E got off the bus and wandered towards the scent of chocolates and strawberries and caramel and lemons and vanilla and sugar and heaven. Dawson Street was always busy this time of day, but she was being pushed more than usual – jostled by a throng that seemed to be converging in front of a cafe. She saw a crepe stand, shaded by an orange umbrella. Signs read: “Pancakes to Go!” and “Open until 9 p.m.” Of course; now it made sense. It must be Pancake Tuesday.
E knew about Pancake Tuesday. Years before she’d moved to Dublin, her Irish roommate, Sean, had told her all about it.
“Don’t ye have Pancake Tuesday in America?” he’d asked.
“I don’t know,” she’d said. “I’ve never heard of it. Easter’s about chocolate eggs in the States. My family always ate rabbit.”
“You did what?”
“Ate rabbit. It’s an Italian thing.”
“Heathens, the lot of ye.”
Pancake Tuesday is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. No Mardi Gras in Ireland – sure, why have beads and bosoms in the nip when you could have pancakes, like? Pancakes all day. Thin, delicate and crepe-like, served with a variety of toppings or, traditionally, with lemon juice and sugar.
Image from www.winosandfoodies.com
E counted her money – just 4 euro, and that was all. Surely enough for one pancake! She checked her watch; it was 5 minutes before class. Bugger all. She’d had visions of traipsing through St. Stephen’s Green clutching a Nutella-stuffed pocket of pastry, but pancake time would have to wait.
She went to class, where a high-profile poet was scheduled to speak. He talked about the Church, about writing, about the Achill Islands where he was raised. The most beautiful place on Earth, he said. Listening to him speak, E could forget about pancakes but the instant he left the room, the thought of Nutella haunted her once again.
She dialed her roommate.
“Sean,” she said. “It’s Pancake Tuesday.”
“Is it?” he said. “Ah, that’s grand.”
“You should head out and get a pancake, like me!”
“We usually have the pancakes for dinner, like.”
“Yeah. I’ll make us some for dinner.”
“Am I allowed to have pancakes for a snack and then for dinner again?”
“Sure, it’s grand.”
“Well, then, that’s what I’ll do. Pancakes all day long on Pancake Tuesday!”
E returned to the pancake stand, dismayed to see that a long snaking line had formed while she was in class. Peering into the bright sun, she could count 20 people ahead of her. She’d be on line forever. Why stand on line when there would be pancakes waiting for her at home? If she had a pancake now, chances were she wouldn’t be in the mood for any more by dinner time. Maybe Sean would make traditional style pancakes; maybe he’d buy a tub of Nutella; maybe he’d make savory pancakes; stuffed with cheeses and vegetables… E drooled to think of it. Yes, it was better to wait; the anticipation would make the pancakes all the more delicious.
She went back to the writing centre. She pecked at her assignments and sat through another lecture, thinking of pancakes all the while. When it finally came time for her to head home, she leapt onto the bus. Her heart felt light as the bus bumped over the Grand Canal, past the swans chattering on the water. She would have two pancakes, maybe three, but no more than ten. Even on a day made for pancake gluttony, that would just be greedy.
She burst into the apartment. The stove was cold and bare. Sean was pulling a glass dish out of the oven.
“The pancakes?” she blurted.
Sean closed the oven with a somber clang, turning to spoon dinner on their plates.
“I didn’t have the right pan to make the pancakes after all,” he said. “And I thought you’d have one for lunch anyway.”
“I didn’t,” she said. “The line was too long and I didn’t wait because I thought we’d be having them for dinner.”
“Ah, well,” said Sean. “I guess we’ll be celebrating Pancake Tuesday next year!”
E sat down to the meal Sean had prepared. He had made a frittata stuffed with leeks, mushrooms, and peppers. It looked lovely, but E was nonetheless disappointed. She wasn’t really sure why. It’s not as if it was her holiday to miss.
O, all who give and receive pancakes, such as they are luckiest. Everywhere they are luckiest. They are the pancake eaters.
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