Pancakes and politics


financial journalist Louis Rukeyser

financial journalist Louis Rukeyser

I grew up dorky, or at least my classmates thought my family was. My family always watched the news shows like “60 Minutes” and adored figures who cared about economics and politics such as Louis Rukeyser and Mark Russell. In that B.C. (before cable) era of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS, my parents were mutants because they were news hounds and also taught their offspring to be so.

My family was secular in the particular span of time when I was growing up, and one of my happiest childhood memories is Sunday mornings. When I was in college, I immediately recognized the worldly emotional flavor of Wallace Stevens’s poem “Sunday Morning” even though we had no pets and my mother never went about in a nightgown:

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.

So on Sundays, instead of learning religion, I learned to be patriotic and political.

There was the huge Sunday edition of the paper that we would split up and trade. I would sit on the Persian rug while the sun would shine in at an angle, brilliantly. The smell of my parents’ coffee would permeate the air as they argued about politics and commented on the various editorials and op-eds they were reading.

BisquickPancakesThen my father would make Bisquick pancakes. When I got to fourth grade or so, I took over, carefully keeping the buttered griddle (yes, real butter) from being too greasy and the pancakes from being too dry. (Well, actually, I liked the crisp edges of the pancakes that were poured just after I put more butter on the grill.)

Then the Sunday “talking heads” political shows would come on TV. In an era when politicians were not known for discussing “what the meaning of ‘is’ is,” when they were idealized as responsible men, we knew what such an honorable leader would do: He (and it was always a he) would meet the press and face the nation.

My parents and I would sit at the table and watch raptly as we ate the pancakes drenched in Log Cabin syrup. I learned then to be concerned not about a meal consisting almost entirely of fat, starch, and sugar, but about the doings of our country and the politicians who, we naively trusted, represented us.

But I also remember the annoyance of having to wash the manual egg beater with which I had made the batter, cleaning every little twist and turn and crevice.

dough whisk web

And thus it is with admiration, nostalgia and an incongruously overwhelming feeling of love for country that I want a dough whisk. Designed not to entrap dry balls of starch and to be easily washable, it is perfect for making pancake batter. I don’t want one to use, or even to make me fantasize about having a kitchen; I want one to make me smile. For the five minutes before, of course, it goes into a box of clutter and ends up in storage. So, well, I shouldn’t get one.

I don’t know if the King Arthur Flour dough whisk is made in the United States, and I want one so badly I don’t actually care. But if you don’t go to church and want to teach your children patriotism, I would suggest that you get one and make Sunday morning pancakes while watching the full Ginsberg so that they will always connect sweetness with political awareness.


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