I have what critics are calling A Sugar Problem. Most days, I can happily eat sweets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as long as I sneak in a little protein here and there. Here is my problem: I like a sugary midday meal, which you’d think would make me a natural on the brunch scene. But I don’t really like fancy brunches—I’d rather run for the bathroom in the comfort of my own home without paying $45 for a bottle of Korbel Brut and an overworked Benedict. Plus, I don’t want to wait until 11 a.m. to eat ONE meal. I want to wake up, eat my sweet breakfast, and then eat my sweet lunch. So how do I get away with eating sweets for lunch without being pigeonholed into brunchery? Enter: the lunch pancake.
I eat pancakes for lunch up to three times a week. Not brunch. Lunch. Meaning pancakes are my second meal of the day. It’s not as labor-intensive as it sounds; I don’t usually feel like mixing ingredients in the middle of the workday, so I use a pre-made buttermilk flapjack mix from Kodiak Cakes. The brand is known for its “power cakes,” which pack a whopping 14 grams of protein per serving. One serving is only 190 calories (roughly two measly cakes), so I double it for my midday meal. They’re fun to eat, they’re just sweet enough, and they usually keep me pretty full until dinner.
Turns out, pancakes have been a hearty source of nutrition since man first pounded his chest and shrieked “griddle!” According to National Geographic, analyses of starch grains on 30,000-year-old grinding tools suggest that Stone Age cooks made batter out of cattails and ferns, then baked it on a hot rock. That same article references a popular dish in the American colonies: hoe cakes, otherwise known as johnnycakes or flapjacks, which were buckwheat or cornmeal-based pancakes fit for any meal of the day. Then, of course, there’s the latke, that unparalleled pleasure that combines the Best of Beige: fried potatoes, flour, and shortening. (Although, as The Atlantic reports, latkes were originally made with deep-fried ricotta. Still lunch-appropriate.) Finally, True West Magazine points out that sourdough pancakes were a staple for American cowboys, with the cowhands’ “cookie” starting each day around 3 a.m. making coffee, biscuits, bacon, and pancakes for the day.
Point is: humans have been frying up pancakes for millennia, and they’re as good a source of nutrition as any. You’re telling me that your turkey sandwich has more to offer than these delicious discs? Sure, a traditional sweet pancake might be somewhat void of nutritional value, but today’s market is replete with protein-packed options like my beloved Kodiak Cakes. And yes, I add a little bit of syrup because I am a little sugar-coated Christmas elf, but you could just as easily throw on some crème fraîche and green onions, some melted cheese and bacon. You can opt for classic buttermilk or treat yourself to something a bit more savory like this splendid kimchi cheese jeon from Food & Wine. And if you simply must consume something green in the middle of the day (can’t relate, but that’s fine), there’s no reason you can’t serve up your flapjacks with a side salad.
Plus, pancakes are fun. Every time I dish mine out, I’m reminded of that very particular feeling when your mom lets you skip a day of fifth grade because it’s snowing outside and you want to stay in your pajamas. Eating pancakes for lunch feels a little like getting away with something, which is why I’m always so surprised by how satiated I feel post-pancake.
Finally, pancakes make you physically remove yourself from your desk, even if it’s just to fry up a pre-made mix. Pancakes are also pretty difficult to eat while hunched over a laptop (nobody wants a syrupy space bar), making them the primo candidate for abolishing your sad desk lunch once and for all. As the boundary between work and home continues to dissolve, I advise you to do as the cowboys do: stand up, stretch it out, and scarf down a few flapjacks before callin’ the cows home.