Shrove Tuesday is the feast day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Christian festival of Lent. To many it is celebrated as Pancake Day or in New Orleans and across Latin America, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. It is the last blow out in the modern vernacular or celebration before the forty-six days fasting ahead in Lent*. Modern medicine has shown that limited fasting can indeed “cleanse” and detoxify the body. Some traditional non- religious reasons for the Lenten Fast are economic and relate to animal husbandry. For example, Lent fasting allows for the making of cheese, the hatching of chicks and the growth of baby animals.
Across the world as families used up excessive food, local traditions developed such as a feast of salted meat and peas in Iceland, Marzipan filled pastries in Scandinavia and doughnuts in eastern Europe. Many American cities including Chicago celebrate their Polish heritage as Pączki Day. A festival of music, polish specialities and, in particular, Pączki, a type of deep-fried brioche bun filled with plum or rose-hip jam.
Historically Shrove Tuesday was a ‘half-holiday’ in England. It started at 11:00 am with the signalling of a church bell. In England street or mob football matches were played, often involving whole communities. Dating back to the 12th century, towns such as Ashbourne, Sedgefield and Alnwick still maintain the tradition. The pancake race is held in many towns and villages, participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air, catching them in the pan whilst running. The most famous pancake race, at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. In Scarborough, the town beach front is roped off for racing.
Really Good Pancakes
I am a purist. Ice cream is for sundaes. Maple syrup for drop scones or griddle cakes ( an American style pancake ) with perhaps a side of very crisp bacon or blueberries. Cream a travesty. Fruit you can leave alone, a pancake requires simply sugar and freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice.
for 8 pancakes
1 Egg and one Egg Yolk
About 250 ml Milk
100 gr Plain Flour
2 tablespoons melted Butter
a small pinch of Salt
clarified Butter for cooking
Place a large mixing bowl on a damp cloth to stop it slipping and moving. Sift in the flour and salt into the bowl. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk and mix in the milk, pouring it in a slow, constant stream.
When it has achieved the consistency of thin cream, stop adding any more milk and whisk in the butter.
Brush a hot non-stick frying pan with clarified butter. Using a ladle add a little batter to the pan whilst gently twisting the pan to swirl the batter in a thin coating across the pan surface. Cook for about two minutes then flip over. Cook for a further minute until crisp and golden brown, transfer to a warm plate and serve.