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Breakfast for Dinner and a Movie

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Episode 2: Breakfast and a Movie - Groundhog Day and Flapjacks

Would you believe me if I told you that there was a movie that I thought could change your life? I bet you would, but would you be more or less likely to believe me if I told you that there was consensus among the Jewish, Christian, Bhuddist and Freudian communities about the movie’s transformational power? Would you be more or less likely to believe me if I told you it was a comedy? Starring Bill Murray?

The movie I’m referring to is the 1993 classic GROUNDHOG DAY. You know the story: Bill Murray plays Phil, a bitter weatherman who’s assigned to cover the traditional Groundhog Day Festivities in Punxsutawney, PA with a cranky cameraman and a cute producer named Rita. On the way back home, there’s a freak blizzard that inexplicably plunges Phil into a continuous loop of February Seconds. Hijinks ensue.

The script by Danny Reuben and Harold Ramis takes Phil through the five stages of grief-- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance-- before he finally realizes that the best way to spend Groundhog Day is in service to others. This breaks the curse, Phil gets the girl and decides to settle down in Punxsutawney to become the second most famous Punxsutawney Phil in town.

If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat. If you have, forgive me for being meta by saying that the film rewards repeat viewing. It is chock-full of tiny little tidbits that’ll keep your “aha meter” running. The more you watch it, the more you’ll discover.

“But wait!” You might exclaim, “Groundhog Day is February Second. Why are you recommending it in January?” Fact is, I had planned on presenting Groundhog Day in February, but in re-watching it again over the holidays, I realized that it’s not really about Groundhog Day any more than American Graffiti is about spraying paint on a wall. Groundhog Day is a movie about learning to live your best life. It’s a movie about new beginnings. It’s about learning to break free of destructive patterns of behavior. It’s about learning to think of others, learning to love, learning to be part of a community. And, it’s damn funny! It delivers a profound message with a light touch, but don’t take my word for it, literally every religious tradition and psychological association has claimed Groundhog Day as their own.

Catholic Christians see Phil’s repetition of Groundhog Day as a symbol of purgatory-- the place between Heaven and Hell where the soul is allowed one last chance to purify itself of sin. Where you spend eternity is determined by your success or failure at purging evil from your life.

Mainstream Protestants don’t believe in Purgatory, but they’re all about purging sin.

The Jewish community, which is less focussed on an afterlife, sees nothing less than the purification of humanity in Phil’s transformation from selfish boor to helpful neighbor. His selfless deeds transform Punxsutawney into a sort of heaven on earth.

Buddhists see the samsara, or rebirth-cycle played out in this film. Phil lives many lifetimes in this repeated day and ultimately achieves Nirvana and becomes a Bodhisattva, the one who comes back to show the rest of us the way to achieve bliss.

Psychoanalysts also embrace Groundhog Day as an example of the way we repeat destructive behaviours over and over again. Phil tries to bed women without consequence. To eat, smoke and drink like it doesn’t matter, and he even commits suicide only to end up back in his bed at the BnB at 6:00 am on February Second with Sonny and Cher seranading the start of a new day. Eventually, Phil learns to analyze and, ultimately, break free of the repetitive habits that do not provide real pleasure, and he moves forward with his life transformed.

Of course, you don’t need to practice or believe any of this stuff in order to enjoy Groundhog Day, and that’s what makes it so great. It’s one of the rare films that is perfectly happy being a romantic comedy, while gently welcoming you to dig deeper to uncover it’s life-changing possibilities.

What recipe pairs well with this film? The most famous food scene involves Phil- at one of his low points- stuffing his face with Diner Food while puffing on a cigarette and drinking coffee straight out of the carafe. Not really something I can recommend, especially coming off whatever Holiday Gluttony you might have engaged in.

The dish that best encapsulates the Higher Meaning of Groundhog Day-- the repetition of the same action over and over-- is the fleeting mention of Flapjacks. I’m sure they’re not referring to the Flapjacks of the UK, which are more like granola bars, these are the flapjacks that are kind of a stand-in for pancakes.

Pancakes! You almost never have less than one, and they’re all exactly the same, right?

No! Emphatically no!

A common misconception of Groundhog Day is that Phil lives out the exact same day over and over again, but that’s not entirely true. The day starts the same way, but, based on Phil’s choices, each Groundhog Day is VERY different than the day before. Phil’s successes and failures inform his choices and his choices determine how each day plays out. Pancakes offer the same opportunity! You can have a thin pancake. You can make a fluffy one. You can make them large, like one great big pan cake or do dozens of small Silver Dollar versions. You can top them with anything. You can fill them with anything. In fact, your first batch of the morning is going to be different than your last because your pan or griddle will heat up over time. And even if you were to try to make each pancake exactly the same. Even if you measure exactly the same amount of batter into a pan whose heat you can control perfectly, you are still going to get pancakes that are utterly unique unto themselves. You. can. Not. make. Two. pancakes. that. are. Exactly. The. same. How great is that?

I don’t want to get too prescriptive on the recipe here. You’ll get no judgement from me if you choose to make an instant batter, and you don’t get extra points for seeking out hand-milled flour, locally sourced eggs and milk. The pancake is yours to shape and mold as you see fit. If you’re inspired, put that inspiration into your creation. If you just want something to carry you through the morning, that’s cool too. I’m going to invite you to try this buttermilk batter from scratch, though, because I think it’s nice to know what goes into Instant Mix. It’s from Alton Brown, and he smartly advises us to make a large quantity of the dry mix of it to have on hand for any time Pancake Inspiration strikes. It’s basically flour, baking powder, baking soda and a little salt and sugar. It’s that simple!

When you’re ready to cook, you add to the Instant Mix, two eggs (or an egg substitute), 2 cups of buttermilk (or regular milk, or soy or almond or whatever) and four tablespoons of melted butter (but I bet you could use coconut oil for a hint of tropical flavor), and you’re ready to hit the griddle.

From this point, the pancake is yours to enjoy any damned way you choose. Add cinnamon or nutmeg or cloves or peppermint to the mix for flavor. Add a fruit puree for color. Mix in a banana and walnut chutney for depth and crunch. Chocolate chips are a decadent choice that I love. Now, how will you top them? Will you top it with simple Maple Syrup are you a Log Cabin or Mrs. Butterworth’s type? How ‘bout Apple Sauce or Peanut Butter? Marshmallows whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles make for a festive presentation.

The point is, there are a billion ways to make a pancake and none of them are wrong, just like there are a billion ways to live a day-- even if it feels like the same day over and over. It’s always up to you.

We want to see your unique pancakes! You can share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Your family recipes for pancakes are also welcome.

Pancake Pics from Loungers

Double Batch Daddy/ Tim Gibbs-Zehnder: "Dark chocolate chip pancakes this morning with a secret amount of nutmeg and greek yogurt added in!"

Listener Charles Dayton: "And here’s my blueberry pancakes on a Sunday ."

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