I always dreaded the long autobahn drive to my Omi’s house. Two hours cramped up in the backseat of my parent’s car with nothing to do was the bane of little kid me’s existence. I couldn’t look out the window and daydream, because when you’re going 130 kilometers, everything outside the car becomes one green and gray blur. Music or audiobooks wasn’t an option, because my dad would have his long, boring, and loud telephone conferences for work while we drove. My brother, two years older than me, was too cool to talk or play with me anymore. Despite all these horrors I frequently expressed to my parents, we religiously took the harrowing journey from Hamburg to the German countryside every couple of weekends. Although I would usually complain the whole car ride over about how sick the drive made me feel, as soon as we got there my stomachache was forgotten, because at the end of the commute was the grandest of prizes: Omi’s pancakes.
Omi opened her own restaurant in Mallorca once, probably because her pancakes have always been in high demand. She learned the art of pancake making while she lived in Sweden, where they don’t make thick, heavy and dense pancakes. The Swedes, and therefore my grandma, make the most delicate, buttery, and utterly delicious pancakes you can imagine. Soft on the inside yet crispy around the edges, about as thick as the side of one quarter and the size of a plate, and the most heavenly thing that will ever pass your lips. If the pancakes aren’t enough, my grandma also makes her own jam to go along with them. Every spring she goes out and picks as many plump wild berries as she can to make a huge and colorful assortment of homemade jams, jellies, and preserves. She makes enough to give boxes full to all our relatives, and then fills up half her house to give out again for the holidays. A small spoonful to spread lightly around your pancake will make your tastebuds explode. Although the best way to have my grandma’s pancakes is with her jam and a light sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, they are just as amazing with butter, honey, nutella, or just plain.
Two things haven’t changed in the years since I was first introduced to Omi’s pancakes: her pancakes are just as delicious as they were 16 years ago, and the journey to see her is still grueling. To get to her pancakes now, I have to fly halfway around the world. She still lives in the same cozy wood and brick hut, sandwiched in between a sparkling lake and a lush forest. But I don’t live just a two hour autobahn drive away anymore; I live a two hour autobahn drive, two plane rides, one night in San Francisco, another plane ride, and another hour car drive away. Hamburg to Moelln becomes a pleasant joy ride in comparison to the ordeal that is travelling from Waimea, Hawaii, to my Omi’s home. Although the journey to get there has become even more torturous, the pancakes at the end are still just as worth it. They don’t cure my stomach aches anymore because they cure my jet lag now. The warm hug from my Omi that comes along with each pancake brings a sweep of gratitude over me and I am reminded of how lucky I am to be able to enjoy her heavenly pancakes.