I currently reside in a ‘studio’ in caber. Although it is one room, I love it. Its clean, surprisingly warm for having single glazed windows and just down the road from the house I spent the first couple of years of my life. It’s near the phoenix park, my favourite place on this planet, and my landlady is lovely. I share a bathroom with her daughter, who lends me books, and it takes me 15 minutes by bus to get the college.
I really like living here, despite missing my previous housemates, and it really feels like a home, but at the end of the day I still reside in one room. And my cooker is a small microwave with a hotplate. These were two key fact I blatantly disregarded when deciding to host a pancake Tuesday event to which more than 10 people were invited. The third key fact was I didn’t really check to see what cooking equipment I had. Apart from one stirfry the first week I moved in, up until this fateful tuesday I hadn’t cooked anything other than microwave porridge. Somehow I just cannot bring myself to cook in my bedroom. I tell myself the smells linger, and they do, but I am lazy. And Mammas revenge is so convenient. And a burrito is designed to contain all your nutrition needs for the day, I’m sure. It has beans, what could be more nutritious?
So, back to the pancakes. On Monday, while struggling through a very boring lecture, I decided to host pancake tuesday. I photoshopped a picture of my face onto Jamie Olivers, invited more people then could possibly fit in my flat at very late notice and proceeded to think no more about it.
Tuesday rolled round and I began to panic about the amount of people I had invited. The fact that I only had two chairs had not occurred to me the night before. Is it weird for people to sit on your bed while also in the kitchen? How many people could realistically sit on the bed? I was trying to calculate this in my head when I suddenly remembered I only owned two plates. I owned three bowels which could, if necessary be used as some sort of holding device for a pancake but how did I decide who I liked enough to get a plate, who got a bowel in a kind of second tier of friendship and who I made eat with their hands? i couldn’t allow the hands people to have any sort of messy topping for practical reasons but what happened if they rebelled? Or if someone thought they deserved both a chair and a plate?
Delia Smith has long been my cooking idol. I don’t cook, as my dear friends and family know. She makes cooking look easy. I bet she’s the sort of woman who plans a party. She has probably never cooked a chicken with the plastic still on, or accidentally put a plastic spatula in the oven. I like to think that she would have struggled in these cooking conditions, but its really only to make myself feel better. Delilah probably would have managed to set up a pottery wheel and make more plates while simultaniously ‘throwing together’ crepe flambeaux and carving rustic looking chairs out of recycled wood.
I am a lesser woman than Deliah Smith.
It was a horrible, stormy day so it was with some relief that people kept messaging me that they couldn’t come. The practicality of hosting this party became more and more possible, it was starting too look like I could maybe retain some shread of Deliah (like dignity but it knows how to make puff pastry). The numbers were down to a perfect two, myself and a friend from my course, Veronika, who would be celebrating pancake tuesday for the first time since she is from Finland.
I remember joking about never having made pancakes before and not being able to cook but I can’t quite remember when the realisation that it was true set in. Its easy to google recipes when you have equipment such as measuring scales, less so when you don’t and also have no idea what the hell you are supposed to be doing. So I did the only thing a person can do in this situation (well in the first world anyway) and I walked to my local shop for pre made pancake mixture.
The previous week there had been a whole display of mixtures, now there was a very small one with considerably less choice. Everyone else in Cabra had obviously had the same panic I had except their panic had been slightly earlier. One of these two mixtures looked like it could be nice. It was from odlums, and it purported to make american style pancakes. All you were required to do was fill up to a certain line on the container with milk, shake and then pour on to the pan.
The other was in a suspect looking box. The sort of box you would think contained baking soda, or something to clean your dishwasher. It’s brand was “just-add-water”. I am actually not joking. There is a whole brand devoted to making products that you just add water. The pancakes on the front looked like they were made of rubber, but apparently I suffer from selective blindness because all I could see was the sticker that said €1.50. Even though I knew I was making a mistake, even though I knew that a saving of €1.50 would seem like a robbery once I had tasted the pancakes, I bought them. The man on the till looked surprised. He didn’t outright say that nobody else had bought this mix of their own free will, but he did point to the Odlums bottle and ask did I want it instead. I wish I had taken his advice.
If Veronika had been coming to a nuclear winter re enactment party, It would have been a roaring success. This pancake mix was probably sold on by the government when the cold war ended. I firmly believe that all nuclear crisis could be averted if warring governments were invited to my panacake party and told that is what life would be like after the missiles hit, because these pancakes were so disheartening I believe they would make Trump a liberal. This is, however, getting ahead of myself.
Veronika arrived, and the pancake making commenced. A small crisis was averted when she remembered that water bottles carry a certain measurement, and forks made adequate whisks. I found a casserole dish that looked like it escaped from Plesentville to serve as a mixing bowl and a crystal milk jug that was probably owned by a Home Economics teacher in a past life to pour out the batter. Another small crisis was avoided when I found a tiny frying pan in the cupboard. For a moment, It looked like the evening could be a success.
Apparently being unable to scoop out batter with a jug and pour it onto a frying pan, Veronika quickly took over. The first pancake was the most unusual combination of pancake types ever. The bottom was like the sort of crepe you buy in a packet in France. The top was burnt. It was the first pancake though, and my mother said the first pancake never counts. We persevered.
The second pancake brought the realisation that the frying pan was broken and was the reason we were cooking them so badly. Not to be deterred, I whipped out my wok, the only other pan I owned, and a couple of pancakes passed. They looked exactly like the box, which wasn’t saying much.
My boyfriend arrives and after asserting the frying pan isn’t working by torching a pancake takes over from Veronika. We sit, chopping bananas and eating them with nutella while the stack grows ever higher. There is a small blip where he decided that I should be involved in making food for my guests at the party I am hosting instead of them cooking for me, and I quickly destroy any hope of that ever happening by making the pan so hot it starts to warp and almost setting it on fire. I return to banana duty, and he returns to pancakes.
Eventually, the pancakes are ready. We sit down, and everyone gingerly takes a pancake and covers it in as much nutella as possible. There isn’t much room for conversation because as well as looking like they rubber these pancakes have the consistency of rubber. I remember wondering why all burned food tastes the same. We chew our way through the first pancake, and my boyfriend is finding it hard to mask his dislike. He pretend the crack in his voice when he compliments them is the start of a cold rather then abject fear of being made eat another one. He suddenly becomes very full from eating bananas.
Both trying to be polite, Veronika and myself struggle through a second pancake. My nutella to pancake ratio is obsene, and in my quest to mask the texture of the pancakes I have smothered them in a sickly amount of nutella. Veronika has been braver and gone for the pancake taste over overwhelming amounts of nutella. Nobody even pretended to like them enough to mention having a third. The stack had started to congeal into itself. I felt like I had just eaten two large plates of the stuff my dentist used to make mouls of my teeth and entered the marathon equivalent of a chewing competiton.
Two more old school friends arrived. They came prepared with cans and their own pancake batter. My ability to cook has not been lost on them. Somewhere between reminiscing about €2.50 pints after school on fridays and deciding to buy more cans, the pancakes disappear. Someone has thrown them away and there are never to be seen again.
Pancake evening draws to a close. I apologise to Veronika for the events of her first pancake tuesday. My bedsit is full of the smell of slightly burned pancakes, and crushed dreams. But it doesn’t really matter, because who needs pancakes when you have friends and Tubourg. Friends who love you despite your terrible hosting skills.