The right ingredients

My daughter, Jessie, and I have made pancakes together since she was 3 years old. Now at age 9, she still enjoys mixing the ingredients, pouring the batter into the skillet, and flipping them. She loves making pancakes almost as much as eating them. However, because she smothers her pancakes with creative combinations of powdered sugar, various kinds of syrup, whipped cream, and cinnamon-sugar butter, eating them rates pretty highly.

One recent Sunday, Jessie said, “Let’s make pancakes for breakfast.” I responded, “I could eat pancakes,” and went to retrieve the mix from the pantry.

“Uh oh, Jessie, the box is almost empty.” Jessie, undeterred, went to her friend, Google. Seconds later, Jessie announced that she found an excellent pancake recipe. She tried to sell it to me by saying, “It has all five-star ratings and one four-star rating.” She began to call out the ingredients from her desk, located just off the kitchen. Boy, I thought, she really didn’t want oatmeal and yogurt, her standard weekday breakfast.

When Jessie said, “baking powder,” I thought I’d be making oatmeal, as I was confident we lacked this ingredient. But I checked the pantry just to make sure. Jessie got up from her desk and helped with the search. “I’m sure we have some, Dad.”

“I don’t think so, Jessie.” I thought my pantry was disorganized before Jessie’s hunt, but now I know what disorganized looks like.

I concluded we were out of luck, but Jessie refused to give up. She checked the pantry another time. She even searched the refrigerator. As I prepared to make oatmeal, I decided to check the cabinet where I keep a few spices and spotted the baking powder. It turns out that Jessie was right, and I was wrong. She was so excited when I pulled out the white can and held it in the air. (I hope it was because we could try her pancake recipe and not because she was right and I was wrong.)

We gathered all of the ingredients and prepared to make five-star pancakes from scratch. Jessie even felt comfortable tweaking the recipe. Instead of one tablespoon of sugar per the recipe, well, let’s just say the batter contained adequate sugar. As she mixed all the ingredients, I pulled out the electric skillet. Jessie, with spatula in hand, then uttered the words we hear so frequently, “Don’t look, please!” Jessie likes to surprise her mom and me with whatever she is doing (creating art, making a salad, etc.) and only wants us to see the finished product. So I left her in charge and headed to the kitchen table to read the Sunday newspaper.

As Jessie poured the mixed batter into the skillet and joyfully flipped away, I couldn’t help but peek up periodically from my paper. It seems like only yesterday I was standing over her 3-year-old shoulders to make sure she didn’t burn herself on the hot skillet or fall off of the stool she needed to reach it. Six years zoomed by quicker than Jessie and I found baking powder.

As I reminisced, Jessie provided me with periodic updates. “They’re thicker; they’ll be more filling.” “I burnt myself. I’m okay. It’s only a third-degree burn.” I noticed that Jessie gave Sadie, our dog, a few sample tastes. Jessie had a grand time making pancakes two at a time. “I like dragging it out,” she said.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on this experience, I have learned a number of things. Don’t rush to make microwaved oatmeal. Extra sugar makes pancakes sweeter. Have enough soap on hand for cleaning up after “not looking.” A five-star breakfast is a great way to begin a Sunday, especially for a dog. In addition, the experience was a good reminder that Dad isn’t always right.

I’ve also concluded that besides eggs, flour, salt, sugar, milk, and baking powder, one other ingredient is needed. Extra sugar? No. Vanilla? Different story. It’s patience. Patience to teach. Patience to learn. Patience to sit back and not run to the rescue. Spilled milk is easy to clean, although egg slime dripping down the kitchen cabinet takes some effort. Patience to listen. And patience to not say “no” right away. I’ll also need patience to rearrange my messy pantry.

Before long, Jessie will be ready to try another recipe. I don’t know if I’ll have all of the ingredients and in the right quantity. But regardless of my pantry’s status or my patience level, I’ll never run out of the most important ingredient — love.

Remember to cherish the moments.

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father in 2004 at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer.