Looking ahead to Friday’s post begins for me, usually, sometime on Wednesday, which this week was the gray and shady afternoon in which Tim and I ventured way out to the west side of town, to Bellevue, the Nashville neighborhood of older shopping plazas and brand-new housing communities where Perl, a new-to-us café Yelp users compare to Marché and Scoutmob currently has a deal on, is located. Armed with my Christmas gift of a yellow Anthropologie journal and wearing the gray-and-white-striped vintage dress I found last week at Goodwill’s sale, I sat with Tim through 20 minutes of highway and unfamiliar neighborhoods and launched into the purpose of our midweek date: quizzing him about big dreams for the future. “So tell me,” I began. “If there were no limits and no obstacles, what would you want to do this year? What do you wish you could work towards? What are your big dreams?”
Tim, it should be said, is a man who was made for an exercise like this one. Years ago, when we were long-distance dating, and he came to visit me for a weekend in my hometown, the first night he arrived, he had us somehow sitting in a café, testing how quickly we could scrounge up 100 business ideas, one after another, writing them down like treasure, like something we wouldn’t want to lose.
I remember looking at him sitting there across from me, this beautiful man with wavy brown hair and set dimpled cheeks, a smile on his face and a growing list before him, thinking how alive he looked, how completely excited and enthralled he became when he was given a chance to imagine. I, on the other hand, enjoy to-do lists only when the to-dos are done and dreams only when they become realities. If you’ve read the story of how we met, you’ll remember me as the girlfriend logging phone minutes in a Google spreadsheet, using that to gauge where things were going. I crave certainty. I like the finished.
As we drove through the overcast world of wet and gray and chill, Tim rolled off ideas to me as if reciting the Gettysburg Address in an elementary school play, from question to answer, never missing a beat. “To own land and fruit trees!” “We move!” “We plant!” “We create!” All the while as he spoke, my hand scrawled out statements fast as he could say them, grouping ideas together where I could, drawing lines around categories, trying to create some sort of order and clarity.
“How can we turn this list into three or four main things?” I asked him as we pulled into the corporate, unassuming shopping plaza where Perl resides. “Then, make subgoals underneath each one?”
In my entire two years in Nashville, I’d come to Bellevue twice before, once when wedding-dress shopping and once to catch an afternoon matinee of The Help at a theatre that offered discounts. Wednesday, in our meal at Perl—mozzarella-stuffed arancini with herb aioli, a salad with wine-soaked pears (him) and an acorn squash pot pie (me)—I took note of the atmosphere around me: colorful mismatched chairs, random local artwork, a back room with fluorescent lighting and a sign decreeing “market.” While Bellevue will never be East Nashville, not the trendy, hipster scene of renovated historic buildings and custom hand-drawn signs, this restaurant seemed an infant’s step in that direction.
Tim and I tasted off each other’s plates and continued planning. “So in January, we’ll research this new software,” I said to him and wrote the decision down in ink. Before the check arrived, we’d managed to create a six- to seven-month outline, tangible goals for the first half of our year. Back in the car, we shifted roles, me in the driver’s seat, Tim taking notes. By the time we pulled back into our driveway at home, we had similar goals and lists created for me, with tasks for January and the months to follow.
Inside, regular life awaited: my copywriting, Tim’s consulting work. Still dreaming about the plans we’d made and how we’d accomplish them, I set to writing articles and Tim pulled up Web research. Sometime in the midst of it, one of us asked about Friday’s blog post. Pancakes, we agreed. Tim’s famous pancakes we make for company and special weekend mornings. Perfect.
Thursday morning, pancakes are exactly what we had: tall, golden stacks of them, piled high and frosted with pure maple syrup and butter spread thin. I even pressed a pot of coffee, which we drank milky cups of, alongside our buffet.
But, despite our grand plans and great ambition, Thursday night had us staring at each other with the morning’s leftover pancakes and an otherwise empty fridge, not many photos of our hearty breakfast and no real stories about them waiting to be told. No real excuses either, to be honest with you. Seeing as it’s been a goal of mine—not unlike the goals we’ve set for the coming year—to post here twice a week, as a discipline, as an exercise in creativity, that night as we crawled into bed together with our evening books—mine is The Writing Art, an amazing compilation of writerly quotes printed in 1930 (!)—I asked Tim what to make of this, this first Thursday night since April in which I didn’t have a post ready for the next day. Should we pull something quick together? Should we write about something else? Does it make you a failure when you don’t meet your goals?
It wasn’t that I couldn’t write something about the pancakes; it was that I didn’t know what would be meaningful. “Write in the strain that interests you most,” Thoreau was saying in my bedtime book. “Consult not the popular taste.”
So, today, after we got up and did our work and ate leftover hummus and, for lunch, another big plate of pancakes; after we dropped off copies of the book (back in stock!) at Nashville’s all-local bookstore and grabbed two tacos and visited my new favorite coffee shop; after I asked you on Facebook what you do when you’re uninspired; after I’d all but given up; I thought about Henry Ward Beecher’s advice, which I’d also read the night before:
“If you wish to write, go to your desk, and whatever has had a real hold upon you will then come vividly up like pictures.”
So I sat down on my bed with my laptop—I’m sitting there now, typing to you—and this is what’s come out, unexpectedly, without preliminary planning, not in the way I would pick. But reading back through it, thinking over it, I wonder if just as there’s a time for dreaming and planning blog schedules and imagining big life steps, so also there’s also a time for taking those plans, taking what comes instead and, letting them go.
“Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9, paraphrased
Tim’s Famous Overnight Pancakes
Makes around 15 medium-to-large pancakes
Sometime within the last year, Tim got it into his head that he wanted to have a good, solid, foolproof pancake recipe that would be his go-to whenever we wanted pancakes. (It’s harder than one might think, especially when you add unusual flours and sugars into the mix.) This version, originally adapted from one in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, My Father’s Daughter, is the recipe he now makes, and it’s fantastic. In my opinion, it’s pretty perfect—and while we’ve made the below version with einkorn flour, we’ve also used the same proportions with spelt, so experiment as you like.
1.5 cups einkorn flour (or other flour)
1/8 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
3 pastured eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raw yogurt
1 cup raw goat’s milk (or other milk), plus more as needed
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter/coconut oil with eggs, vanilla, yogurt and milk. Add wet ingredients to dry. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, pull the pancake batter out of the fridge, give it a good stir and add milk to thin it out to the consistency you like. Heat oil or butter in a large skillet and once it’s hot, ladle batter into the pan. When bubbles form on the top, flip the pancakes to cook the other side. Finished pancakes may be placed in a warm oven while cooking the rest and removed to the table to serve.
Top with real maple syrup, butter, fruit, etc., as you like.