Blog it and scarpa on 21st Feb 2023

After Christmas, and Easter, and New Year’s Eve, and St Patricks Day, and Spring Break, and Superbowl Sunday, and Mardi Gras, and your birthday, and your kids’ birthdays, and your nan’s birthday, the best day of the year is Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day.

Shrove Tuesday is the feast before Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday (the day when you’re supposed to quit smoking). It always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday (you’re checking your calendar now, aren’t you?). Lent is a period of 40 days during which Christians remember the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus. It is a time for fasting, reflection and prayer, and for charity. Some areas of Catholicism practise abstention from alcohol, drugs and sexual intercourse. This is called marriage.

Lent comes from the olde English word meaning ‘lengthen’. So, they shortened the word for lengthen to Lent. The clever basts.

On Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians (think Chris Hemsworth’s Thor) went to confession and were ‘shriven’ of their sins. Hence, Shrove Tuesday. A bell would be rung to call people for their confessions. This was called the ‘Pancake Bell.’ Not to be confused with the ‘Taco Bell’, where people are called to the nearest bathroom to expel their sins and cry out the name of their God. And promise never to do it again.

In mediaeval times, before the fasting, you’d empty the fridge of all the perishables that wouldn’t keep for 40 days. However, back in the day, all you could get your hands on were eggs, milk, salt and flour. So you threw it all in a frying pan and poured Golden Syrup all over it. Today, thanks to the efforts of Tories, you can only afford to get your hands on eggs, milk, flour and salt. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to turn the gas on to cook it as their mates (The Russians) have put the prices up. So actually, we're giving up pancakes for Lent (there are no problems, only solutions).

In the UK, just eating pancakes isn’t enough. We’ve always got to do something stupid (see upcoming Cheese-rolling blog), and Pancake Day is no different. In towns and cities across the country, Pancake Races are held. Large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, race down streets tossing pancakes. The object of the race is to get to the finishing line first, carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flipping the pancake as you run. The winner gets committed to the nearest sanatorium.

The most famous pancake race takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire. According to tradition, in 1445 a woman of Olney heard the pancake bell while she was making pancakes and ran to the church in her apron, still clutching her frying pan. The Olney pancake race is now world famous. Competitors have to be local housewives and they must wear an apron and a hat or scarf. Each contestant has a frying pan containing a hot pancake. She must toss it three times during the race. The first woman to complete the course and arrive at the church, serve her pancake to the bellringer and be kissed by him, is the winner. She then gets committed to the nearest sanatorium.

Tonight, when the kids are home, we’re making pancakes. And we’ll take turns in tossing them. Some will end up on the floor, some will end up on the ceiling, but they’ll all end up back on their plates, drowned in the juices of freshly squeezed oranges, Golden Syrup and sweet, sweet sugar. (Don’t panic we have pancake mix, golden syrup or why not try them with some Cadburys Chocolate or Crunchie or Caramel spread on top in stock!)

And we’ll declare that pancakes are the greatest things in the world, and that Pancake Day is the best day ever.

Tomorrow is nan’s birthday.