The Foodies Journal: Pancakes and Shrove Tuesday


(Image via Eggs)

Ella Largent, Writer

Happy National Pancake Day, Vikings!  This February 25th will be National Pancake Day, a day to enjoy fluffy delicious pancakes with syrup and reflect on how truly long these fried flat pieces of bread have been in our diets.  

For 30,000 years, we have made pancakes, mixing and frying the batter on hot rocks in our early stages of living to present day where we fry the batter on stovetops in pans to create flat cakes.  One of our oldest signs of these flat cakes was found in the remains of Otzi the Iceman.  He was found in 1991 in the Italian Alps, providing scientists more information on what residents in the Neolithic age ate. His last meal consisted of red deer meat, ibex meat, and grounded einkorn wheat with bits of charcoal, suggesting to scientists that what he ate was some form of a pancake. In ancient Greece and Rome, ingredients to create pancakes consisted of wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and curdled milk. However, during the English Renaissance, they ate pancakes with spices like rosewater, sherry, and apples to add more flavor to their flat cakes.  However, the actual use of the name “Pancakes” hadn’t begun until the 15th century and they were called other things instead. Some of these other names were “Indian Cakes”, “Hoecakes”, “Johnny Cakes”, “Journey Cakes”, Buckwheat Cakes”, “Griddle Cakes”, and “Flap Jacks”.

In Early America, pancakes were made of buckwheat and cornmeal, which was especially loved by the American president Thomas Jefferson, who loved the pancakes so much he ended up sending a special recipe all the way to his hometown Shadwell, Virginia! The first American cookbook that we know of that had some pancake recipes in it was in Amelia Simmons “American Cookery” published in 1796.  The first two recipes in the book for pancakes were called, “Johnny Cakes”, or “Hoecakes” which called for milk, Indian Meal, and molasses. The second recipe was called “Indian Slapjacks”, this dropped the milk but added four eggs.  

We all know the saying “flat like a pancake”, which has existed since around 1611, negatively referring to flat-chested women or for better circumstances flat terrain like Poland or the Canadian Glaciers.  In 2003, this recurring use of the catchphrase led three geographers with a curious sense of humor to travel across Midwest America to find the relative flatness of pancakes compared to that of Kansas. Getting a pancake from the International House of Pancakes, IHOP, they used a digital imaging processing system and a confocal laser microscope, and some similar profile of Kansas from the United States Geological Survey, to find the hilarious results that even though pancakes are rather flat, Kansas is flatter!  As National Geographic quotes, “Where, mathematically, a value of 1.000 indicates perfect tabletop flatness, Kansas scored a practically horizontal 0.9997. The pancake, in contrast, scored a relatively lumpy 0.957.”. However, in Kansas’s defense, there are actually multiple states in America that are flatter than a pancake including, Florida the flattest one followed by Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware.

Now that we have concluded that pancakes may not be all that flat knowing that multiple states are even flatter, we can begin to wonder how Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday) began.  In the earlier days, Pancake Day was a day to celebrate and feast before the beginning of Lent, a Holy event that lasts for six weeks where Christians fast, pray, and attempt to reconnect with their God.  Before Lent Day, Christians would make many delicious meals that are made with almost spoiled food so they wouldn’t go to waste, such as eggs, milk, and butter, many of these dishes had a  pancake-like look.  However, we aren’t in these kinds of times anymore when we must get rid of almost spoiled foods, because we have fridges and ways to keep food fresh, so we celebrate Pancake Day through other things! In  London Pancake Day is taken on on a huge scale. Big restaurants going mad to make as many pancakes as possible and adding toppings to catch the eye of tourists or anyone to get money. Another event for Pancake Day is pancake races where you must walk at a fast pace relativity and flip a pancake all the way to the end without stopping. 

Pancakes have been an amazingly delicious, and easy dish to cook for years and years!  Shrove Tuesday has also given us a good time to connect with others and just have genuine fun.  So without further ado, I wish you all an amazing Pancake Day.