Pancakes are now forever associated with Shrove Tuesday as it is a sort of all-in-one way of using up some fatty foods before Lent. In the past, the idea was for families to clear out their cupboards and remove the fattening foods (normally the tempting ones) so they aren’t in their house during Lent.
Eggs, milk and sugar aren’t traditionally eaten in the fasting season, so needed to be scoffed beforehand.
The actual tradition of mixing them up for pancakes is thought to come from a pagan ritual, but others say it is a Christian tradition – with each ingredient representing one of the four pillars of the faith. Eggs for creation, flour sustenance or the staff of life, salt for wholesomeness and milk for purity.
If you’re wondering why we toss pancakes it looks like it’s a tradition that dates back far longer than even Bimbo can remember.
The pancake features in cookbooks as far back as 1439 and the idea of tossing them is almost as old. “And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.” (Pasquil’s Palin, 1619).
If milk and eggs aren’t enough of a treat then there is an endless conveyor belt of toppings you can choose to eat your pancakes with. Whether it’s chocolate spread, lemon juice and sugar, maple syrup or even goat’s cheese and butternut squash, there are loads of different recipes to tickle those taste buds.
Across the UK pancake races take part on Shrove Tuesday. It involves a large number of people normally in fancy dress, racing down streets tossing pancakes. The idea is to get to the finish line first while carrying the frying pan and flipping the pancake without dropping it. The most famous race is in Buckinghamshire in Olney. Those that take part have to be housewives wearing aprons, a hat or scarf. Each contestant has to toss the pancake three times during the race. The first woman to get to the church, complete the course, serve the pancake to the bell-ringer and kiss him is the winner.
There’s also the annual Pancake Grease at Westminster School in London. A verger from Westminster Abbey leads a procession of boys into the playground where the school cook tosses a pancake over a five-metre high bar. The children then race to grab some of the pancake – the one who ends up with the largest piece receives a cash prize from the Dean.
In Scarborough, Yorkshire, people gather on the promenade to skip. Long ropes stretch across the road, with about ten or more people skipping on one rope. No one knows how this tradition started, but skipping was once a ‘magical’ game, linked to sowing and sprouting of seeds, and may have been played on burial mounds during the Middle Ages.
However you celebrate the day, however you eat your pancakes… have a great day!
And hey! Let’s be careful out there.
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