Good eats here!  Robert Gillis photos
Good eats here! Robert Gillis photo

by Robert Gillis Published in The Foxboro Reporter April 2003

In response to the literally thousands of cards and letters I’ve received, I thought it would appropriate to have a brief Q&A about the upcoming Foxboro Jaycees Pancake breakfast to benefit Foxboro Youth Basketball.

Q: Bob, you called them “pancakes?” What exactly is a pancake?
A: A pancake is a flat cake made of thin batter and cooked (as on a griddle) on both sides.

Q: Sounds interesting. Is this a new food item?
A: Not at all, in fact, Pancakes dates back to 4th century B.C. China, where pancakes of millet meal or wheat flour were popular because of their brief preparation time. Pancakes also were common fare in the Near East in medieval times, and were shortly imported into markets and homes all through Europe. Over the centuries, pancakes took on their current form. English pancakes were mixed with ale. German pancakes were leavened by eggs and served thin, with jam or jelly. Pancakes were a favorite food in Holland during the 16th and 17th Centuries. The American pancake is the result of result of the importation of the revered French Crepes Suzette during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Q: Why, that’s just so fascinating! Do pancakes taste good?
A: They are yummy. Pancakes made by Jaycees are VERY yummy, mostly because of the amount of love and care taken during preparation.

Q: Now you’re just making this stuff up?
A: Pretty much, yeah. But the Jaycees love this event and it’s actually the 29th year the Jaycees have held a pancake breakfast to benefit the Foxboro Youth Basketball Association (FYBA)

Q: What exactly is the FYBA?
A: Excellent question! It’s a program open to kids of Foxboro. It gives hundreds of boys and girls, ages of 8 to 18, an opportunity to learn and play the sport. Sixty volunteer coaches teach skills to 63 teams that are made up of over 600 kids. Their web site explains: “The Foxboro Youth Basketball Association (FYBA) is a non-profit organization which administers youth recreational and road team basketball in the town of Foxboro. The main purpose of the program is to teach basketball fundamentals to all participants and to have all players enjoy themselves while they learn. Good sportsmanship, along with positive attitudes, are important factors in maintaining an enjoyable program for all. Our coaches and referees are dedicated volunteers who give willingly of their time for the benefit of the program. All participants in this program, including players, parents, guardians, and spectators as well as coaches, are expected to conduct themselves in an orderly fashion at all times, giving the utmost respect to fellow coaches, league directors and referees. Each age group (league) is under the direction of a league director.” Boy and girls, ages 8-18, can play!

Q: Where and when will the pancake breakfast be held? How much is it? The breakfast will be held at the Foxboro High School Cafeteria, Sunday [date archived], from 7:30-Am to Noon. Adults – $4, Seniors – $3, Under 5 – $1. And by the way, it’s ALL YOU CAN EAT. And the pancakes are Yummy. OJ, Coffee and sausage are served with the breakfast. The laughing heard from the kitchen is from the dozens of Jaycees operating on very little sleep.

Q: I understand the Jaycees use a lot of ingredients to make all those breakfasts?
A: Oh, yes! Truthfully, we use a quarter ton of pancake batter, 24 gallons of maple syrup, 5000 sausage links, 162 half-gallons of orange juice, 600 containers of milk, and lots of butter and unlimited coffee.

Q: How many people attend the pancake breakfast?
A: About 1500! And all proceeds directly benefit the FYBA — Money raised from this event is used to offset costs such as school gym rental fees, uniforms, registration fees and trophies. In 2002, over 1500 meals were served and the Foxboro Jaycees raised over $3,000 for the Basketball Association.

Q: What else will the Jaycees be doing that morning?
A: We will also have a raffle and a teddy bear donation box. All proceeds from the pancake breakfast raffle will go towards the Foxboro Bereavement Group. This is a local support group that provides free counseling to children who have lost at least one parent. You can also donate a new teddy bear to the Jaycees — these teddy bears have been used when the fire or police department responds to a call in which a child is involved. A teddy bear can be of great comfort to a child.

Q: Bob, before you go, can you give us one more piece of pancake trivia?
A: Sure! For centuries, the English have celebrated Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent, with merriment and antics and, especially, great quantities of pancakes. In fact, the fried flat cakes became so important to the holiday that is has also been called Pancake Day, or Pancake Tuesday. Even the church bells that rang early on Shrove Tuesday morning summoning everyone to Confession became known as Pancake Bells. An old London rhyme went “Pancakes and fritters, say the bells on St. Peter’s.”

Q: Now that’s trivia!
A: Thanks! But here’s the bottom line friends, the Foxboro Jaycees, a wonderful organization of which I am very proud to be a member, is for the 29th year running a pancake breakfast to benefit a terrific local sporting organization that directly benefits our children. Please mark your calendar and come on down on the 23rd for a wonderful morning of community, help the FYBA, and enjoy all you can eat pancakes! Hope to see you there!

This image appeared on most of our Pancake Breakfast advertising for many years!
This image appeared on most of our Pancake Breakfast advertising for many years!

A note about this op/ed, written years later… by Robert Gillis

The Foxboro Jaycees Pancake Breakfast ran annually for twenty nine years and was incredibly popular throughout the community and holds a special place in the chapter’s heart.I wrote several op/eds for the event but have only included this one (above) because it’s my favorite and the best written.

(There are a lot of pictures on the Jaycee website)

A collaborative effort between the Foxboro Jaycees (who made all the food) and Foxboro Youth Basketball (who sold the tickets, served and seated people), each March, nearly the entire chapter (really) would arrive at Foxboro High School very early and begin setting up six rented grills in the cafeteria kitchen. We would be making breakfast — for 1500.

In my early Jaycee years I marveled at the synchronicity of the event — veteran members all had their assigned duties — some people ALWAYS made pancakes. Other ALWAYS made the batter. Others worked the line, greeted people, served food, or cleaned up. The pancake breakfast brought out everyone — it was a great way for people new to Foxboro to meet friends.

Candidates for May elections were always greeting folks as they entered. I have vivid memories of saying hi to the late, great Mike Coppola and other community leaders on many a pancake breakfast morning.

The event was for a great cause — to benefit Foxboro Youth Basketball (FYBA) — and In the weeks leading up to that breakfast, the students would sell tickets to the all-you-can-eat buffet, and would serve as hosts/hostesses, and serve meals and do all-important cleanup. The Jaycees would make the pancakes, OJ, Coffee and sausages. And of course, we would need to sample the pancakes and sausages for quality purposes. 🙂

Many folks were surprised when the project was retired after 29 years, but FYBA had other fundraisers and the event wasn’t needed that year, and despite a valiant (and we mean really valiant!) effort by the Jaycee board to keep the project running, it just couldn’t happen — it wasn’t needed by Foxboro Youth Basketball and we didn’t have manpower…

But we miss it.

Like the Haunted House, this was an event that brought out EVERYONE — new and veteran Jaycees alike, and many friends. I loved the craziness and frenzy as 50 or so Jaycees somehow made making 1500 (or more) servings of pancakes an enjoyable way to spend a morning. For us, it was like a big reunion as folks we hadn’t seen in a year would come by to help, whether by mixing batter, pouring OJ, or flipping a stack of pancakes.

The late Vin Igo of the Foxboro Reporter would always be there to get pictures of the Jaycees making pancakes.

Like the haunted house, pancake breakfast was a shared Jaycee experience involving hard work and fatigue, but we all knew we were part of something important, helping the kids, making a difference yet again. That Sunday, each March, was a day you just didn’t miss — even if you could only stop by to say hello or work an hour or two, the pancake breakfast was a wonderful, shared Jaycee experience.

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