Monday, August 24, 2009

Fear of Pancakes

Life was not particularly easy for me at the age of seven, despite the mythology about childhood being so much fun that we want to constantly relive it. For one thing, I abhorred milk, unless it had Hershey’s in it. Could not abide the stuff, and still can’t. It’s . . . chalky, and the flavor? Who decided that was a good flavor? Granted, it goes well with cereal, but by itself? It’s simply inedible.

Or so I suspected. No one would listen to me when I told them this, and the theory at the time, and perhaps still is, I don’t really keep up on theories, is that milk is good for children. So when chunks of my hair began disappearing I was quick to jump on the “it’s the milk” story that somehow popped up. I can’t believe that I would have been smart enough to come up with that one, but I certainly didn’t try to dissuade anyone from that theory.

At the time, my brother and I were living with my mom, who was living with her sister, who had three of her own children. With two parents who liked to go out and party and five children often left on their own things were bound to happen. One of the things that happened was that one of my cousins ripped out my hair. But since no one would believe that particular story, the milk story came in quite handy. With this excuse, I could avoid milk successfully.

Until someone noticed that my cousin actually was tearing out my hair, and I hadn’t even been drinking milk. It was a good plan while it lasted though.

Later we went to live with my dad, a man not so predisposed to partying, perhaps because he was so old by then, having a good ten years on my mother. He married again, and my stepmother made it her mission to be sure I was properly nutritionalized. I suspect her real wish was to see me institutionalized, and she certainly expended every effort to see that happen, but fortunately I’m resilient.

She insisted I drink half a glass of milk every morning with breakfast. Ew, yuck. With cereal it was no problem, and even now in my advanced state of older age I eat cereal with milk. But straight? With eggs it wasn’t so bad – I could take a quick drink of milk then immediately shove some eggs in after it. But I still remember the horror of the pancakes.

Pancakes. There’s nothing wrong with pancakes, is there? But when they’re accompanied by a glass, even half, of milk, they take on the proportions of some giant ungodly demon, and taking a sip of milk and then a bite of pancake does not make the milk more palatable, but instead makes the pancake a cloying milky mess that tastes all of milk and is difficult to swallow. Substitutions were not allowed. It had to be pancakes with the milk.

Stepmother did not care that it made me sick. Pointing out that I was certainly not nutritionally deprived would not have helped. That was irrelevant. I had to have milk with my pancakes, even if it killed me. Once or twice I thought it might. That’s because I was young and had an active imagination, and my stomach was in agreement with me that it just might be the end of me.

Veering off the milk subject for a moment, my stepmother was a woman of odd insistences. She insisted we eat breakfast every day, and she was quite insistent on what constituted “breakfast.” One day, while in high school, I woke up early and left for school before anyone else was up. (Not just one day, I did this often.) On my way out, I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, calculating that bread was often a breakfast item, as it makes up toast, and jelly is often used on toast, and peanut butter is known to be a staple for any meal and is especially good on bread.

When my stepmother found out what I’d done she had a fit. Peanut butter and jelly was NOT an appropriate breakfast. It was not breakfast at all, as far as she was concerned, it was LUNCH, and why was I having lunch that early in the morning? Was there something wrong with me, other than the obvious? I was, she stated firmly, not to ever do that again.

So I went to school in the early morning hours sans breakfast at all, but at least I wasn’t having lunch.

Anyway. For years I had this idea in my head that pancakes are not good, even though I’d readily admit that I liked pancakes. Not stepmother’s, of course, those were ruined for me for life. But other pancakes. And yet, I’m still loathe to order pancakes, and they’re not my first choice when it comes to “what am I going to make for breakfast?”

And this is just silly. I’m punishing the poor innocent pancake for its previous association with milk, an association the pancakes itself did not insist on, an association that stopped long ago, when I was old enough to free myself from my stepmother’s grasp (18, which, if you ask me, wasn’t entirely soon enough, but it was the best I could do). I still suspect the innocent pancake of being on HER side, as if pancakes can even take a side, being the inanimate objects they are. (At least mine are – if yours aren’t, you might want to get that checked out.)

So I’m on a mission to get past my fear of the pancake, to not suspect them of wrongdoing whenever they make an appearance on a menu, to give them a chance to prove themselves to me. It’s the least I can do.

Then I’ll tackle dill pickles. One thing at a time.

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