Dear best friends forever, including, but not limited to, Libby McDonald,
I often try to make up excuses for why I’m late or why I haven’t done something I should have. These excuses are rarely believed due to my inability to be both creative and convincing at the same time. So I’m not even going to try to pull that with you. The reason I haven’t written in a while is because my computer went to electronics heaven a while ago and I haven’t quite recovered. Now I have to use a geriatric desktop that can’t keep up with my 500 wpm typing skillz. So things are pretty disastrous here at the OberandOut compound.
But I’m making the effort now, and that should count for something, right? And once you read this post, you’re going to forgive all my indiscretions, even that time I took money out of your wallet without you knowing it.
So yesterday I went to the IHOP in the University Mall in South Burlington for work. Yes, for work. It was the soft opening of the restaurant formerly known as the International House of Pancakes and of course I had to go. Not because I really love their food or the ambiance in the restaurant (but let me tell you that ’50s jukebox music really put me in the mood to down some serious transfats), but because I had to find out if they were going to serve real maple syrup or just their imitation “maple-flavored” corn syrup. This was serious Woodward and Bernstein-type investigative journalism. I can see the Pulitzer board discussing my genius now.
Anyway, after winding my way through the mall’s labyrinthine corridors, narrowly escaping getting run over by all the old people mall walkers, I found the IHOP at the opposite end of the mall from where I parked. Figures. I rolled into the restaurant, which is full of shiny, smiley worker bees scuttling around being friendly. One of them asked my name and how many were in my party. Uh, wait, what? There’s a WAIT at the IHOP? Now being the breakfast snob that I am, I will wait for Penny Cluse and I will wait for Sneakers, but I will not wait for IHOP. Except when I have to go there for work.
So I sat with the half a dozen other people waiting to get a table gritting my teeth and telling myself it’s all for the sake of the Pulitzer that I’m doing this. By the way, did I mention that the restaurant seats 170 people? Nearly 200 people were in the IHOP before 9 a.m.
Finally I’m seated and the waitress asks me if I’ve ever been to IHOP before. It’s the third time I’ve been asked that since I crossed the IHOP threshold. You like how I’m switching tenses here? Pretty avant-garde, I should say. So Laurie, my waitress gives me the menu, which is enormous and full of color photos of the food I might order. I have to say, they made the Butterscotch Rocks Pancakes look pretty appetizing, if you’re into having a heart attack before you’re 40.
I couldn’t believe how full the place was. And I couldn’t believe that the guy in the booth next to me was eating a hamburger for breakfast. How did all these people know about the IHOP opening? Perhaps they were loyal IHOP denizens and they’re up on the latest IHOP biz. Who knows? But I was surrounded by people who thought nothing of eating two eggs, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage and two buttermilk pancakes “crowned” with a cool strawberry topping, warm blueberry or cinnamon apple compote and a “whipped topping,” before 9 a.m. Incidentally, that little gem that I just mentioned is known as the Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity. ‘Nuf said.
After a brief perusal of the menu, I realized that there was nothing on there that I could/would eat. Until I saw the “IHOP For Me” section. Why, what’s this? A menu specially designed with my weird food requirements in mind? Yes. From the IHOP For Me menu (which is actually their “health conscious” menu) I selected the Buttermilk Trio- a “short” stack of pancakes, with two fewer than the regular size. Because I like to mix my sweet and savory, I also ordered a side order of hash browns. Laurie my waitress asked me if I wanted the “loaded” hash browns. If they come with wads of scrilla, a watch from Jacob the Jeweler and a 100-ft. yacht, then yes, I want the loaded hash browns.
This is me getting nourishment at IHOP. Sorry for the junky BlackBerry photo.
If you’ve never been to an IHOP, please allow me to paint a brief picture of the syrup situation there. It’s pretty dire. In most IHOPs, they wouldn’t know real maple syrup from motor oil. All they serve is IHOP branded syrups in flavors like strawberry, blueberry, butter pecan and “old fashioned.” I love the taste of old fashioned. It’s like Brylcream mixed with pipe tobacco mixed with moth balls. Mmmm. But in Vermont, the last of the 50 states of get an IHOP, you have to serve the woodchucks the real stuff. So they got a special waiver to serve real maple syrup in their store.
I told Laurie to give me the good stuff- I would not be eating “old fashioned” with my short stack. She brought me out a plastic container with a tin foil the size of a single-serving coffee creamer. It was filled witha shot of maple syrup from Hardwick, Vt. It covered about an eighth of one pancake. I needed a couple more. Laurie informed me that that would cost me 99 cents per syrup. Steep. But oh so worth it.
As it turns out, I didn’t need all that syrup because I could only finish half of my short stack. Such a lightweight.
This is what I left over. Somewhere in Africa, starving children are cursing my name.
I have no doubt that the IHOP will be completely successful, if for no other reason than the average bill for a family of four will total just about $13.65. And good luck to them. In these hard times, what the world really needs is more cream-cheese stuffed French toast.