February 28 is National Pancake Day according to IHOP, aka the International House of Pancakes, although the date is far from universally recognized.
Some sources say that January 28 is "officially" National Pancake Day. Still others refer to a National Pancake Week, which is generally slotted in the lead-up to Mardi Gras. That makes some sense as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is also known as Pancake Tuesday. That's because pancakes were a way for the Catholic faithful to glut on fat (milk, eggs, butter, lard, etc.) before the fasting season of Lent began. (Carnival is Latin for "removal of meat.")
But I digress. The point, if there is one, is that if you go to any IHOP location tomorrow, you can get a free shortstack of buttermilks. They only ask that you consider making a donation to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, a charity founded by Marie Osmond (of Donny and Marie fame) and John Schneider (of Dukes of Hazzard fame).
Be warned that you can't collect on your free griddle cakes in Berkeley, since the IHOP on University is no longer there. These days, the old A-frame is occupied by North Beach PIzza.
Wondering what other connections I could draw between Berkeley and pancakes, I did the only sensible thing: I searched for the word "pancake" at the Berkeley Oral History Project. That turned up a few remarkably overexposed photos of cakes on the griddle by none other than Dorothea Lange, some handwritten letters from John Muir to his wife, and the following reminiscence by Sidney Roger, an old lefty journalist and Cal alum who 'covered the waterfront' for KPFA and other outlets. Remembering his old man, Roger told the Bancroft:
At some point, I think he was eighty-nine, when we went to his favorite gourmet restaurant. International House of Pancakes in Berkeley. He loved pancakes. For lunch, dinner, he didn't care what, he loved them. I said to him, "As you get older, how do you feel about the world?" He said, "I'll tell you the truth." (This was with a heavy Jewish accent.) "I'm disappointed." He said, "I thought when I was getting older, not this old, but just older, everybody would be polite to everybody everywhere in the world. Everybody would have good manners toward everybody. Nobody would be hungry. Every child would have an education. Everybody who was sick would have treatment. Everybody would have a nice home to live in. And everybody would be happy because people would just be good to other people."
Then I realized he's talking about what he really believes socialism is. It isn't the economic theory. It isn't doctrine. It's just how people will treat other people. In that regard, I would say he had a profound effect on me. I find the absolute corruption and deterioration of Communist society to be not so much of a shock any more but for a while it was quite a shock because so many people had this dream that out of the Russian Revolution would come a better society. I also thought so.
It seems remarkable now, but a lot of people once did: Consider that other lefty journalist from Berkeley, Lincoln Steffens, who after a weeks spent touring the fledgling Soviet Republic, pronounced to the world: "I have seen the future--and it works."
Something to think about over breakfast tomorrow. If you make it to IHOP or Bette's Oceanview Diner or whatever your local breakfast place is, tell 'em CALIFORNIA magazine sent you. And don't forget to tip.