Well, Shrove Tuesday (pancake Tuesday) is almost upon us and we shall be bombarded with celebrity chefs flipping their pans on every form of media not to mention endless shots of tall fluffy pancake stacks flashing up on our screens. It’s a far cry from its humble beginnings going back to the 14th & 15th Century where Shrove Tuesday formed part of the Anglo Saxon Christian faith. Christians would go to confession be absolved from their sins (“Shriven”) prior to the Lenten fasting and Ash Wednesday and eat this humble pancake without the toppings of Nutella, blueberries, lemons, sugar and maple syrup I might add.
I was born into the Catholic faith, and so Ash Wednesday and pancake Tuesday was all part of my upbringing. But we understood it as something sweet before you gave up something you liked e.g sweets or sugar in your tea for 40 days only to gorge on them on Easter Sunday at the end. And you only had pancakes on that Tuesday. Not every Sunday for brunch or from a stall at a market. My God how things have changed. Now pancakes are a stable, like pasta to the Italians, spuds to the Irish or baguettes to the French. This simple thing is big business and instead of absolving you from sin it is as sinful and as indulgent as you can make it. Smear chocolate on it, layer it with fruits & icecream or drown it in maple syrup. Nothing virtuous about it now I can tell ya. I was never a big pancake person in honesty. But for me still, the simple way is best. Just a thin pancake (I call them 80’s Irish pancakes), sprinkle of caster sugar, squeeze of lemon and either golden syrup or lemon curd. A squeeze of lemon makes anyone feel virtuous.
Like most things, commercialism has ruined a perfectly simple and enjoyable occasion. The anticipation of a child for this special annual treat or the chatter in a classroom of “how many pancakes did you eat?” is gone forever. The quirky traditions are gone. No one even knows why we have pancakes anymore because we can have them anytime. The more often the better it would appear. A simple, honest dish of 3 ingredients has become sinfully mass-marketed over time. It’s kind of a shame.