The Pancake War

Grown men will argue about almost anything, especially when bragging rights and pride are at stake. The subject matter is not so important as long as both sides are equally passionate about their own opinions. Best fishing hole. Greatest baseball player of all time. The best way to smoke ribs. Fastest cars. Lawd, I’ve heard some fussing about cars.

This particular dispute is over pancakes.

It all started last summer when my friend found out that I was going to be vacationing not far from Gatlinburg. I’ll call him Harry, which is not his real name but close. If the “H” were, let’s say, a “B”; then that would be closer.

Harry said to me, “Whatever else you do, you gotta go to the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg. If you miss all the tourist attractions, skip Dollywood, and get rained out completely for the whole week, it won’t matter as long as you eat at the Pancake Pantry.”

I’m nodding my head in disbelief. “That good, huh?”

“I’m telling you, if I wanted pancakes for breakfast in the morning and could get there, I’d get in the car right now. You’ll thank me later.”

Now, I know a man can get pretty wrapped up in his opinions. He’ll sometimes go to extreme lengths to justify his side of the argument. I get that. But driving 300 miles for pancakes seems a little loopy to me.

But Harry, does this. He goes to Gatlinburg multiple times a year for pancakes. He says that he and his wife just enjoy the area, but they stay in the same hotel room every time because, get this, it’s within walking distance of the Pancake Pantry.

You get my point. I’m skeptical, but I’m willing to give it a try.

“And don’t get just any pancake.” Now he’s coaching me. “You have to get the blueberry pancakes. And don’t get just one serving of blueberry compote, get two.”

“I’m not putting compost on my pancakes. I don’t care what it tastes like.”

“No. No. No. Not com-POST. Haven’t you ever heard of compote?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“It’s like syrup from heaven. You gotta try it. You’ll thank me later.”

“Oh, one more thing. There are lots of places to eat pancakes up there.” I thought we were done with my pancake lesson. “They all say they have the best pancakes, but they all lie like a dog. Don’t settle for anywhere but the Pancake Pantry. Get there early.”

Thus, the line was drawn in the sand.

I’ll spare you all the details of our trip, but I need to lay down a little background for you.

We ate one night at Elvira’s Café. It was five minutes from our cabin. Great food. I noticed on the menu that they served breakfast and pancakes were on the list. And not just plain pancakes, but fancy ones. Pancakes with bananas and strawberries and chocolate chips and the ever-popular blueberries.

They had crepes made with buckwheat flour filled with things like creamy ricotta cheese, pecans, caramelized apples, almonds, apple butter, seasonal berries, and Elvira’s very own café cream sauce.

I’m hearing the Oak Ridge Boys singing in my head. “Oom-poppa-mow-mow.”

My family suggests that we should eat breakfast here one morning. “The pancakes sound great,” they said.

I could hear Harry whispering in my ear. “Don’t be a fool. You must go to the Pancake Pantry.”

A couple of mornings later we drove the 45 minutes to Gatlinburg to hunt out the Mecca of pancakes. Mind you, we turned left out on the main highway within sight of Elvira’s with little if any crowd in the parking lot.

We did this so that we could sit in traffic, dodge exactly 583,000 pedestrians, and pay $20 to park one quarter mile from the front door to the Pancake Pantry.

I gotta say, I enjoyed my pancakes. The service was good. The wait was not unbearable. But my son-in-law stated what we all felt when I asked him what he thought of the blueberry pancakes. “Ehh! Pretty average.”

The next Sunday Harry caught me in the hallway at church. He wanted to know how things went. He didn’t ask about our cabin. He didn’t ask about the things we did or any of the places we visited. He didn’t even ask if we had a good time.

He asked, “How were the blueberry pancakes?” This, to Harry, was the only reason for going to Tennessee.

I tried to soften my reply. “They were good.” But I couldn’t hide my lack of enthusiasm.

“What do mean, good? Those are the best pancakes anywhere. You had the blueberry pancakes, right?”

“I did.”

“You ate at the Pancake Pantry, right?”

“Yep. I said I’d try it out.”

“And you used the compote? You gotta use the compote. Two of them.”

“I used the compote. Put a little maple syrup over the top. It was good.”

“You put syrup on it! Oh, Lord, you ruined the whole experience.”

This is how the war began six months ago. Barry knows how he likes his pancakes. I mean Harry. I know how I like mine.

I’m not going to change his mind. For sure, he’s not going to change mine.

Things quieted down for a couple of months. Neither of us mentioned the pancakes. But it was like a volcano steaming beneath the earth’s crust.

News of the pancake debacle between us spread throughout the congregation. Little hints kept surfacing.

“I hear the Pancake Pantry has the best pancakes.”

“Have you ever tried blueberry compote on your pancakes?”

“What’s the name of that place up in Gatlinburg? I hear they serve up some fine pancakes.”

Instigators, all of them.

Even the preacher got into it one night before mid-week Bible Study. “So, Paul, tell us about the blueberry pancakes up in Tennessee. Were they as good as Harry says they are?”

This is when the war went public.

“They were . . . pancakes.” That was the best I had.

Harry is sitting down the row a few chairs. He chimes in. “I can’t help it if the man doesn’t know how to eat pancakes.”

The banter was lively.

Months passed. I thought maybe the whole thing had blown over until this past Tuesday night.

A bunch of us guys are sitting around the table jawing. The idea came up of cooking a breakfast for all the men of the church. I suggested we could cook pancakes.

One of the other guys says, “You mean with blueberries?”

I couldn’t help myself. It was totally my fault. “Yeah, with maple syrup.”

Immediately, Harry is pointing at me with crazy eyes. “You just can’t let it go, can ya?” He follows that with his favorite accusation, “The man doesn’t know how to eat pancakes.”

It’s possible, I think, for a debate like this to go on for a long time. My plan is simple. I’m gonna outlive Harry and eat blueberry pancakes with maple syrup at his funeral dinner. No compost necessary.

One of the guys laughed. “You should write about this in your blog.”

You’re welcome.

This is war.

One thought on “The Pancake War

  1. I was reading this and knew right away you were talking about BARRY HARBIN! Donna is one of our n longest best friends from our high school years. She and Barry just love the Pancke Pantry


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