March 17, 2023

Why the Second Pancake will be Better than the First.

second pancake

Not one to let a metaphor pass me by, I was inspired by a recent conversation I had with a friend about making pancakes, and the parallels it has to the paradigm of romantic relationships.

This is intended as a message of hope for Team Breakup, otherwise known as the brave and brokenhearted. For those of us who have found ourselves single again after a decade or more of partnership or marriage.

This is a fellow and comforting nod in recognition of the process we’ve had to go through to reconcile the time, commitment, and selfless effort that we put into a relationship that subsequently broke down.

Indulge me a little.

We start at the beginning with the simple but raw ingredients, distinguishable as their individual parts. We start out firm in the belief that whilst, for the most part, these ingredients are individually robust on their own, they are better when lovingly mixed together, allowed to stand, baked in a pan, and served with a generous dollop of maple syrup for extra sweetness.

What’s not to love?

We jump in, guns blazing and whisks waving, beating the ingredients together, whizzing and whipping until everything is just one big indistinguishable mixture. You can no longer tell who’s who and what’s what and who even cares? The mix is stronger as one.

Yet there are times we are so excited by the prospect of the perfect pancake that we jump in too deep, too quick without checking the ingredients are right, the mixture is ready, or the pan is appropriately oiled and at the right temperature. And as anyone who has ever made pancakes knows all too well, timing is key. If you don’t get it just right, you may end up with a total flop.

The way I like to think of it is this: the first pancake is our experiment, our trial and error. We can ask ourselves, “What mistakes did I make on that first pancake that I can correct and make right on the second?”

Were we careful in dishing up our proportions of ingredients or were we in too much of a rush to get to the finish line that we forgot to use a measuring scoop?

Do the ingredients need more of a chance to get to know one another before they are put in the pan? You know, a proper chance to say hello, only after they’ve been sufficiently mixed and not just the on-the-surface pristine versions of themselves they were at the beginning, before all that beating.

Or does the batter need a chance to marinate, to settle in, to rest? Does the pancake mix need a bit more work before its ready for the pan? Do we need to add a little baking power to give the pancake the bit of oomph it needs or is the mix just a bit too…salty?

Or does the environment for baking need a closer examination? Like, the fact that we need a robust pan to work with for starters. None of this over promising and under delivering non-stick wonders. We need a material that can conduct heat whilst allowing a slow but steady heat distribution. We neither want a pan that heats too quickly, leaving our pancakes a cindered mess or one that concentrates the heat into a single area forming a burnt spot from which there is no return.

In other words, a pan that is sturdy enough to withstand the heat whilst being forgiving enough to allow us the grace of an imperfect batter.

So perhaps the first time around, we got the ratio wrong and the batter didn’t quite work after it was mixed. Maybe we just used the wrong pan. Or possibly, we had the right pan and even the right ratio of ingredients but there was some intangible feature in the way that everything came together that just wasn’t quite right that first time around. It’s okay; it happens.

Or maybe the pancake needed a bit more attention so as not to over or under-bake. Second time around, we notice more clearly the cues the pancake is giving off, like the way it bubbles on the surface, lifting at the edges to let you know it’s baked enough on one side and is ready to be flipped, signposting its needs via these subtle but important signals.

Perhaps the second time around you are just better at responding to those early cues before anything gets burnt?

In essence, whilst the majority of us will have a good honest go at making our first pancakes, the reality is that no matter how hard we try, we will end up making many a mistake on that first attempt. It’s not that we didn’t set out with the sincerest willingness to make it just right, buoyed by the belief that we can beat the odds and make it right first-time around.

We try in earnest to make the perfect first pancake, but for many of us, there comes a critical point where we are forced to hold up our hands in surrender and admit that this one is for the compost. Where we can kindly and lovingly release it back to the earth, allowing it the opportunity to break down to be reabsorbed into the universal ether that is life.

So, rest well dear friends, rest just like the batter you so lovingly prepared with all the good intention in the world. Dowse yourself in the syrupy knowledge that you are not alone, and nothing is lost. You will get to take all your learnings—the good, the bad, and the very messy—into creating a more robust and all-around better second pancake.

Bake yourself in the sweet belief that the second pancake will be so much better than the first. Whilst I can’t know for sure, it is my humble belief that it will taste that much sweeter.

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