Happy Pancake Day!

So here it is – Shrove Tuesday. Isn’t it called Fat Tuesday in the South? Or is that just New Orleans? Either way, today is the day before Lent, and here in England that makes it Pancake Day. No gumbo, no jambalaya, no spicy foods, no revelry, no Mardi Gras parades . . . just a nice, simple, understated, very English approach to the day before Lent – pancakes.

The tradition began apparently, because people were cleaning out their cupboards in preparation for the 40 days – and needed to use up all the eggs and flour. Thus the pancake. And an interesting observation that I read somewhere was that the Egg theme at Easter is nothing to do with pagan fertility symbols being surreptiously brought into the resurrection story . . . it’s far more likely that the hens kept right on laying all the way through Lent – and so by the time it got to be Easter everyone had a vast quantity of eggs that they needed to deal with in some way. Coloring them and making up games for children with them is a very clever use of resources I have to say!

Now, I don’t do Lent. But I can definitely get into Pancake Day. I mean, in the same way that I can appreciate Bonfire Day even though I’m not English, I can also really get into the spirit of Pancake Day even though I’m not a 15th century Catholic. There’s just something so festive about having a silly dinner. A hands on, everyone participates dinner that involves no veg whatsoever, and in which children get to have ice cream in the main course. I mean – how could you not jump at the excuse?!

The pancakes of course are really crepes – they’re not our puffy pancakes with maple syrup. They’re crepes, and apparently are traditionally served (in that understated English way again!) with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sugar. But in keeping with perhaps more of the Fat Tuesday approach to things, I busted out the Nutella, vanilla ice cream, maple syrup, sauteed apples, and let the kids put whatever they wanted on them. First though, I let each of them fry up their own pancake – and then doctor it up. Everyone ate in the kitchen and took turns at the stove . . . loads of fun, and although a terrific mess, it’s quite a low maintenance dinner really.

It was also good, because tonight was one of the few nights that Ben wasn’t home for dinner as he had quite the posh little hoo-ha to go to at his college tonight. And they didn’t serve him pancakes as a matter of fact. He brought home the menu, so let me just give you a little synopsis of what HE had tonight! First, drinks in the ante-room. Then, dinner in the Hall. Here’s what the Hall looks like.


You can’t see it, but up there at the front is a portrait of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

First course: Marinated Vegetable Terrine with Mozzarella Balls and Sun-blushed Tomato Pesto served with the college white wine, Saint-Veran Les Pierres Blanches 2005. Second Course: Lobster and Quail Egg Souffle with Cambozola Cream Sauce. Third Course: Char-grilled Fillet Steak with Cep Gratin, Dauphinoise Potatoes, Root Vegetables, and Purple Sprouting, served with the college red, Chateau Fourcas – Dupre Listrac – Medoc 2001. Next up, Panacotta with Rhubarb Soup and Blood Oranges, served with the college Port. With the port, they all stood and toasted the House (i.e. Christ Church college) and the Queen, since she is the “Visitor of the House.” And finally, coffee and boxed chocolates.

Is that, or is that not, just the sort of excess that leads to things like the French Revolution? I ask you.

So, if you’re out of ideas for dinner tonight (those of you in the time zones that are still before dinner!) then you’ve got two new ideas. Either you can shoot for Ben’s meal, or you can go for mine! Personally, I would vote for lugging in a new tradition and going for the pancakes.

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19 thoughts on “Happy Pancake Day!

  1. I have never served my crepes with ice cream…and I’ve avoided them lately because it takes so much time to get them all made with one pan and the appetite our family has!

    I like this make your own twist.

  2. Funny thing. The roast I put in my crock pot wasn’t going to be done in time so I had to think fast for dinner. As I was cooking our pancakes and keeping them warm in the oven to pile on the table all at once, I thought I’d hop over to Femina and see if there’s anything new. What do you know..It’s pancake day and I had no idea. I think I’ll make some chocolate milk to add to the celebration!

    All those peanut butter lovers out there (see the archives) will be glad to know we smear the pancakes with peanut butter then drown them in syrup. The baby will need a bath after this one!

  3. In Russia we get to have Pancake Week! It’s a pretty big deal here, too. The pancakes are also more like crepes, but you can put anything in them–chicken, meat, veggies, or my personal favorite: chocolate and banana!

  4. The hall looks just like the one in Chariots of Fire when they have that lovely formal college dinner, with everyone in their tails, cumberbunds, and fine shirt fronts.

