When is Pancake Day?
Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras, does not fall on the same date each year. It falls on Tuesday 8 March 2011, Tuesday 21 February 2012, and Tuesday 12 February 2013.
What is Pancake Day?
Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (familiarly known in the British Isles as Pancake Day) is the day before the start of Lent, an important period in the Christian calendar.
In Christian tradition, the year is divided into parts, each reflecting a period of the life of Jesus Christ. The best known of these periods is Christmas, which recognises the birth of Christ.
Lent recognises the forty days and forty nights that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness. The traditional method for Christians to observe Lent was to begin by confessing their sins and being “shriven” or offered forgiveness, before spending the period fasting. Many Christians still recognise Lent by giving up something they enjoy, often giving the savings they make to charities which support people in need.
In preparation for the Lenten fast, it was traditional to have a feast which would empty the store cupboard of foods forbidden during the fast. Pancakes would use up eggs, butter and sugar, which were usually considered foods (along with meat) not to be eaten during Lent.
In many parts of the world, Shrove Tuesday is known as “Mardi Gras” or “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the same tradition of feasting before giving up rich food. Shrove Tuesday is also known in some countries as “Carnival Tuesday”, which comes from the Latin meaning to say farewell to meat.
Why feast before fasting?
In medieval times, fasting during Lent was often not a matter of choice. Lent falls at the time of the year called the “hungry gap” when, before the days when food could easily be preserved or imported, supplies from the previous year were starting to run short, and the new crops had not yet started to yield.
Even the hens would be laying fewer eggs, or none at all. Some foods in store would be reaching the point where they would start to go bad.
A feast therefore served two practical purposes: it used up food which might otherwise spoil, and it built up body reserves for the period of scarcity ahead.
How to celebrate on pancake day
There are lots of ways to celebrate on pancake day. Here are just four.
• Pancake race. Many places in Britain have pancake races on Shrove Tuesday. Contestants run a course with a pancake in a frying pan. The pancake has to be tossed a given number of times during the race, and the first to cross the line is the winner. It is (perhaps fancifully) suggested that the origin of the race is that mothers would often be late for church and would eat their own pancakes en route.
• Pancakes for tea. Children love helping to make and toss pancakes and then eating them for supper. It can be difficult to keep production going quickly enough to satisfy them.
• Pancake dinner. It is possible to have a whole meal of pancakes. Small pancakes can be used as blinis for starters, pancakes rolled around ham or a minced meat filling can be served for a main course like cannelloni, and crepes suzettes are a delicious dessert.
• Mardi gras carnival. Pancakes can be incorporated into a big celebration to reflect the kind of Mardi gras that might be celebrated in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro or the Caribbean. Lively music, fancy dress, an indoor barbecue and pancakes could all be ingredients.
There are a range of different types of pancake varying from the thick, sweet north American variety to the thin and often savoury French crepe. English pancakes are rather like French pancakes, but thicker. The batter consists of one litre of milk (or mixed milk and water), 500g of plain flour, six medium eggs and a pinch of salt (optional) and a good slug of vegetable cooking oil (not olive oil, which is too strongly flavoured).
The ingredients are mixed and whisked (or blended) until the batter mixture is free of lumps, then allowed to stand in a cool place for at least an hour (but preferably longer). The mixture is poured into a well oiled frying pan on medium heat, using just enough mixture to cover the flat part of the pan.
When the surface of the batter has set, the pancake is turned (or if you are brave, tossed by flipping the pan) to cook the other side. The edges of the pancake need to be loosened before attempting to toss the pancake, or you are likely to find part sticking and making the operation difficult.
You can also find an American Pancake Recipe on Dorothy’s Kitchen
January 14, 2010 Filed under Lifestyle -