Today Tuesday the 16th, is the much loved celebration … for Pancakes.
Now when you think of Pancakes, England is hardly the first country to come to mind. America has the top spot in the Pancake stakes. Whether it is with Bacon and Maple Syrup or Chocolate Chips or Blueberries. The fluffy short stack tends to be the first thing that comes to mind.
However, here in Europe and especially in the UK, we celebrate Pancakes once a year. I remember when I was little our teachers would have Pancake flipping contests in our morning assemblies. TV shows would cover the best recipe and toppings and there would always be an outlandish bunch going for some world record that the News would report on.
The day is officially called Strove Tuesday and is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This is when you sacrifice something indulgent in the days leading to Easter. Pancake Day is basically the last giddy blow out before we set ourselves the goal of giving up Chocolate or Crisps or Cola for the next 40 days (which realistically lasts about 10 days, which is still longer than most of us managed to keep our New Year’s Resolutions). However, a bit like Easter itself not many people observe the Religious aspect of the day, and instead it’s just a bit of fun to be shared with friends and family.
Now if any of you are from America you will see what we consider Pancakes will differ from what you are used to sitting down and enjoying. Here in England our Pancakes are technically a crepe which is a paper thin cousin of its American counterpart. However ask any Brit and they will argue that a crepe and our version of a Pancake are totally different. And even though I know the recipe and technique is the same, I too will argue that they are NOT the same. Here is my reasoning behind it.
There are three main categories of Pancake. American, Crepes and Pancake Day Pancakes.
- American Pancakes are dense and fluffy. Here in the UK they tend to appear on dessert menus accompanied by Ice Cream and fruit. However they are cropping up more and more on our breakfast menus as a Fry Up alternative as the love story between The States and the UK grows stronger every year. Although these are much loved here barely anyone knows how to make them.
- French Crepes. Crepes, like many French things, are seen as classy. They are made by swirling the batter onto a hot Crepe plate and then the batter is then spread with a special spatula. Crepe makers have such a beautiful technique it is almost like a Ballet watching them. They are often much larger than the UK version. They are then filled with fruit and chocolate sauce and crushed nuts and rolled into a cone shape and presented to you for you to marvel at like a piece of art before you cave in and devour it.
- Pancake Day Pancakes. These Pancakes are full of innocence. Mistakes are often made when making them and no one looks up a recipe. You just try and remember how your Mum did it. Do you add milk? Sugar? How many eggs? Do you use butter or oil to grease the frying pan? No one knows! The first side will often end up a bit burnt and the next few pancakes will be too thick as you try and work out how much batter to put in. Then there is no spatula used to turn the pancake. Instead you take the frying pan off the heat and flip it into the air and try and catch it back in the pan. Often it lands on the edge of the pan threatening to fall off all together and it will land on the side it started off on meaning you have to go for a second attempt. Some flip it too soon and uncooked batter comes flying off as the pancake flips in the air, and more often than not it will land on the floor. But it is so much fun. Everyone in the family will have a go at flipping a pancake, competing to see who can get it the highest or race down the garden while flipping it, a real example of British eccentricity. At the end of it you end up with few burnt ones, some falling apart or half on the floor, and there are always a few that turned out pretty well. You then sprinkle them with sugar and lemon juice, roll them up and enjoy.
It is one of the few holidays that hasn’t be commercialised, as you don’t go around buying Pancake Day cards and there are no TV specials. Pancakes are made from stuff people tend to have in the house, and the most you are going to buy is some lemon juice that will tend to sit in you cupboard untouched till next year or its expiry date, whichever comes first. But it is fun, light-hearted and it tastes good.
So happy Pancake Day everyone! Go forth and enjoy a day of one of the best foods humans have come up with!