1. Hester from Atlanta3/04/2014 9:20 AM

    Loved the comment about "any religion as long as its Catholic". I grew up as an Episcopalian and didn't relate to any of it - but found God on another path later on. I do remember a teenage camp type song, the refrain was "I am PE, just one step from Rome". I admire your courage in moving to a seemingly other universe. Did that road/brige ever get fixed? Best - Hester

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