'Even if you don’t like to eat pancakes, you just like the idea of them. Being around pancakes feels good, even if you’re not eating them yourself.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 16, 2022. It has since been updated.
Curtis Kimball faced a conundrum that many adults these days are painfully familiar with. "I just don't know how grown-ups make friends," the 43-year-old explained to The Washington Post. With the pandemic exhausting all—if any—opportunities of meeting new people and forming lasting bonds, Kimball decided to get creative in his quest to forge adult friendships. "I don't mind looking foolish," he shared. "So, I was like, 'I bet I could just put myself out there, and maybe something would happen.'" For Kimball, putting himself out there meant throwing a pancake party for his neighborhood, where he has lived for about a year with his wife and two daughters.
A month ago I had a ridiculous, silly, simple idea: I could make my neighborhood a better place, AND make some new friends just by making pancakes in front of my house for anyone who came by to hang out. Everything that followed 🤯 👇 pic.twitter.com/nEdrjK2XXa— the creme brûlée cart (@cremebruleecart) February 13, 2022
"Everybody in my life thought I was insane," he revealed. "It's a pretty vulnerable feeling to do something that outlandish in public." Why pancakes? Kimball's reasoning was simple: "Even if you don’t like to eat pancakes, you just like the idea of them. Being around pancakes feels good, even if you’re not eating them yourself." Also, he added, "if you see someone making pancakes for strangers, you'd probably think that person is nice." To get the word out, Kimball designed and printed out a few funny fliers and taped them to telephone poles around the neighborhood. "My wife says I'm getting weird," they read. "She says I need to make friends. So I'm making pancakes. Come by and say hi and have some pancakes with me."
As you probably know, I hung fliers all around the neighborhood and hilariously, people showed up! And the vibes were incredible! I had kind of accidentally stumbled on something. A lot of people were hungry to connect with their neighbors and share smiles and laughter and joy. pic.twitter.com/OGsATRrSQL— the creme brûlée cart (@cremebruleecart) February 13, 2022
However, Kimball wasn't sure anyone would actually turn up. "I wasn't expecting anyone to show up because I didn't know if people read fliers," he said. As it turns out, Kimball was pretty spot on about the universal allure of pancakes. Nearly 100 neighbors assembled for his first pancake party on the front driveway of his home on January 22. A few weeks later, on February 12, Kimball threw a second neighborhood pancake meetup. This time, roughly 300 people lined up for one of his fluffy flapjacks.
Then it got picked up by a lot of media outlets. And while I don’t particularly enjoy 15 minutes of fame, I felt it was important that as many people as possible heard about my ridiculous idea for connecting with neighbors and maybe that would help them do their own silly idea. pic.twitter.com/XfGB0iHqRo— the creme brûlée cart (@cremebruleecart) February 13, 2022
"We've all been spending time isolated and haven't been as social," said 42-year-old Julie Zigoris, who attended both pancake parties with her husband and two young daughters. "There is something so nice about... just hearing new voices and having that excitement of meeting new people." She added that she appreciated how "relaxed and laid back" the first gathering was. To her surprise, one of the neighbors she ran into at the party was at her Ph.D defense in Pittsburgh 15 years ago. "It was such a shock to see this person from my past four doors down from me," Zigoris said.
AND THEY DID! The line stretched down the block and around the corner. In 2 hours, myself, my mother-in-law and some friends I used to work with made over 700 pancakes for 300 brand new friends. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. pic.twitter.com/JRUSTapoSa— the creme brûlée cart (@cremebruleecart) February 13, 2022
Aside from setting the stage for a few such random reconnections, the event in general "was a great opportunity to get to know our neighbors in this very casual, lighthearted way," Zigoris said. Of course, "the pancakes were delicious, too," she added. While many raved about Kimball's pancakes—a personal recipe that he plans to share on a website he's creating "to give people a guide to doing their own" neighborhood events—he sensed that his neighbors weren’t there for the food. They came for the feeling of togetherness that the pandemic took away. "It was the best vibe I had felt in a long time. It was really refreshing to see people smiling and enjoying themselves," Kimball said. "We've got to celebrate each other as people a lot more."
I have no idea what comes next for this silly little project of mine. Maybe you’ll invite me to make pancakes in front of your house for your friends and neighbors! Or maybe you’ll just do one on your own (how can I help?) pic.twitter.com/tM3T8qM0xF— the creme brûlée cart (@cremebruleecart) February 13, 2022
Kimball—who covered the cost of the pancakes and toppings at both events—recently set up a GoFundMe to make future pancake parties more financially sustainable after many people offered to contribute funds. He hopes his successful neighborhood experiment will inspire others to follow suit. "I'm hoping I can be the match and the fire spreads," he said. "I'm hoping my push will push others. Maybe people will see my little thing, and maybe they'll do their own little thing, and then maybe all those things will add up to a big thing." His ultimate goal, Kimball added, is to start "a national neighborhood pancake day and have everyone do it on the same day and same time and carb up the whole country. How awesome would that be?"
But until then, San Franciscans have my undying gratitude for some of the most fun times of my life. Everyone who came was a little more wind in my sails as we all start to put our world back together. So go forth! Make friends! Reach out! Give love and receive it! pic.twitter.com/ldgjI1x9tj— the creme brûlée cart (@cremebruleecart) February 13, 2022