Speak, Pancakes: The Language of Love

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Tomas Kubrican with his wife, Carol Mittlesteadt.

Tomas Kubrican with his wife, Carol Mittlesteadt. hide caption

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Tomas Kubrican had only recently arrived in Wisconsin from Slovakia when he met Carol Mittlesteadt, a waitress at the Paul Bunyan restaurant where he was a cook. Despite his limited English, Kubrican found a way to communicate — with the help of some pancakes.

Mittlesteadt caught his eye the first time Kubrican saw her, when she was interviewing for her summer job.

"I got immediately interested in her," Kubrican says. "But, she thought I had some mental disorder."

"He just kept staring at me all the time," Mittlesteadt says, "and never saying anything."

Kubrican did not have a full arsenal of words at his disposal to make the new waitress understand how he felt. So instead, he expressed himself through a breakfast order that Mittlesteadt had put in.

"I went to pick up my platter," she remembers, "and all the pancakes were in the shape of hearts. So, then I knew something was really up."

For their first date, the pair went to a concert on the square, to hear the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

And as the mood turned romantic, Kubrican thought of a Slovak phrase, one that means the speaker is lovesick for someone else.

"I'm sick of you," he said.

The two survived that snag — and another, that came up during their wedding two years later.

The service was conducted in both English and Slovak, as a gesture to Kubrican's parents.

Unfortunately for Mittlesteadt, the Slovak words for "husband" and "wife" are very similar.

"I, Carol," she said, "take you, Tomas, to be my wife."

Produced for 'Morning Edition' by Mike Garofalo. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Sarah Kramer.



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