The Sporkful | Podcast Review | October 15, 2015 | By

The Sporkful: “When A Pancake Is More Than A Pancake”

How much of the eater’s experience does the chef own?



This week host Dan Pashman goes to the trusty phone lines 1 to hear some of his listeners’ family disputes and try and help them out.

Matt from Ohio dials in first. He and his brother grew up making pancakes on Saturdays with their parents. Matt is a pancake purist. While his brother likes to douse them with lots of toppings, Matt keeps it traditional with butter and maple syrup.

Matt is a firm believer in addition by subtraction. Using toppings only takes away from the pancakes, he says. In his opinion, pancakes hold an important status as a treasured breakfast staple.  Smothering them with fruit and toppings turns them into something resembling dessert. To Matt, his unadorned pancakes represent a reminder of one of the happier memories from his childhood—those Saturday breakfasts and time spent watching cartoons. Removing pancakes from the breakfast pantheon means removing those happy associations too.

Dan correctly teases out that these pancake beliefs reflect the brothers’ differing personalities. Matt’s brother is the more carefree and adventurous of the two; he spent over a year in a Montana cabin while Matt was in college. Dan systematically pokes a few holes in Matt’s argument, though he isn’t entirely successful at changing Matt’s mind. But if you’re like me, you’ll agree that doesn’t matter too much, especially once you learn what Matt in Ohio eats for breakfast these days. 2

In my experience, pancakes aren’t that great. Maybe I’ve just had bad ones, but like a tortilla, they’re more of a vessel than the focal point of a dish. 3Pancakes allow you to be flexible and cater the meal to your own preferences. Adding  toppings to your own pancakes won’t hurt anyone. Besides, putting a little fruit on there helps to reduce the guilt of adding all that butter and maple syrup. What I think should be up for debate is whether or not you put in chocolate chips, or other additives, directly in the batter, as this step can’t be reversed.

Things heat up in Part 2 of the episode, as we progress from the sibling’s quarrel to a couple’s lighthearted dispute about the proper freshness level for baked goods. Chloe and Jason (her husband), from Maryland, don’t quite see eye to eye on the shelf life of Chloe’s cookies.

According to Chloe, Jason—the good husband that he is—would eat anything, including a crumbling, three week old, off-color cookie. This conversation gives us this week’s Pashman-ism: the Window of Optimal Consumption. This is Dan’s invented term for the proper time frame for eating food.

This debate is interesting, especially because Chloe is primarily baking for her husband. According to Jason, 9 times out of 10 he’s the one eating her baked good. Who’s perceived threshold of freshness matters more? The chef/baker? Or the eater? And on a broader level, is quality control more important than saving food from being wasted? Chloe and Jason make me wonder, what amount of the end product does the chef own? Short of a EULA for baked goods, how do we resolve these kind of situations?

What’s clear is that this problem only exists for Jason and Chloe because they love one another. She only wants Jason to have her very best and resents his “disrespect of the freshness threshold.” She’s a perfectionist and expresses her love via the food she makes for Jason. I guarantee Jason is just happy she makes him cookies at all. Dan sagely advises Chloe to cut herself a little more slack. She sounds almost relieved that she has permission to worry a little less.

Chloe must have appreciated Dan’s advice, because she sent him cookies! Her package to Dan included  Old Bay corn cookies, based on the Momofuku Milk Bar recipe (with added Old Bay). See the recipe here! They sound delicious.


  1. I wonder if he actually uses a real phone ^
  2. Hint: It’s not pancakes. ^
  3. I had originally said they were like bread, but some bread is 100% good enough to be eaten without any toppings or other food. ^

About the Author

Nick Wade is a founding writer at Audiologue, where he writes about The Sporkful and Stuff  You Should Know. You can find him at nick@audiologue.xyz.

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