    We used to have pancakes as our Sunday evening meal. But now we’re all off gluten. I had a friend tell me recently, “pancakes are boring.” I was flabbergasted: there are few things on earth so easy to dress up as a pancake!

  5. Yes, it is Fat Tuesday here in the South.
    The only time my kids and I have pancakes for supper is when my husband is gone, he doesn’t really care for pancakes (for supper anyway) but my little ones think it’s such a special treat, even without the ice-cream :o)

  6. My international students introduced me to the beauty of pancake day. I try to do it every year, san all the Marti Gras affair. It’s a wonderful tradition!

  7. Crepes with a cheese sauce and ham are wonderful! It’s a new version of the old ham and cheese sandwich.

  8. Alas, I didn’t know it was pancake day yesterday. I guess it was French toast day for us.

    I’m sorry, but if someone were twisting my arm to pick which dinner I wanted, I would pick Ben’s dinner. Alas at my snobby pancake-disdaining ways!

  9. My husband is Polish, so we do Fat Thursday (I haven’t researched enough yet to figure out why Thursday instead of Tuesday). We make paczki, which is similar to filled donuts, but way better!

    Maybe we could incorporate the pancakes and have a Fat Tuesday as well.

    …maybe we could just have a Fat Week…that sounds rich.

  10. Yes, we have had to go off gluten, (Hello, Heather, I can tell it’s you!) but I’ll still go for a crepe any day! My husband and I just enjoyed a humongous one together this past Saturday, filled with loads of Nutella, fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and toasted walnuts! This long crepe was made into a fat roll, then sliced on the diagonal. The diagonal slices were then plated on an angle, the ends of each new layer placed on top of the previous layer. (Imagine a braid.) Then berries were sprinkled on top of that! How lovely! Let’s hear it for plating and presenting simple food! This little bistro by the sea also serves them with ham, asparagus, and mornay sauce. Or how does brie and pesto sound? Oh, yum!

  11. We had beignets, a New Orleans favorite last night. It’s fried dough that is smothered in powdered sugar. Our church is one of the few that still has a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. I suppose that is due to it being Anglican and therefore very British in deed.

  12. Here in America, International House of Pancakes (IHOP) has Free Pancake Day on Fat Tuesday. You can get a free short stack of pancakes! When I was there (eating my free pancakes), I noticed that they now offer crepes filled with Nutella! I was excited to see such a treat on the menu, and would have gotten it if I hadn’t already hit my recommended daily allowance of Nutella at breakfast.

  13. This is a bit off subject, but our children are allergic to wheat/gluten/etc. and we make them crepes with alternative flours. I admit, it’s not the same as wheat, but once you add all the yummy toppings, they’re quite delish! If you need a recipe, let me know.

    In Michigan, thanks to our Polish friends, we celebrate it as Fat Tuesday, too, with the paczk’s mentioned above. But since my kiddos can’t have those, I’m delighted to know we can still celebrate with crepes! Next year, we will feast! Thanks for the info!

  14. Alison, I would love to see your non-wheat crepe recipes. I am just learning to make things with alternative flours and need to boost my recipe stash. Thanks a bunch for posting!

  15. Sure. This recipe is from http://www.killthegluten.blogspot.com

    1 cup brown rice flour
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 eggs
    1 tbl. melted butter
    1 cup milk

    Mix flour and salt together. Mix melted butter, milk and eggs together. Add liquid to solids. Pour on heated grill.

    I butter my grill well before pouring the batter each time, b/c it can be very sticky. I actually use half brown rice flour and half tapioca flour, just b/c I like that consistency better. I also skip eggs altogether since my kids are allergic to those as well. I don’t even use egg replacer (if this is something you might need), b/c it made them too sticky. Feel free to email me if you have further questions or needs. It can be helpful to talk to others who are doing similar recipes: williamlandis@sbcglobal.net

    Thank you for letting me post this here!

  16. @Tai What is the recommended daily allowance of Nutella? I have some stern-Faced friends that claim it should never be eaten while mumbling about trans-fats or some such thing. And I would just as soon not stop until I’d reached the bottom of the jar…

  17. So sorry Bekah. I would definately choose Ben’s meal, but certainly not if I had to make it! By the way, Leah’s Amoretti skirt arrived the day before we headed to the beach, to both our delights. It fits great, she loves it, and it was great for the beach. Thanks for being so talented.

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