Have you ever dug into a stack of bright green pancakes covered in whipped topping and wondered, “Am I exhibiting the actions of a good person or a bad person?” No? Well, with this year’s IHOP x Elf on the Shelf holiday crossover menu, you can experience that feeling of being closely monitored. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.
If you’re old like me and don’t really understand Elf on the Shelf, here’s the deal: The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a children’s book written by mother-daughter duo Carol Aebersold and Chandra Bell in 2005. The book details the working lives of “Scout Elves,” whose whole thing is that they’re Santa’s spies. Scout Elves reap intel on elementary schoolers’ home lives, then report back to the big guy so he can decide whether they’re naughty or nice. With the book comes a real-life Scout Elf doll to have at home. Parents are encouraged to move it around the house each day, to really hammer down the whole holiday/surveillance state vibe.
What does this NSA elf have to do with pancakes, you ask? Great question. IHOP doesn’t just do a holiday menu, no no. They do a themed holiday menu. This year, the theme is Elf on the Shelf. Last year, the theme was The Grinch. Both years, they have sold green pancakes.
The Elf on the Shelf Holiday Menu includes an array of red and green sweets, including Jolly Cakes (the aforementioned green pancakes), Oh What Funnel Cakes (deep-fried dough globbed in sugar, glazed strawberries, sugar, and “shimmery elf sprinkles”), and hot chocolate. There’s also the Holiday Ham & Sausage Omelette, which is technically topped with red and green peppers, but mostly seems like it’s there because someone on the IHOP PR team insisted on a savory option.
And yes, each IHOP location will adopt an elf, which will purportedly spy on breakfast lovers from the rafters and report any ethical failures back to Santa.
Now, back to my initial question: If I go to IHOP and order from this special menu, what will the Elf on the Shelf tell Santa about my actions? Is there a moral judgment to be made upon my holiday omelette consumption? Or, even—is each Scout Elf getting a cut from IHOP to tell Santa that those who order from the holiday menu are being good? I smell a conspiracy.