Lesson #16: How to Avoid FEMA Pancakes

by Rachel on August 23, 2010

As I said yesterday, it was a rough weekend…but the pancake disaster needed its own post.

A couple Sundays ago, Eric mentioned that he wanted to have pancakes for breakfast; I said we should get some mix the next time we were at the grocery store to have on hand for lazy weekends. So last week, we picked up some pumpkin pancake mix at Target, just in case the craving hit over the weekend.

The reason I suggested making pancakes from a mix instead of scratch is that pancakes are, in general, a huge feat. I consider being able to make good pancakes from scratch without making a huge mess the number one thing it takes to be a real adult. Up until this point, every time I’ve made pancakes from scratch, the kitchen has looked as though a 10-year-old was trying to surprise her mom with breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day or perhaps like a bunch of drunks stormed the frat house kitchen at 3 AM.

I’ve made them from scratch before — sober and home in Michigan, with this healthy apple pancake recipe — but I’ve just accepted that I’m going to make a mess and waste ingredients. The goal, of course, is to eventually make pancakes like an adult. I thought using a pancake mix might make it a a little easier.

I was wrong. But here’s what I learned.

Read directions. Eric and I got into a debate about how much batter to make. I said the amount make six pancakes; he said the amount to make 12. I don’t even like pancakes that much, so this seemed excessive. We agreed upon six pancakes so I put one cup of milk in a mixing bowl. Before I could stop him, Eric dumped in the entire box of mix. We needed one cup of mix, not three. Luckily he was able to scoop one cup of mix out and we added another cup of milk, along with more butter and another egg.

Go ahead and make the larger serving. Because you will inevitably have pancake casualties along the way.

Do not prepare any other hot foods until the last second. While Eric mixed the batter, I made bacon. Once we were at pancake go time, I put the scrambled eggs on to cook. This took approximately two minutes. They got cold while the rest of the scene unfolded.

Do not pour one semi-large pancake right in the middle of the pan so that no others will fit around it. Seems like a given, but clearly Eric didn’t know.

Get the pan to the right temperature. Apparently, you should not cook pancakes on High. Within seconds of turning my back, I found myself asking, “Is something burning?” If the heat is up too high, your one large pancake will go directly in the trash and you’ll be forced to start over. A griddle comes in handy here.

[I’m including the following points because they are important, but I have no idea how to actually make them happen.]

Don’t drip pancake batter everywhere as you pour the new pancakes into the pan.

Don’t get the pancakes so close to the edge of the pan that they are sort of crawling up the edge of the pan.

Don’t try to flip the pancakes before they are cooked enough on the first side. Unless you want to scoop out aborted pancakes and have those piled all over the counters.

Don’t let the pancakes start to meld into one large pancake and then slice them in half with the spatula. Well you can do that, but you can’t expect round pancakes if you do. The shape will actually come to resemble a certain part of the female anatomy, especially when stacked.

Basically…don’t let this happen.

Do cover the pancakes in delicious add-ons (peanut butter, fruit, yogurt, syrup) to hide small errors. In my case, yesterday…well, we’re back to the Band-Aid/bullet hole analogy.

The yogurt in this case was about as helpful as the Bush administration during Katrina.

Looking around the kitchen at the huge mess and the pile of fleshy, un-pancake pancakes, Eric declared it a state of emergency. It did look like a hurricane had blown through. He christened them FEMA pancakes: First Experience Making Adult pancakes.

We agreed that to be fully adult, we must practice pancake making. But really…he must practice. I believe that pancakes are a male/dad specialty (I’m old-fashioned, I’ve owned it) and I told him to not even think about wifing me until he can make perfect chocolate chip Mickey Mouse pancakes from scratch without a disaster ensuing. Yes, I’m setting the bar high, but you can’t father my kids if you can’t produce adorable dad-made breakfasts — sorry I’m not sorry.

Until then, I will present my awful pancakes with pride. No I cannot make adult pancakes yet…because I’m young and wild and free!

Despite the disaster scene, we laughed pretty much the whole time we were making the pancakes and while we were eating them. They were absolutely hideous and just totally unacceptable on every level. But I will say this: when it comes to pancakes, it’s what inside that counts. They tasted delicious. Archer Farms at Target, good friends, will not steer you wrong.

But what happens after you get the mix home is entirely up to you.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tanya August 23, 2010 at 8:46 am

This was too hilarious – but it could have been worse with the “in scratch” ingredients also all about the kitchen! But there’s nothing wrong with square pancakes :-)


2 Laura Georgina August 23, 2010 at 8:56 am

I love this… but I also don’t love this because, if making pancakes from scratch makes you an adult, I’m THERE!! I want to be carefree and young again. I’m going to start deliberately burning pancakes from now on.

But seriously, I burn pancakes all the time–as long as you don’t expect to eat the first batch it’s all good.


3 Sophie @ yumventures August 23, 2010 at 9:15 am

In our house, making pancakes = me making a total mess by making the mix, then Z perfectly flipping pancakes by using the show-offy non spatula flipping routine. You are totally right – can’t keep a boy unless he can flip a good pancake :)


4 Bess August 23, 2010 at 9:50 am

Having had a gluten free homemade pancake disaster the other weekend, I wholeheartedly agree that I need to date someone who has the art of the perfect pancake, waffle and french toast down pat!

Breakfast IS the most important meal after all :)


5 Nikki August 23, 2010 at 9:51 am

Just so you know, if I had the equipment I could totally father your children based on this requirement alone. Maybe I’m good at making pancakes because I don’t put all the “adult” pressure on myself.


6 Anne Bender August 23, 2010 at 10:45 am

One time I put the cast iron griddle over the burners and confused my large and small burners and couldn’t get one to cook while the other side kept burning. I kept adjusting it, but was adjusting the wrong burners. We had to open the back door and turn on a fan (in the middle of winter) just to get all the smoke out of the kitchen.

And I found this- http://www.perfectpancake.net/ . Don’t know if it really works as stated.


7 Angie Nikolas August 23, 2010 at 11:05 am

I have the secret to not getting batter everywhere…it seriously just about changed my life when I discovered it (thanks to Real Simple – what can’t that magazine teach me?!)

When your ketchup bottle (the squirty kind, not the glass kind) is empty – rinse it out and save it. Then when you make pancake batter, funnel that mess right into the ketchup bottle. Head on over to your (not on high) pan and you just cleanly and perfectly squirt that batter right into the pan.

Seriously – wonderful. AND, should you want pancakes every day for like 3 days in a row, make a bunch of batter, cook what you want and then fridge the rest so you can make pancakes mess free in a hurry!

Life changing.


8 Rachel August 23, 2010 at 11:13 am




9 Katie August 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Wow, totally brilliant! Leave it to Real Simple..


10 Brenda August 24, 2010 at 11:22 am

For at least three generations, pancakes have been the comfort food of choice with my dad’s family. He inherited the pancake gene from his mother, and while I still need more practice, I have inherited it as well, along with red hair and big hands. We make them in the blender, which helps allot with the mess. We also eat them with bacon, and make tiny little “Teddy Cakes” around the edge of the pan to be served as doggie treats later. (Dogs LOVE pancakes.) We also use a big, flat griddle that covers two burners of the stove, but my grandmother’s forte was making them on the old-school brick barbeque pits they used to have in all the parks around here. She liked to have picnics on Sunday mornings and cook them over a woodfire.


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