Pancakes! Yummy! I don't think I know anybody, children or adults, who doesn't enjoy a pancake on Shrove Tuesday.
But have you ever wondered why we have this tradition of eating pancakes on one particular day of year? Why, of all things, were pancakes fried and eaten on day before Lent begins?
Well, with Lent being a time of fasting, when people had to get by on most meagre of foods, pancakes were perfect way of using up fat, butter and eggs, all food stuffs that were forbidden during Lenten period.
As people have always enjoyed a good celebration, frying and eating of pancakes soon became something of a 'fling' - a last day of fun before solemnity of Lent begun and it's for this reason that many countries hold carnivals on Shrove Tuesday, also known by it's French name of Mardi Gras, meaning 'Fat Tuesday'. The most famous of these carnivals are without a doubt those of Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans.
Here in UK, Shrove Tuesday celebrations are a rather more subdued affair, with pancake races being at top of events schedule. To anybody outside of UK, idea of running along streets tossing pancakes in frying pans must seem quite eccentric; but then that's British for you.
It's believed that tradition of tossing pancakes started in Olney, Buckinghamshire in 1445. Whilst frying pancakes, a woman was called to church for confession. Not wanting to ruin pancake, she ran to church in her dress, still tossing pancake in her pan. Quite why others followed, quite literally, in her footsteps isn't known but even today, most pancake race rules stipulate that women entering must wear dresses! Each are then given a frying pan containing a hot pancake and are sent out to run a 375 meter course over which they must toss their pancake at least three times. The race will usually end at a church where winner is traditionally kissed by bell ringer.
Not everybody is willing to run streets tossing pancakes and not all towns and villages arrange races but even those who are quietly enjoying a pancake or six at home will be, according to superstition, bringing good luck to home for 47 days left until Easter.
Pancake tossing is quite an art, one that I've never managed to perfect. Some, such as Ralf Laue, take tossing very seriously. Ralf holds world record for tossing a pancake continuously for three hours, two minutes and 27 seconds! Phew!
HOW DO I MAKE PANCAKES?
If you want to join in fun of pancake day, knowing how to make a good pancake is essential. The following recipe will make about 12-14 pancakes, depending on how thick you make them.
Good pancakes should always be made from a mixture that was prepared at least an hour before frying.
1/2 lb (220g) self raising flour 1/2 pint (250 ml)milk 1/2 pint (250 ml) water (or, if you like, replace 100ml of water with club soda for fluffier pancakes) 2 eggs pinch salt 1 1/2 oz (40 g) lard lemon juice sugar for sprinkling
1. Sieve flour and salt into a basin and make a well in centre.
2. Break eggs one at a time and pour into well.