Japanese Pancake

Late Sunday afternoon showers with pleasant Nils Frahm melodies and inviting smells of freshly made pancakes. Happiness is rare and often unseen; this is a short true story about how I found happiness in a simple and joyful moment I didn't see coming.


1. Japanese Pancake

How do I know if I'm happy? What makes me happy?


I found that I kept asking myself these foreign questions throughout the first half of this year and I had wondered why since questions concerning happiness had never really popped into my mind before. It wasn't until several weeks ago that I actually discovered the answer. 


I remember the late afternoon sun as it streamed in through the unclean windows of the small and boxy kitchen. Sunny, drizzly showers had been resurfacing on and off all that Sunday casting their reflective beams into my squinting eyes. I was bored. I kept describing the noneventful proceedings of that Sunday afternoon in various overly descriptive ways in my head. I really needed something to do. Something that wasn't scrolling through my Facebook feed. Just as I swiped past yet another gaming meme I saw a recipe for making Japanese fluffy pancakes. So I thought why not. I don't exactly have anything better to do. (Well besides that unspoken amount of schoolwork...)


I wouldn't say boasting is my thing but I've always been fairly good at cooking and baking. Though half the time it's more of a meditative thing for me to do, kind of like a remedy to problems I can't seem to solve. That said my skill of the basic French toast and simple pancake making will usually end in a devastation unlike no other. It's a complicated puzzle that mystifies me often. So I wondered if I could pull off making a more complex form of pancake.


I twisted onto my front and pushed myself off the cold carpet stretching from my uncomfortable lying position. I noticed that my phone was on the dying end of the spectrum so I printed the recipe out. I thus clambered downstairs to receive it from the printer. There was an unfamiliar light, almost joyful feeling that at the time I had decided to deny was fizzing amongst my emotions. I guess anytime a speck of positivity drifts my way I tend to always sneer at it; hell if I know why I'm this twistedly dark person. It's rare for me to bake without an extreme emotion directing me to so and back then the thing I couldn't identify was this newly accustomed feeling of simple happiness. 


As I stood in the claustrophobic inducing kitchen I readied my mindset scanning the recipe for its required items: sugar, flour, milk, baking powder and a rather large quantity of eggs. Then I organized the necessary baking utensils. With the bits I needed laid out on the bench it was at that point which my partial OCD kicked in. I lined everything up neat, tidy and in order. If anyone had messed up my arrangement I would have probably turned frantic.


I'm not entirely sure why the pancake recipe had been labelled as Japanese since I'm sure I've heard of fluffy pancakes exactly the same as the ones I made without them being Japanese. But the title of them being Japanese was I expect the reason why I picked the recipe out, so in a marketing sense I guess the name worked. 


If I was going to make these 'expected to be a disaster' pancakes then I was going to need music. I have never and will never be cooking or baking without music, to do so would be a criminal offence to my self-proscribed law. I was tempted to see if the airplay speakers in the kitchen would work but considering their past history of failure I decided against it. Instead I once again clambered off to my room to grab my perfectly fine working Bluetooth speaker; and yes I clambered. Shocker. But you see clambering is the only means of movement to an overly tall, clumsy soon to be 17-year-old girl. Which I'd like to say isn't me but... it's me. Yep definitely me. Ah joy. 


So now I stood in my workplace the album Screws setting the tone for my soon to be rhythmic swirling around the kitchen, the process of pancake making a twirling dance. 3 egg yolks and sugar whisked until combined. Add in the flour, baking powder and milk. Mix until smooth. It was effortless and pure, the only time I'd ever dance. Then separate from that beat the 5 egg whites until they form fluffy yet frim peaks. Pay close attention to this next part I told myself, I had to be careful when folding the egg white mixture into the other. It had to stay light, fluffy and full of air. Otherwise the mixture would become heavy and they wouldn't be fluffy pancakes if that's the result I got. I had a little moment to pride myself in the success of accurately pulling off this task, maybe the continuous irony that filled my life would grace me with its presence once again as I happen to make the most bloody perfect fluffy pancakes. Which I might add are a more complicated version from the standard pancake which I always failed at. You know if someone were to open up a dictionary to look up the word irony I would be the example underneath it.


The most interesting thing I found out about the making of the Japanese Fluffy Pancakes is that it takes 14 minutes to cook a single one. 7 minutes on each side and I had to have a lid on the frying pan, it was to help cook the sides of the pancakes I believe since they were about 3 centimetres thick. I'm not a fan of clique writing but the smell really was heavenly. Sweet, vanilla and cinnamon perfumes swirled around me as I stood at the gas stove top, heat waves wobbling upwards. Half an hour later and I had about 10 or so pancakes steaming from underneath the tea towel on the patchy blue plate and I was for once feeling hungry; not something I experience often. These weren't the kind of pancakes that you laden with fruit and yogurt, no these were the kind of pancakes that you grace with a slice of butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar along with a hint of squeezed lemon juice. Thus is the combination of bliss born.


The world around me was still. Its air only filled with soft piano sounds drifting from my speaker and the scraping of a knife against a plate. That first mouthful of spongy moist sweetness is something I'm failing at to describe. In that moment it wasn't just food it was an genuine experience of a long-awaited emotion. Simple happiness. People spend their whole life searching for happiness dedicated to that sole propose. But a lot of the time they never discover what it is they long for. Maybe it's true what they say when the more you look for something the harder your chances are of finding it are. I wouldn't say I've ever gone looking for happiness half the time I deny it exists in this world and it's something I really struggle to write about. I think it's somewhat a thing I need to have more experience on before I can incorporate it into my writing. I've never really noticed when I'm happy but rather I tend to realise how I felt once the moment is gone and passed. What I'm trying to get at here is that happiness is taken for granted, we spend so much time looking for it rather than just living our lives and it's in our simple boring lives that those rare and happy moments might arise from. Especially when we least expect it. Perhaps if we slowed down more we would notice the very thing we all long for and it was just under our nose. It wasn't as far away from us as we first believed.


Happiness is fluffy Japanese pancakes on a late Sunday afternoon with Nils Frahm's album Screws humming softly in the background. Happiness is the smell of fresh cooking wafting through the sunlit kitchen. Happiness is a shower of light rain gracing the outside world. Happiness to me is the simple and unexpected moments I don't see coming.

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