Ash Wednesday is just around the corner–this year it falls on February 22. So get ready to fire up your griddle and pour out the pancake batter on Pancake Tuesday!
WHAT IT IS
“Shrovetide” is the English name for the two or three days immediately preceding Lent, and the Tuesday before Lent is known as Shrove Tuesday. People were historically quite scrupulous about using this time to prepare for the forty days of the Lenten fast, one of the preparations being confession of their sins. “Shrive” is an old English word meaning to go to confession and obtain absolution or to hear confession and give absolution, and the past tense of the word is “shrove.” This is a spiritual cleansing, and it was traditionally accompanied by a practical cleansing of the cupboard. Eggs, fat, and butter were not allowed during the period of Lent, so the ever-industrious housewives of the day prepared pancakes—the ideal fare for the disposal of those forbidden foods. Thus, Shrove Tuesday is also called “Pancake Tuesday” in many cultures. You can delve deeper into the roots and derivatives of the term “shrive” and of Shrove Tuesday, and you can explore Shrovetide traditions to your heart’s content at the following sites:
BRING IT HOME
The English do all kinds of things with pancakes during Shrovetide. They throw them over tall poles (known as the “Pancake Grease”); they race with them while flipping them in a frying pan (patterned after a harried housewife circa 1445, who ran to church with her pancakes in pan, as the story goes); and, happily, they also eat them. The British style pancake is, not surprisingly, heavy on the butter and eggs, which makes them crepe-like and delicious. This recipe is courtesy of Shari the pancake lady, whom I wrote about in my Polish Pottery post, and you can see her other pancake recipes (and purchase her pancake ladies!) at www.pancakelady.com. These pancakes are made one at a time, so I did use Shari’s recommended method of keeping the cooked crepes in a hot oven on the pancake lady plate while continuing to cook the rest of the batter. It worked like a charm. I also used my pancake lady to keep the batch of crepes warm while we were eating, and she did her job beautifully. Here’s Shari’s recipe:
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the eggs and start whisking. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. When the batter is smooth, add the melted butter. Drop by ¼ cupfuls (or less for thinner pancakes) onto a hot greased pan.
Roll the batter around to coat the surface evenly. Cook until the edges are turning brown and crisp, then turn over and cook the other side until golden brown. When cooked, place it on a plate in a 300 degree oven until the batter is finished. Yields 10 crepe-like pancakes.
The English custom is to serve these sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice. We like them with bananas and strawberries (and a little New England maple syrup). That is how we have brought this tradition home!