If you are American, today is Mardi Gras. If you are Catholic, today is the day before Lent. If you are British, today is Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Day! OK, technically the same as Shrove Tuesday, but let’s skirt over technicalities here.
I have often wondered why I have never heard the term ‘Shrove Tuesday’ here. Wikipedia set me straight:
Shrove Tuesday is a term used in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia for the day preceding the first day of the Christian season of fasting and prayer called Lent.
The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving that English Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent begins. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of “shrovetide”, somewhat analogous to the carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe. The term “Shrove Tuesday” is no longer widely known in the United States outside of Liturgical Traditions, such as the Lutheran, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches. Because of the increase in many immigrant populations and traditions since the 19th century “Mardi Gras” is much more widely-used.
The festival is widely associated with the eating of foods such as pancakes, and often known simply as Pancake Day, originally because these used up ingredients such as fat and eggs, the consumption of which was traditionally restricted during Lent.
Like most other traditions (like how Americans eat corned beef on St. Paddy’s Day, even though the Irish never have. When the great famine occurred and they fled Ireland and landed in America, bacon was too expensive to eat with their cabbage — known as Bubble and Squeak, btw — so they adopted the Jewish tradition of eating the beef instead. Never let it be said you don’t learn something when you come here), protocol is dropped, and regardless of your religious affiliation or not, everyone makes pancakes for dinner tonight.
Pancakes aren’t just looked upon as a breakfast staple in the UK, in fact, you can eat pancakes anytime you want, and you don’t even have to give the excuse of having ‘breakfast for dinner’ to do it either. I used to love stopping by the local bakery on my way to work, and ask for a buttered pancake. It was such a good treat.
Growing up, my mum made two types of pancakes, the thinner, more crepe-like version (served with sugar and (jif) lemon juice), and the other hockey-puck thick version. My mum’s are much sweeter than my husband is used to.
n.b. my mum uses a coffee/tea mug to measure out the ingredients. Aye, I know. So, when I say cup, I mean MUG.
1 cup sugar
4 – 4.5 cups of flour
pinch of salt
pinch of baking powder
20 fl. oz milk (a British pint)
Combine everything in a large bowl, adding the flour last, gradually.
Makes: emm . . . a lot.
Here’s a great recipe for crepes:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine flour, milk, eggs, and oil. Add salt. Heat a lightly greased 6 inch skillet; remove from heat. Spoon in 2 Tbsp batter; lift and tilt skillet to spread evenly. Return to heat; brown on one side only. To remove, invert pan over paper towel. Repeat with remaining batter. Fill with your favourite filling.