This recipe and photo were published in the November 2016 issue of 425 Magazine. Photos by my hubby, Michael Kartes.
PANCAKES WITH A SIDE OF HOPE
Sometimes, you just have to pull over. You just have to make it past all your insecurities and stuff all your fears deep down into your belly and move forward. You need to make a difference in people’s lives and say what you are really thinking. It was mother’s day and mama (me) likes a fancy breakfast. I like eggs benedict with fresh herbs and extra lemony hollandaise. I like avocado toast loaded with chili flakes, micro greens, and homemade dill oil. Daddy and Noah like stick-to-your ribs chocolate chip pancakes and Denver scrambles from greasy spoons. Because I am a generous gal, and I can make a poached egg any old day, I felt like, hey, its Mother’s Day and I am not cooking -- you boys choose where we go. Mike picked in an instant and said, “Babe, you sure? We can go get a frilly breakfast for you. It's Mother’s Day!” I was sure; I just wanted to be with my family, not particularly at the stove.
I looked disheveled, it was 8 am, and we rolled into the diner like a troop of lumps ready for breakfast. We ordered two sausage skillets with potatoes and eggs, chocolate chip pancakes, strong coffee, and fresh squeezed tangerine juice with an extra side of sausage! We sat quietly, enjoying the older crowd and young families that surrounded us on such an early outing. I knew we had to eat early to avoid a rush. Our waitress poured our coffee as another group of three older gentlemen was seated next to us. These men were established, well dressed, and handsome, but I thought it odd they had no ladies or family with them on Mother’s Day. They gave each other robust handshakes and loving hugs as they greeted one another. They ordered their coffee, and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. One man talked about the loneliness he felt after his divorce and how his life had unfolded. Now in his late sixties, he asked his comrades what is this life all for?
Our breakfast came and Noah was thrilled. I cut up his pancakes, and as I snuck a bite I was drawn back in to listening to the men next to us talk. Michael said, “Babe, are you listening?” I said, “Yes. Can you hear? It’s sort of heartbreaking.” The man continued, and the two tried to console their friend. He talked of loss and sobriety and what mistakes he made that left him empty now. He spoke of divorce and his children and how he had all the money in the world, but no happiness. He said there was this intense void he was feeling now approaching what were always meant to be the happiest years, but he felt no such thing. The other men tried their best to cheer him up, but I found their advice to him quite empty. They advised him to get a puppy or a hobby, go on a vacation! We finished our breakfast, paid our bill, and walked to our car. I leaned into Mike and said, “I should tell that man that his life wasn’t a mistake and that he has a purpose.” Mike said, "Oh no, it's okay -- I’m sure he will be fine.”
We got into our car, and I said, "I feel like he needs someone to tell him that life is generally one big mistake, but the void he’s feeling is meant to be filled with hope, and that God loves him." Just as we turned out of the parking lot and onto the busy street, I saw the three men exit the diner. I yelled at Mike to turn the car around. He said, "REALLY?” Noah was echoing my demands, chanting, "Turn around! Turn around!"
We whipped right back in, and I saw the man sitting in his truck, gathering himself to drive away. I jumped out of my car and tapped on the glass of his passenger side window. He rolled it down with hesitation, but said, “Can I help you?” This is where I realized how I must look, disheveled and in need of a shower and a sandwich. My car needed washing and there was lots of stuff piled up in the windows. What happened next, I could not have prepared for. When things happen that change our lives and shake our very core, we rarely plan for them. These events are gifts that we need to be open to, ready for the possibility.
I said to him, “I am sorry to bother you, sir, but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation at breakfast today. You spoke of a void and an emptiness you’ve been feeling. You spoke of feeling no hope. I just felt like I had to tell you that your life isn’t a giant mistake, that God hasn’t forgotten you, and that you have a purpose as long as there is breath in your lungs. Whatever mistakes you’ve made in your past, it's okay, that was the past.” I paused, and my heart beat as if it were to leap out of my chest.
I saw tears fill his eyes, and his voice quivered as he replied, "Thank you."
I continued with, “I hope you don’t find me crazy, but I know you needed to know -- that void in your heart is God-shaped. Fill it with him and you’ll be okay.” He stared deep into my eyes and there was a calm pause while tears stained his cheeks.
I turned to get back in our car, and as I climbed in, Noah said, "Mama, what did you tell that man?" I said, “Honey, that God loves him and he’s not forgotten.”
“Oh, that’s good. Did we save my pancake? I want to eat it.”
“Yes, babe, we saved your pancake.” I smiled, and my heart was full. Sometimes we need to jump so far out of our comfort zone in order impact not only others' lives, but to change our very own. I am so happy Noah got to witness the entire event; it was the best Mother’s Day present I could have asked for. Today, turn the car around, jump out, and do that thing you didn’t quite think you had the guts to do.
Buttermilk Pumpkin Pancakes
with Toasted Pecans & Cream Cheese Shmear
Makes 8-10 1/2 cup pancakes
1 1/2 cups AP flour
3 tbsp. pumpkin purée
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 milk or cream
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash of salt
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 cup toasted pecans to sprinkle on top (350 degree oven for 7 minutes on a cookie sheet)
butter for the pan
Cream Cheese Shmear
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar plus more for dusting
1-2 cups maple syrup
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the pancakes and mix until it's just combined. Lumps are a good thing. Heat a nonstick skillet at just medium heat for 5 minutes before you pour the first pancake. Add 1 tsp. butter to your pan before frying each set of pancakes. Cook on the first side of the pancake for 3-4 minutes or until tiny bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes, then flip! Cook an additional 2 minutes.
To make the cream cheese, warm it for 30 seconds in the microwave and stir in the powdered sugar. Mix until glossy and smooth. To serve, top with a dollop of warm cream cheese, syrup, and toasted pecans.