By Paul McGuire © 2009
It took Sabine six minutes to properly prepare her pancakes. She engaged in a bizarre ritual every time that she ate pancakes which happened to be every time she went to the diner. In 1995, she basically lived off of cigarettes, relentless inner rage, pancakes, and peanut butter and jelly. She had been off smack for almost two years and had not had a sip of alcohol to drink in over twenty months. She attempted to eliminate all desire save for a few items. She was clean from abusive substances, but she was absolutely pissed off at the world. The only times she found any semblance of calm were the moments before she ate her pancakes.
Sabine methodically went through a series of steps before she consumed a plate of pancakes. The first step involved inspecting the pancakes. New York diners usually served her three plate size pancakes. She would pick up each pancake individually. If the pancakes were too hot, she'd pick lift them up with the edge of a fork and peak underneath.
Her next step was the buttering phase; the longest and most arduous process in her series of quirks. Before she even picked up a knife, she'd curse at the inferior quality of butter. It was a French thing. She was convinced that no one made butter than her own people and instantly scoffed at the various forms of butter that she was served in New York City. Despite her obvious disdain at the butter, she would slowly lather the top side of each pancake with a thin layer. She started with the bottom pancake and made her way to the top.
Sabine preferred the diners who scooped out a large mound of butter into a small paper cup. She hated the individual butter packets. She thought it was a waste on the environment and a nuisance to have to dig out the butter from the flimsy piece of plastic. The diners that served that sort of butter rarely gave Sabine an adequate supply. She would have to flag down the waiter or waitress and demand more butter, otherwise she could not continue on with her process.
"Each pancake needs to be treated with love and affection," she explained.
When she finally finished the buttering step, she moved onto the syrup stage. She only poured a small amount onto a tiny section of her pancakes. She would eat that section and then reapply more syrup to the next section and repeat the process. Again, it was a painstaking process and every minute or so she would have to add syrup to her meal. I often insisted that she'd save time if she simply poured a bug puddle of syrup over her stack but she vehemently protested. It would destroy the flavor of the pancake, she explained. The pancake would cease to exist because the essence of the dish would become just a lake of sugary goo. The pancake needed to be treated with delicate care.
And she rarely finished her pancakes. Sometimes she took up to ten minutes to prep them and only take three or four bites before she lit up a cigarette, which marked the completion of her meal. She never finished her pancakes because they were cold, which of course, was all her fault because she took way too long to prep them in the first place.
The pancakes. I just have to tell people the pancakes story and it perfectly explained Sabine. I sat through her bizarre routine every day for a year as she slipped into a trance and maniacally prepared her pancakes. She cared more about the pancakes than her own art. More than herself. Heck, more than me.
On the bad days, she would criticize my penchant for bacon and other meats. She was staunch vegetarian and believed that all the violence in the world was caused by meat-eaters. The meat corrupted our soul and fed our dark side. I often pressed her and asked her why she was so angry all the time because she never ate meat.
"Imagine what I would do if I ate the meat? I would try to kill everyone. Everyone that I see. On the street. The annoying people who push me on the subway. The way that the waitress looks at me every fuckin' time she walks by. I would want to poke her eyeballs out with the fork. And that homeless man on the corner? I would want to set him on fire. What a waste! He does not deserve to live."
Yeah, maybe it was better that she stuck to pancakes.
Paul McGuire is a writer originally from New York City. He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA.