Making pancakes for Shrove Tuesday is a real tradition in our house. Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. In years gone by, the consumption of sugar, fat and eggs was traditionally restricted during Lent and making pancakes for Shrove Tuesday was a way of using up these staple ingredients before the fast. Many Christians still give up something (meat, sugar, chocolate, alcohol etc) during Lent in order to mark Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness before he was crucified and to prepare for the celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. Shrove Tuesday has become secularised in many ways and is often referred to as Pancake Day, but it’s always Shrove Tuesday to me.
I have fond memories of this special day. When I was little, my Mom would take me to the Pancake Supper at the local church. I don’t remember my Dad coming; I think it was kind of a ‘girls night out’ for me and my Mom. I remember the pancakes suppers as incredibly busy and celebratory, all of us in the basement of the church. There was an endless parade of aproned ladies bringing out what seemed like hundreds of fluffy pancakes from the kitchen. Big hunks of butter and bottomless jars of maple syrup sat on the long trestle tables. It was pancake heaven, especially for kids.
When I first came to England, I was surprised to find that the ‘pancakes’ served on Shrove Tuesday were thin crêpes topped with lemon and sugar. The pancakes I remembered were called “American pancakes” and didn’t seem to figure very highly in the occasion. I couldn’t see the difference between American pancakes and Canadian pancakes and the whole thing made me feel very homesick. In an attempt to focus on the positive, I began inviting friends to enjoy my homemade ‘Canadian pancakes’ in our home. Some of them were a bit wary of the maple syrup – and one lady did surprise me when she insisted I didn’t have ‘real maple syrup’ on the table. I couldn’t understand what she meant – I had managed to procure Canadian maple syrup made from sap taken from maple trees at great trouble and expense. I wondered if perhaps she preferred maple syrup from Vermont? Then she announced, “No, I’ve been to America and real maple syrup says Aunt Jemima on the label”. I only just managed not to laugh out loud.
As the years have gone by, ‘American’ pancakes are more in favour here in England, although pancakes for Shrove Tuesday are still often crêpe-like and lend themselves more towards dessert than breakfast. To each their own, for me making pancakes for Shrove Tuesday will always be about the fluffy, thick pancakes like the ones I used to have in Canada, served with lashings of butter and maple syrup. Although I will confess to a weakness for Crêpes Suzette…
This is my go-to recipe for pancakes, the one I use to make pancakes for Shrove Tuesday nearly every year. It comes via my wonderful cousin Esther, one of the best cooks I know.
- 1½ cups all purpose (plain) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- generous pinch of salt
- ½ cup sour cream or crème fraîche
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup melted butter, cooled a bit
- Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In another bowl, combine the sour cream or crème fraîche, milk, beaten eggs and melted butter.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once, stirring just until combined.
- Lightly grease the griddle or frying pan.
- Place dollops of batter (a scant quarter cup of batter makes a good size pancake) on a hot, lightly greased griddle or frying pan.
- Cook on one side until bubbles form and break on the surface.
- Turn the pancakes over with a spatula or egg flipper.
- Cook for another minute or so until done.
- Serve immediately.
Is making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday a tradition in your home? What’s your favourite pancake recipe?
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