A History of Pancakes
When is 'Pancake day'?
Pancake Tuesday, more formally known as Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. The event whereby Christians traditionally fast for 40 days.
This year it is on Tuesday, February 21st.
What is Shrove Tuesday?
Easter is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian Church and celebrates the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion.
The word shrove comes from shrive, meaning to present oneself for confession, penance, and absolution. However, before any celebrations can begin, a period of fasting must commence before the period of Lent.
The period of Easter which is the ending of Lent changes every year and thus, so does the date of Shrove Tuesday. It is actually calculated by the cycles of the moon.
In early Christian Britain, circa the 7th Century, there were two methods for calculating the date that Easter would be held. The first came from an Irish, Celtic tradition (630 AD) that used the island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast as their chief mission centre. The second came from the Roman missionaries who established the Christian monastery ‘Whitby Abbey’ (657AD) which later became a Benedictine Abbey, (N.B. Dracula is NOT buried there). Both used the lunar calendar, but with two rather complex outcomes as to when Lent would commence. Due to lots of confusion amongst Christians, the Church council of Whitby professed that the Roman method would establish the date for Easter. This particular lunar cycle formula still stands right up to the present day.
Shrove Tuesday marks the last day before Lent - a period of 40 days whereby Christians traditionally fast or give up certain foods. The 40 days represent the time that Jesus spent fasting in the desert where he resisted the temptation of Satan.
Meat and dairy were outlawed during Lent, albeit Christians could eat fish, vegetables and bread. Fish was often salted for preservation. Fish was actually considered to be a praiseworthy food as four of Jesus’ apostles were fishermen, Andrew, Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Interestingly, dairy products were replaced by almond milk and almond butter and spices were given an exemption as they were permitted to flavour food in the absence of meat and dairy. Over the period of Lent, the diet was considered very droning.
In many of the lay communities, the diets might have been more lenient, dependent on the liberal interpretations.
In the past, families would traditionally prepare to fast by using up all the ingredients in their kitchen. These would usually consist of eggs, milk, and flour - everything you need to make a good pancake!
The history of pancakes dates back thousands of years, with evidence of similar foods being served by ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans. Pancakes were also a staple food in medieval Europe and were often served with sugar, honey, or fruit. In the United States, “buttermilk pancakes” became popular in the 19th century and remain a staple breakfast food today, often served with maple syrup, butter, fruit or bacon rashers.
Pancakes have various traditions and variations across the world:
In the UK and Ireland, pancakes are typically served with lemon juice and sugar. Another popular variation is the "Irish potato pancake", made with mashed potatoes, flour, and eggs, and often served as a side dish.
In France, crepes are a type of thin pancake often filled with sweet or savoury ingredients.
In Sweden, a traditional dish called "aebleskiver" are round, filled pancakes served with powdered sugar and jam.
In Japan, "okonomiyaki" is a savoury pancake made with ingredients such as cabbage, meat, and seafood.
In Russia, "blini" are served with toppings like caviar, sour cream, and honey. Today blinis’ are often used as canapés at formal parties and drinks receptions.
These are just a few examples of the diverse ways pancakes are enjoyed across the world.
In Mexico, pancakes are known as "hotcakes" or "panqueques". Mexican hotcakes are typically served for breakfast and are made with ingredients such as flour, eggs, and milk. They are often served with a variety of toppings, including fresh fruit, syrup, and whipped cream. Another popular variation of pancakes in Mexico is the "hotcake de avena" (oatmeal pancake), which is made with oats, cinnamon, and other ingredients. Mexican hotcakes are a staple breakfast food and are enjoyed by people of all ages.
In Persian cuisine, a type of pancake called "nan-e taftun" is popular. These pancakes are made with ingredients such as flour, yeast, and yogurt, and are often served with a variety of fillings such as cheese, herbs, or ground meat. Taftun pancakes are often enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack, and are a staple food in Iran. They are similar to other types of flatbreads in Persian cuisine and are known for their soft, fluffy texture and unique flavour. The making of taftun pancakes is a traditional and culturally significant practice in Iran, and is an important part of the country's culinary heritage.
Check out this recipe by Mexican home cook and Camelēr Spice Co champion Dulce Cuveas who used our Persian spice blend Advieh-E Halegh in these tasty and simple banana oatmeal pancakes. They're scrumptious!