What’s Pancake Day? Like Mardi Gras, Pancake Day is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, or the day before entering into Lent. In much of the Christian world, the day before Ash Wednesday is Mardi Gras or Carnival, the last day to eat, drink and be merry before entering the forty Lenten days of fasting. In England it is Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day.
In the olden days when Lent was strictly observed, one had to have all such things as butter, eggs and cream out of the house before the Shrovetide bell rang calling all to Church to be “shriven” or cleansed of their sins. It became the tradition to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday morning to use up any of those ingredients that might be left in the house.
According to tradition, in 1445, in the English village of Olney, a woman heard the Shriving bell and she hadn’t finished baking her pancakes. Skillet still in hand, with a pancake in it, and cap and apron still on, she ran from her cottage to the church to attend service. Ever since that time, on Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, in the village of Olney a race is held. The women participating must wear a cap or bonnet, an apron and they must flip their pancake three times. The race course is from the site of the original woman’s cottage to the door of the church. The winner receives a white bible and a kiss from the vicar.
Throughout England and other places in the British Isles, people will have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. Now, British pancakes are a bit more like the French crêpe than they are like an American pancake or flap-jack. In England, a flap-jack is rather like an oatmeal cookie.
You don’t have to run a race to enjoy pancakes on Pancake Day, and it’s a good excuse for a mid-winter party. The holidays are over and the festivities of spring haven’t begun, so it makes for a good celebratory break. You can of course serve traditional Pancakes but why not give a few other pancake traditions a try. Two excellent pancake ideas are Crêpes and Blini.
Even if you choose to serve traditional American pancakes, they don’t have to be served with syrup. Consider a buffed beginning with a pile of pancakes and bowls of a variety of tasty things to go on them, perhaps: finely shredded ham, baby shrimp, grated cheese, pineapple bits or other cut up fresh fruit, sour cream, chopped hardboiled egg, crumbled bacon, cheese sauce, creamed tuna, chopped hardboiled egg in cream sauce, finely chopped onion, lox, cream cheese, possibilities are endless.