Also known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras….today is all about eating. I hadn’t heard of pancake day until I met my husband; in SE Pennsylvania, where I grew up, today is “Fasnacht Day,” the day when all the Pennsylvania Dutch and those around them eat doughnuts. In Ohio, natives ate paczki, a Polish treat, though they never caught on in my house.
In Olney, England, the famous pancake races are said to have begun around 1445, when a woman making pancakes in her kitchen suddenly realized she was late for Shrove Tuesday confession. She raced out of her house in her headscarf and apron, holding her frying pan with a pancake on it. And thus was a tradition born.
My husband and I had several arguments early on in our marriage as to just what constituted a pancake. His way I termed “crepes.” Thin, flat, and traditionally served with a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar. This is so not a pancake. My way: maple syrup, blueberries, bacon on the side…..mmmm. Pancake. We also argued, on a trip to the grocery store here in England, about whether to buy real maple syrup or not. He argued no, I argued yes. He wasn’t yet aware of the delights of real maple syrup; he only noticed the price tag on the (rather small) bottle. Yes, maple syrup is astronomically priced here (not that it’s cheap in the States), but England is a nation without maple trees, and sacrifices have to be made if you want the real thing.
(Some years later, we took our children to a maple sugaring festival in Ohio and witnessed how maple syrup is made. It explained quite a lot about why the syrup costs so much.)
So, our first Shrove Tuesday together, he made me pancakes, his way. Eventually he relented and admitted that English pancakes really are crepes. While both are nice, I’ll opt for the good old-fashioned American kind, though I have to admit that tonight I’ll be making British pancakes for my kids, who haven’t experienced them yet. Want to try some? Here’s a recipe:
Pancakes (Makes 8)
- 125g (4 oz) flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 300ml (1/2 pint) milk
- lard or vegetable oil
1. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Make a well in the center and break in the egg. Add half the liquid, then gradually work in the flour from the sides of the bowl. Beat until smooth.
2. Add the remaining liquid gradually. Beat until the ingredients are well mixed.
3. Heat a little lard or oil in a small frying pan, running it around the pan to coat the sides. Pour in a little batter, tilting the pan to form an even coating.
4. Place over moderate heat and cook until golden underneath, then turn with a palette knife and cook the other side. Slide the pancake on to a plate lined with greaseproof paper and keep warm. Repeat.
You can serve them the traditional way or fill them like a crepe, top with ice cream, serve with berries, jam, chocolate shavings, whatever you like. If you want more ideas, click here.