I have such fond memories of Shrove Tuesdays gone by. When I was little, we would go to the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper at our local church. These annual suppers were held in the church basement and we’d sit at long trestle tables. There was an endless parade of aproned ladies bringing out what must have been hundreds of fluffy pancakes from the kitchen. Big hunks of butter and bottomless jars of maple syrup sat in the middle of the tables. It was pancake heaven and I looked forward to it all year long.
It makes me sad when people refer to today simply as ‘Pancake Day’. Shrove Tuesday is a very important day in the Christian calendar. It is the last day before Lent begins. Lent marks the forty days that Jesus withdrew in the wilderness before He began His ministry and is a way for believers to remember this. It also helps us to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.
In years gone by, Christians would follow a very strict fast during the 40 days of Lent, which begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. The consumption of sugar, fat, eggs and meat was not allowed. Pancakes were enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday as a way of using up any of the eggs, sugar, butter and other fats in the house so that they wouldn’t go to waste or tempt believers into breaking their fast.
Today there are few Christians who still practice the very restrictive fasting that was part of the Lent tradition of years gone by. However, many of us still give up something. Chocolate is a popular choice, as is alcohol. People sometimes give up meat or eschew sugar entirely. I once gave up complaining for Lent. It doesn’t sound that hard but you’d be amazed at how often even a cheerful person can catch themselves complaining!
When I first arrived in England <ahem> years ago, I was surprised to find that the pancakes served here on Shrove Tuesday were more often thin crêpes sprinkled with lemon and sugar and served rolled up. The pancakes I remembered were referred to as “American pancakes” and didn’t figure in the occasion at all. It made me homesick and not only could I not see the difference between “American pancakes” and “Canadian pancakes”, I was a little miffed that the Americans appeared to be getting all the credit for them.
In an attempt to focus on the positive and re-educate my new friends, I regularly invited them to enjoy “Canadian pancakes” in our home on Shrove Tuesday. The true Brits struggled with the concept of a pancake supper and the real maple syrup (made from Canadian maple trees) I had procured at great expense caused much debate. I was floored when one lady insisted I did not, in fact, have real maple syrup on the table. She proclaimed, “I have just been to America and real maple syrup says ‘Aunt Jemima’ on the label”. I only just managed not to laugh out loud. Needless to say she refused to accept the fact that Aunt Jemima syrup doesn’t have a drop of real maple syrup in it.
As years have gone by, “American pancakes” have become more popular here in England although those served on Shrove Tuesday are still often crêpes, lending themselves more to dessert than breakfast. I failed to see the point of this until I tasted Crêpes Suzette for the first time a few years ago. It was a revelation but for me, Shrove Tuesday is always going to be about the thick, fluffy pancakes I used to have in Canada, served with lashings of real maple syrup.
This is my best pancake recipe for Shrove Tuesday, the one I use 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 crême fraîche
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ 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.
- A quarter cup measure makes a good size pancake. Place dollops of batter, about an inch apart, on the hot griddle or frying pan. (You will need to cook the pancakes in batches.)
- Cook without disturbing 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 with butter and real maple syrup.
Shared with Simple Supper Tuesday
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