Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day
(UPDATE: My 2007 Pancakes are savoury and contain wine in the batter.)
The very British way to celebrate the day before Ash Wednesday when the lean period of Lent begins, is by stuffing your face with pancakes and taking part in quirky races .
But before we start gobbling down too many of these delicious treats, let's stop for a moment and consider the history behind this holy feast. Shrove Tuesday's name comes from "to shrive" meaning to confess. In terms of English,Christian religion, Shrovetide was the time when you were meant to visit your confesser and admit to all the naughty things you'd been up to. Ok, ok, I admit I ate a whole bar of chocolate, all by myself, when no one was looking.
No stay of execution for these babies...tonight they're all pancake fodder!
Where do pancakes fit into this dour equation? During the long and miserable forty days of Lent, desirable edibles such as eggs and butter were not permitted to be eaten. In order to use up these non-virtuous ingredients prior to the fast, pancake day was invented. Hooray!
When I was a kid, I absolutely loved pancake day. It was always such a treat. Imagine a day, when instead of returning home from school to a meal of overcooked pork chop with boiled cabbage and potatoes, or lumpy cauliflower cheese, you were allowed to gorge yourself on as many sweet, lemony pancakes as you could eat!
My mum was always an absolute star on pancake day. Well, actually, she was a star every day and is still a star to this day, but maybe I didn't always appreciate that fact when I was sitting down in front of a plate of, yet uneaten, cold brussel sprouts and gravy. (It wasn't her fault they were cold, she served them to me hot, but in a pathetic and always unsuccessful attempt at avoidance, I just usually failed to eat them when they were in their prime.)
But on this special, only once a year day, she would have a big bowl of pancake batter ready, beaten and well aerated. She would heat up some fat and spoon a ladelful of the pale yellow liquid into the frying pan. The first one would always come out misshapen. Too fat, lumpy and with holes in it. It's just the way it goes. It still tasted good, someone would always eat it. But after that, she'd be on a roll. We'd beg her to toss the pancake up in the air and catch it, the other side up, back in the fryer. She would always try this once for our entertainment. Sometimes it would work, but sometimes it wouldn't and then we'd all share a good giggle.
My sister, Beccy, dad and I would form a little queue in the kitchen, each of us holding out our dinnerware like Oliver Twist waiting for gruel. Oh, but we were much happier than Oliver, as mum would slide another golden pancake onto our plate. As soon as we'd captured a glorious specimen, we'd dash to the table, drench it in freshly squeezed lemon juice and white granulated sugar and gobble it down, almost before she'd finished cooking the next one.
Tonight I will be cooking pancakes using this recipe from good, old, Delia Smith, the mother of British celebrity TV chefs. (I can't call her the grandmother, because that auspicious title deservedly belongs to Margeurite Patten, whose classic Every Day Cook Book I happily learnt to cook from, but sadly left in my mum's attic somewhere when I moved to San Francsico).
So, later today it will be lemon and sugar for me and Gruyere cheese for Fred. If I manage to get a flippin' good photo of us being a couple of pancake tossers, I'll post it up later... Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day