Recently at Pancake Mondays, two new neighbors asked, “So, how did this thing start, anyway?” Before I could respond, one of our neighbor-friends said, “Oooh, I love this. Let me tell it!” So I did. He got most of it right and this is what he said.
“When Caroline moved to the city, she of course didn’t know anyone. She was trying to figure out how to meet people… and get to know them and show them love and all that. Anyway, she thought ‘Hm, the best way I could serve people here is by making pancakes and giving them to people in the park!’ So, she made a plate of pancakes, went to the park and approached a group of people to ask if they were interested…
At this point, he turned to me and said, “Well, you take it from here…”
I clarified that I didn’t actually have a plate of pancakes in the park, just the idea of them to offer the group clustered at Parkside and Ocean. But they basically laughed in my face and I ran the 10 minutes back to my apartment convincing myself that I wasn’t crazy (read that story here).
Back at my apartment and freshly distressed, my now husband encouraged me to start smaller in a geographic sense. Not only did the idea of cold pancakes pose a problem in his mind, but there seemed to be a better way to love and serve.
“Why not just invite the neighbors over here to your apartment for pancakes?”
I was frazzled and frustrated that my idea hadn’t been the winner, but my roommate and I agreed to try it once. We made invitations by hand and posted them on every door of our apartment building floor.
The first night, there were five of us altogether. Tamara (roommate), Rebecka (friend who biked down for the occasion), myself, and two neighbors: Yeun and Elsa. The table was spread with pancakes and toppings and bacon and the conversation was just as delicious.
We laughed and told stories and became, that night, a little more than neighbors. I relayed all this to Patrick who had been away on business. I told him about my neighbor-friend crush on Yeun, who was quite possibly the coolest girl I had met so far in NYC. He playfully rolled his eyes a little bit at my enthusiasm (because he compares my zeal to Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec) and agreed that he needed to meet Yeun. I mean, wouldn’t your interest be piqued if your new neighbor-friend left these flowers “just because” at your door?
So, we tracked her down at the flower shop where she worked while our friends were in town and they all witnessed my friend-swoon (that’s what I call getting excited about new friendship). She sent us away with two roses to cheer the rainy city day after her and I made plans to make plans to host a party together. Yes, neighbor-friends should host parties together.
Meanwhile, Pancake Mondays kept happening. Our friends in the area would stop by if they were available or hungry or curious. We invited more neighbors, co-workers, and encouraged them to invite their friends too. We invited people we met at coffee shops and at the gym and at the grocery store.
Anyone and everyone was invited and it wasn’t an “event,” it was just Mondays.
I brainstormed a feature pancake (like key lime or s’mores or jamcakes or most recently butternut squash/corn) by perusing food blogs or noticing tasty combos throughout the week. We posted invitations Monday morning (or whenever they could be scribbled out) on neighbors’ doors and handed them to friends and co-workers. We power cleaned after work on Monday night and blitzkrieged the corner grocery for eggs, milk, and bacon.
Then, around 7:30 we would put a sign on the door that said, “COME ON IN!” and the door would stay cracked open until 9 or 10 or 11 pm when the last Pancake Mondays guest would leave.
The crowd grew to 15 some weeks and shrank back to 4 on others. Patrick took over the bacon and the conversation, Tamara played waitress and made sure all the toppings were displayed in cute bowls, and I mostly stayed in the kitchen to flip cakes and manage the batter.
Our Mondays, all of them, were spoken for and it was hard but it was good. We learned what it meant to be consistent in a city that isn’t. Tam and I spent many 6:45 pms reminding ourselves that neighboring at 7:30 pm was worth it. And at 9:00 pm every Monday we always agreed that it was – even though there were ingredients missing and even when there were awkward silences.
Every week, we are surprised that people keep showing up.
I moved to New York City in August, 2013. We officially started Pancake Mondays shortly after Thanksgiving and have only missed the Mondays we were out of town or unable to host. During our traumatic bed bug battle, we moved Pancake Mondays to Patrick’s apartment, where they remained until we returned from our wedding in Iowa in July 2014. Now Patrick and I are the official hosts, but there will always be extra help in the kitchen because there will always be people who insist.
Strangers, neighbors, and friends (all titles will forever be confused) weekly accept the invitation to sit on sidewalk thrifted furniture, break the proverbial bread and defy this city’s reputation as merely cold concrete. Friends invite friends, strangers stop me because they want an invitation, neighbors tell neighbors… and we never know what Monday night will look like.
And still, people are showing up. Sometimes, we show up at their doors – because we are locked out or because we need a bit of rum for an ice cream recipe or just because we want to say hello.
This is the short history of Pancake Mondays. We have discovered that it is simply about consistently opening our door, about sharing food and space, and about loving people exactly where they are with community and conversation. It seemed to work well for Jesus and we are trying to follow His example.
Ever thought you could start a Pancake Mondays? You can. Send me a message and I will talk you through it, help you plan a grocery list, remind you that your house will never be perfect, and send you one-liners for neighbor encounters. Haha. I’m just saying I’m here and I would love to make hosting happen for you. If you live in the NYC area, I would love to host WITH you to get you started. I can even bring the skillets and supplies if you invite the neighbors. I know this is a crazy offer, but I promise it would be an “everybody wins” scenario.
Go here to find a full post on the basics.
Go here to get all the recipes (or some at least).