by M. Murphy ©2009
Well, to tell you the truth, I sit here feeling just a wee bit melancholy. Not gloomy, rather, a small amount of pensive sadness which leads me to reflect upon a moment in which I am compelled to measure a pervasive lust and desire for pancakes.
The moment of which I speak came about in a small town in Florida known as De Leon Springs. De Leon Springs has the distinction of acquiring its namesake from the legend of “Ponce De Leon and the Fountain of Youth”.
As history goes, Native Americans visited and used these springs as early as 6,000 years ago. In the early 1800s, settlers built sugar and cotton plantations that were sacked by Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War. By the 1880s the springs had become a winter resort, and tourists were promised “a fountain of youth impregnated with a deliciously healthy combination of soda and sulphur.”
The history is really quite interesting, here is a link to a quick, easy to read and digest, bulleted history synopsis just for you – http://www.floridastateparks.org/deleonsprings/History.cfm
Now, back to pancakes.
I was in De Leon Springs back 1996 visiting my Father, whom I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. I was in Florida by way of New Orleans; it was my first time experiencing Mardi-Gras, and I recommend being there during Mardi-Gras at least once in a lifetime – along with experiencing Las Vegas, watching any Top Fuel Quarter Mile Dragster Race, swimming with a dolphin, or paragliding. Sorry to drift off topic but pancakes will do that to you.
In De Leon Springs, the State Park to be exact, there is this little place affectionately known as the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant. Now here’s the thing, at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, guests can make their own pancakes right at the table.
I am not just talking some kind of packaged powder pancake to feed a modest stream of tourists, oh no! I’m talking about a thick, smooth, home-made batter. A pancake batter that transcends time and space to bring you back to the mornings sitting at your Grandmother’s porcelain topped kitchen table, shining ever so brightly under the diamond etched, opaque, banded, round milk glass light fixture that emits an ever so soft hum while the whole ceiling seems to vibrate from the fluorescent bulb … It’s that kind of pancake batter.
In their own words;
“Each of our tables are equipped with a griddle and we bring you pitchers of homemade pancake batters (both a stone ground mixture of five different flours and an unbleached white) and you pour them on and flip them over right at the table. You may order blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce to create whatever sort of pancakes you choose. We have sausage, bacon, ham, eggs, homemade breads and an assortment of other treats to accompany your pancakes”. http://www.planetdeland.com/sugarmill/sugarpage2.htm
So, today as I write this, I am sad I couldn’t get pancakes, but I’m happy I did eat here once. I drove from Annapolis, Maryland in a Toyota Tercel nonstop to New Orleans; down through the valley spine of the Appalachians in a torrential downpour all through the night and in to the early morning hours; through the red dust of an Alabama dawn where the median was scarred repeatedly with the checkerboard patterns of tire tracks which were undoubtedly horrible car crashes; then on through Mississippi to New Orleans for a 3 day visit. I departed New Orleans, again in the middle of the night.
I drove through the coastal towns not yet ravaged by hurricanes many years off and no way for me to know about it in advance and warn them. But then again, people choose to live where they want to sometimes, and sometimes life chooses for them.
I drove through the Florida Panhandle in the wee hours of the morning. The now accursed Tercel, which made my legs go numb after so many hours of subjecting myself to factory seating, was running on fumes and it was one of those moments when you find yourself praying out loud “come on little car I love you I know you can make it don’t run out of gas now”.
Well, I didn’t run out of gas, and I didn’t beat the car with a hammer or a tree limb either. I made it to my destination, Deland FL, although I wasn’t sure of the time; perhaps sometime around noon.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I experienced what my Dad had talked about the whole night; pancakes at the Sugar Mill. It was fantastic, or course. Everything one dreams as the prefect pancake, and pancake experience; ambiance has a lot to do with it. But, I couldn’t help think about some of the other places I have eaten, especially over the past few days in New Orleans. I had eaten so much food, things I never knew was food!
Decades before, I had been on a family trip to Florida. We ate at a place in St. Augustine that sits out on a pier, a restaurant that markets itself as “Feed the Fish While You Dine”. It was such a metaphor. The huge, fat, overfed ocean catfish that probably spend their entire life living around the piers of that restaurant, never meeting other fish to hang out with and go fishing, or something, and, the sea birds that circle the place and snatch food right outta your hand before you can even toss it to the fish in the water; greedy opportunistic bastards.
But, Florida being so full of attractions, I had expected no less by way of pancakes, I was skeptical, at first. After all, Florida was/is a kind of marketing experiment, given all those glamorous billboards advertising fairy princess castles in the middle of a swamp …
Well the point is this; Best pancakes I’ve ever had. And, if you have a story about a favorite food and the journey you undertook to create the synchronicity between your taste buds and some kind of harmony with the universe, then the world needs to hear about it. It may be about the tastiest Blintz, or finest slice of pie, or perhaps even the best fish fry from somewhere in upstate New York. Let’s hear of it.