Pancake Day – also known as Shrove Tuesday
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the last day before the period which Christians call Lent, and for many people may be the only day of the year they eat pancakes. This certainly true for me (although I may sneak a pancake with some ice-cream when on holiday!). I love pancakes but I haven’t really given it too much thought as to why pancakes are specifically cooked on Shrove Tuesday – for those of you that are interested, here’s what I found out.
Why pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?
Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. Therefore, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren’t allowed in Lent. Pancakes are ideal as they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent. In the old days, so that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that wouldn’t last the forty days of Lent without going off.
The name Shrove comes from the old word “shrive” which means to confess. On Shrove Tuesday, in the Middle Ages, people used to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began.
Pancake races – what’s that all about?
On Pancake Day, “pancake races” are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning!
Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna). The race is followed by a church service.
In London, the Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Day Race takes place every Shrove Tuesday, with teams from the British lower house (the House of Commons), the upper house (the House of Lords), and the Fourth Estate, contending for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions.
Pancakes – did you know?
- In England, as part of community celebration, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday “mob football” games, some dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out in the 19th century after the passing of the Highway Act 1835 which banned playing football on public highways!
- In Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island, small tokens are frequently cooked in the pancakes. Children take delight in discovering the objects, which are intended to be divinatory. For example, the person who receives a coin will be wealthy; a nail indicates that they will become or marry a carpenter!
Here is a simple recipe for making great tasting pancakes – once you have made the pancake mix, the pancakes only take a few minutes to cook. They are great served with some lemon and sugar but pancakes don’t always have to be sweet. They can be filled with all sorts of food, such as minced beef, chicken or vegetables for a vegetarian option – they can be served hot with a nice sauce, but you will not need the sugar – instead, add some salt and pepper to taste when making the batter.
If you’d like to read up some more on Pancake Day (and tear yourself away from tossing pancakes in the kitchen), here are the articles I read when browsing the web: