Mark Ballard

Bending the rules may result in something delicious

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I walked past a bedside table the other day and saw that a lamp shade had turned allowing the side that has a seam to show. I stared at it and started to leave it, but I knew I couldn’t. In my mind, it wasn’t supposed to be like that so I had to change it.

If you call me a little obsessive you would definitely be right. Most of the time I like for things to be in their proper place or to happen at the time they are supposed to. But a war rages inside of me. Sometimes I want to go off course and throw caution to the wind.

My earliest remembrance of uncharted territories was when my parents would do things that totally didn’t make sense to me but resulted in delightful changes. One example was they would occasionally and completely out of the blue, morph supper into breakfast for no reason. At first, it almost felt as if we were sinning when our normal Southern supper menu was tossed to the wind and a griddle filled with piping hot pancakes complete with syrup, bacon and sausage took its place.

“Breakfast for supper?” I would ask staring at my parents as if they were under magical spells that prevented them from knowing they had mealtime menus confused. That was something that never happened at Granny’s house. She obeyed the Southern tradition of serving the appropriate foods at the designated times.

Don’t get me wrong. I love pancakes but it took some time to adjust to having them for supper — but not too long. When Mother asked me to crawl under the bottom cabinet to retrieve the electric griddle, I realized that a pancake supper was on the menu and my mouth began to water with anticipation.

Before I knew it, that oblong griddle was plugged in to begin heating up. A Tupperware bowl was filled with pancake mix and water or milk was added. I was given the job of stirring the batter until it was completely lump-free. No one ever wanted to bite into a clump of un-mixed flour in a golden brown pancake. While I frantically stirred, Mother had bacon and sausage frying in another skillet on the stove. Her timing was always impeccable. By the time darkness fell, everything was ready at the same time.

Anyone who cooks pancakes clearly knows that it takes a few batches to perfect their golden brown color, shape and size. Most of the time the first ones come out a bit ragged and a touch too dark. The temperature of the griddle was quickly adjusted and the next group was a little better than the first. The best and hottest ones were the last ones. This always prompted Mother to say with a laugh, “Pancakes are like children. You want to throw away the first batch and start over!” It took me becoming a father to completely understand this comment.

Being just a little obsessive — OK, maybe a lot — I like my pancakes to be uniform in both shape and size, and stacked to perfection. I like a substantial pat of butter placed on top and between each layer. The syrup is better if it’s heated and generously poured between the pancakes and on top. In fact, I like a little lake of syrup surrounding the pancakes as long as it doesn’t come in contact with my sausage or bacon. That was usually remedied by having a separate, smaller plate for them.

Once I had prepared my breakfast/supper plate, then my methodical cutting procedure began. Giving the butter a chance to completely melt and the syrup ample time to absorb, I cut perfectly straight vertical lines into the pancakes followed by horizontal ones.

I ended up with an intricate grid system and then began to eat them by pressing my fork into each perfectly square stack of layers. I ate them from the outside in, purposely saving the middle group for last. They were always the best. The bulk of the butter and syrup had settled there.

Life is uncertain. In today’s world we know that more than ever. Mother taught us back then how important it is to shake things up every so often. Bend the rules, eat pancakes for supper and, if you want to go wild, eat dessert first. No one’s judging — at least not at my house!

More with Mark

Attend holiday wreath classes with Mark at Macon’s Hobby Lobby. Learn to make a Colorful Whimsy wreath Oct. 15 and 18. Learn to make a Naughty or Nice wreath with traditional colors on Oct. 22 and 24. Photos are available on Mark’s Facebook page. Email or call 478-757-6877 for registration information. Cost $100.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.