Why do pancakes deserve a week-long celebration? Read on.
Feast Today, Fast Tomorrow
Pancake Week is grounded in ancient tradition. During the Middle Ages, it was common practice to prepare for Lent by purging the pantry of luxurious foods such as eggs, butter, and milk. These ingredients often became big batches of pancakes. To this day, many communities around the world feast on pancakes all the way through Shrove Tuesday--also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras--before the season of moderation begins on Ash Wednesday. In fact, another name for Fat Tuesday is Pancake Day.
Celebrating Pancake Week
Despite its no-nonsense name, Pancake Week inspires its share of eccentric behavior.
- The small town of Olney, England has been holding its Pancake Race every year since 1445. According to the lore, it began when an Olney housewife was cooking the family's traditional Shrove Tuesday pancakes. The church bell began to ring, summoning the townspeople to service, and the woman was so anxious to get there on time that she ran outside still holding her skillet--pancakes and all. This moment is reenacted in the town's annual Pancake Race: contestants line up, skillets in hand, waiting for the "pancake bell" to ring. Then they toss pancakes in the air, catch them in their skillets and race 400 yards to the church. When they reach the finish line, they must toss their pancakes one more time. After the race, everyone attends church services and then enjoys a community pancake party.
- Determined not to leave all the fun to the Brits, the town of Liberal, Kansas has been competing with Olney in a good-natured transatlantic Pancake Race rivalry since 1950.
- In Russia, the pre-Lenten pancake feast is known as Maslenitsa, and is celebrated by eating thin buckwheat crepes called blini, accompanied by caviar, honey, jam, sour cream or butter. These little symbols of the sun--golden, round and warm--signify the end of winter and the coming of spring. Bonfires, fireworks and snow games round out the festivities.
Stack 'Em Up
Whatever you may call them--battercakes, blini, blintzes, crepes, flapjacks, griddlecakes, hotcakes, johnnycakes, or pancakes--they stack up to a plateful of good eating. Experiment with thick batters and thin, make them sweet or savory, and try out all sorts of toppings and stuffings. Have a great time indulging in pancakes this week!