Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
'Pancake Man' ready for Shrove Tuesday dinner
nSt. Paul Episcopal Church to host its 10th annual dinner and Mardi Gras party. BY JOAN KERN, Correspondent
Lester Kauffman was a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War.
Then he was a trackman for Amtrak, retiring as track inspector in 2011 after 35 years.
Now he's the "Pancake Man."
Kauffman, 62, a Columbia native who lives in Mountville, will be in the kitchen at St. Paul Episcopal Church, 340 Locust St., Columbia, today, whipping up his famous pancakes for the 10th annual Shrove Tuesday Dinner and Mardi Gras Party from 5 to 7 tonight.
"It's a little bit of an art," Kauffman says about making pancakes. "You have to hand-stir. No mixer. You've got to have little bits of lumps. Don't make it too smooth, or too runny or real thick. That's what makes them light and fluffy."
Actually, Kauffman, who answers to "Les" or "Pepper," has been Columbia's Pancake Man for 25 years, including 15 years at another Columbia church before joining St. Paul. Besides Shrove Tuesday and other parish meals, he also makes pancakes for the free community breakfast served at the church the second Saturday of every month.
"The reason I started doing this is because when I grew up, I didn't have a lot. I vowed a long time ago I was never going to go to bed hungry again. I thought I'd pass that on. You see too much of that going on. That's why I also work at the food bank here."
The Rev. J. Patrick Peters, St. Paul rector and president of the Columbia Ministerium, says churches in Columbia served 51,000 free community meals last year.
"There's no reason anybody should be hungry in Columbia," Peters says.
Both the community and parish meals feature table service. Tonight, a core group of six people will work in the kitchen with Kauffman, while members of the church serve in the dining room. He says it will take about four hours to prepare the dinner and two hours to clean up. About 65 people are expected to attend.
"When you walk in and sit down, you'll have your meal before you get comfortable in your chair. That's one of the things I try to do.
"I love it," he says. "I wouldn't give it up. I missed one time and they used frozen pancakes, and I got told about it. Some people come all the time. I've know them since we were kids. It's a good time, a good atmosphere."
St. Paul members donate most of the food for both the parish and community meals.
Tonight's Mardi Gras party will feature a "Crazy" auction and a contest for best mask. The auction will feature new and slightly used donated items, such as regifted Christmas presents and jewelry and candles made by members.
"And that tie that isn't going to work with anything anymore," Peters says.
The rector describes the dinner as "a Christian tradition to use up all the fat in the house when tomorrow you're going to give it up." He describes the party as a good time before the season of penitence begins.
"It's the last blast before the fast. It's a party," Peter says. "Some people order masks from New Orleans. Or they're homemade. Last year, someone made a 3-foot daisy."
"And we wear beads," Kauffman added, "purple, green and gold."
Cost for the all-you-can-eat dinner, which will include ham and eggs, toast juice and coffee, is $5. Proceeds will benefit the church renovation fund.