Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the Christian season of Lent begins. In years gone by, the consumption of sugar, fat and eggs was traditionally restricted during Lent, and making pancakes was a way of using up these staple ingredients before the fast. Many Christians still give up something (meat, sugar, chocolate or alcohol are often chosen) during Lent in order to mark and remember Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness before he was crucified, and to prepare for the celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. In secular society, the day before Lent begins is known 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 St James-Rosemount United Church. I don’t remember my Dad coming; I think it was kind of a ‘girls night out’ for me and my Mom. St James’ wasn’t our church as we were Anglican, but it was a huge part of the local community. I attended Vacation Bible School there with my friend Heather every year, and it was where I went to Brownies as well. I remember the pancakes suppers as incredibly busy and celebratory, all of us in the basement of the church with what seemed to me like hundreds of fluffy pancakes coming from the kitchen. There were pitchers of maple syrup on the table, as well as blueberry maple syrup, which seemed to me to be incredibly exotic to me.
When I first came to England, I was surprised to find that the ‘pancakes’ served on Shrove Tuesday were thin, crepe style pancakes, and that maple syrup was not the topping of choice. In fact, they were topped with lemon and sugar, something I’ve never quite got used to. (I’m sorry, ‘pancakes’ are pancakes and ‘crepes’, well, they are dessert!) Nowadays the the toppings for these ‘pancakes’ are getting much more exotic – from rum and lime baked bananas to sauteed apples and toffee sauce. But for me, Shrove Tuesday pancakes 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.
This is my go-to recipe for pancakes. It comes via my wonderful cousin Esther, who is one of the best cooks I know.
This recipe makes about ten medium size pancakes.
1½ cups all purpose 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
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the sour cream or crème fraîche, milk, beaten eggs and melted butter.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones all at once, stirring just until combined.
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, and then turn over to cook the other side. Serve immediately.