Happy Shrove Tuesday!!!
Such a yummy tradition! And I’ll certainly be celebrating with my own plateful of pancakes today!
For those who don’t know about it, Shrove Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40-day Lent season. Traditionally it’s a day of fun and feasting, before the more restraint behavior and diet of Lent. Mardi Gras is the most well known and popular celebration associated with Shrove Tuesday. And the eating of pancakes on this festive day is another English tradition that’s still popular today.
But why eat pancakes on this day? Popular common lore is that, with the dietary restraints of Lent, the pancakes were made to use up the rich eggs, milk and butter that would be stored away. These foods were considered indulgent and would be restricted along with various other meats and sweet treats. But by the time of the late 18th century the dietary restrictions during Lent, within Protestant countries, were relaxed to include these foods during Lent.
So why keep making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday if you don’t have to? Well it seems to be two reasons. First of all, the English love their traditions. And when you’ve done something for centuries before, why change it? Even today they will have pancake races on Shrove Tuesday, usually before the “Mob Football” games (which had fallen out of practice with the 1835 Highway’s Act that banned football from being played on public highways). The second is much more practical. During February and March, the larders are a little leaner, since the stores are dwindling down but the fresh foods of springs are not yet available to supplement the diet. And milk, butter, and eggs will be in short supply at this time. Chickens are not laying as much during the winter time. And milk will be in shorter supply with cows due to give birth and not being milked along with the regulation of feed with the lack of spring grass, which makes the wonderful thick cream and butter of spring. So, a rich pancake batter, like in the recipe below. would be quite a treat during this time of year.
The English are not the only ones with a certain sweet treat to eat on Shrove Tuesday. Elsewhere in Europe there are sweet treats being devoured before Lent. In Germany it’s traditional to eat doughnuts. In the Netherlands they will make waffles, a hugely popular street food. And in Russia they will make blinys. All of them sound wonderful!
So, in honor of the tradition of Pancake Day, I’ve included a pancake receipt from the ever-popular Hannah Glasse’s cookbook, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”.
A note with the recipe. Keep in mind that eggs were somewhat smaller than the ones we have available today, so adjust accordingly.
Take a Quart of Milk, beat in six or eight Eggs, leaving half the Whites out, mix it well till your batter is of a fine thickness. You must observe to mix your Flour first with a little Milk, then add the rest by degrees; put in two Spoonfuls of beaten Ginger, a Glass of Brandy, a little Salt, stir all together, and take your Stew-pan very clean, put in a piece of Butter as big as a Wallnut, then pour in a Ladleful of Batter, which will make a Pancake moving the Pan around, that the Batter be all over the Pan; shake the Pan, and when you think that side is enough, toss it, if you can’t, turn it cleaverly; and when both sides are done, lay it in a Dish before the Fire, and so do the rest. You must take care they are dry; when you send them to the Table, strew a little Sugar over them.
Woman Baking Pancakes, Adriaan de Lelie c. 1790- c. 1810