Shrove Tuesday falls exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday, so fits perfectly with the idea of being a moveable feast, as Easter is based on the cycles of the moon. The actual date each year can vary from the 3rd February to the 9th March inclusive and this year Pancake Day falls on the 9th February.
All across the UK and the USA, better known as fat Tuesday, pancakes are traditionally eaten with a mixture of all kinds of toppings and fillings, the staple being a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon. But how did Shrove Tuesday turn into Pancake Day?
The word “shrove” is the past tense of the Latin word “shrive” which in the Catholic Church means to obtain absolution for your sins, usually as a result of going to Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the custom for Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent. Although there are very many counterclaims as to who created Pancake Day.
It is impossible to know for sure when the tradition of making celebratory pancakes began. While many people associate Pancakes as being the start of Lent, others suggest that Pancake Day was originally a pagan holiday (i.e. before the Christian era). Northern Europeans believe it is a Slavic tradition, from around the 5th Century BC to mark the changing of the seasons from winter to spring and celebrate Jarilo, the God of Vegetation.
A World of Pancakes
Whatever the true reason, one thing is for sure; everyone around the globe loves pancakes! There is an enormous range of different types of pancakes to choose from including American Pancakes, Crêpes, Blini/Blintz, Roti are possibly the best known.
American Pancakes: For most Americans, the word ‘pancake’ conjures a stack of fluffy, hot-off-the-griddle patties of dough smothered in butter slowly melting beneath a rivulet of maple syrup and are often eaten for breakfast.
Southern European Pancakes or Crêpes: These are virtually translucent paper thin pancakes, made with a much wetter batter mix. Eaten with sugar and lemon (the basis of a crêpe Suzette), these pancakes are eaten as a dessert. Crêpes are also known as crespelle in Italy and palacsinta in Hungary.
Eastern European Pancakes: This specialty goes by many names, from blintz to blinchiki to blini. In the Baltic States, the small savoury ones, which are about the size of a silver dollar, are known as Blini often topped with sour cream and caviar or salmon. Blintzes are a savoury cross between a flat-bread and a crêpe wrapped around a cheese or jam filling and fried to golden brown.
Roti or Asian Pancakes: You’ll find roti across South and Southeast Asia, all the way to the West Indies. They are made of wheat flour and are decidedly on the flatbread end of the pancake spectrum. They are part of a staple diet in places like India and the Philippines, the griddle cooked pancakes are used instead of cutlery to eat stews and curries.
Other international names for the humble pancake include M’Semen, Aebleskiver, Dutch Baby, Pannukakku, Farinata, Injera and tortilla, to name but a few.
However you call your pancakes, you can be certain that here at Smith & Wollensky our delicious mouth-watering blueberry pancakes, created especially for this year’s Shrove Tuesday (9th February), will definitely hit the spot! Why not join us and book your table today.