Pancakes After Dark

Mom treated you to them for breakfast, but now you're a grownup. Break the rules and have them for supper.

I grew up associating pancakes with mild rule-breaking. When I was a girl, my mother used to make Swedish-style pancakes-thin, firm ones that were about the diameter of a coffee can. My siblings and I ate them gamely enough, but we knew they were not "real" pancakes. Real pancakes were the ones on the Bisquick box: spongy, thick, stacked griddlecakes as wide as plates, with a gleaming butter pat on top and syrup dripping down the sides. When my parents would leave town, we would beg our babysitter to fix them for us, and she would oblige, making pancakes so thick I could barely eat a whole one. They were delicious, but it almost didn't matter what they tasted like. The little rule-defying thrill was more important.

For supper, pancakes seem all the more indulgent. Many of us were taught as children-and now teach our children-that the evening meal is the one with the most rules. You must use your manners, try something even if you think you won"t like it, and finish your vegetables. Having pancakes for supper doesn't just buck the custom of treating them as breakfast food; it suggests that maybe all those other rules could be relaxed for the evening, too. If your fingers are sticky with syrup, you're more likely to let your table manners slide.

For busy parent-chefs, pancakes are blessedly easy and versatile. The unflappable flapjack will just as soon embrace grown-up fillings and spices as it will kid-pleasers such as peanut butter or cheese. You can jazz up pancakes with chopped nuts, vegetables, even meat. Making them is so simple that budding young cooks can pitch in. With or without help, the food will be on the table in no time. Add fruit or a salad and a tall glass of milk, and you can call it a meal. Not dinner, this meal, but supper: basic, good, and comforting to the last.

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