Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is known by many names throughout the world. The most popular name globally, perhaps, is Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras, which literally means Fat Tuesday, is a carnival celebration which has its roots in the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia, a festival that honored the Roman deity Lupercus. When Christianity began to spread the early Church decided to adapt and incorporate certain festivals into the new faith rather than just banning them.
The English terms “Shrovetide” and “Shrove Tuesday” come from the old English word “shrive”. “To be shriven” means to go to confession and receive absolution.
Not only was Shrove Tuesday a day of self examination, it was the last day in which people could feast before their Lenten fast kicked in. Shrove Tuesday’s menu was designed to use up all the fats, eggs and dairy products left in the kitchen and storerooms. Hence the name Fat Tuesday. Nothing was allowed to go to waste. Families often ate up to twelve times over the course of the day.
Pancakes, which are the traditional meal in England on Shrove Tuesday, came about because of the need to use up the eggs, butter and milk. Although the pancakes we have now came about in the 18th Century due to the influence of French cooking, we used to make a smaller more fatter pancake probably like a pikelet – a type of crumpet.
So as we enter into this season of fasting let’s enjoy our pancakes and look forward to the greatest of feasts.
Here is a simple pancake recipe which will have you flipping and tossing pancakes much to your children’s delight:
110g/4oz plain flour.
200ml/7floz milk mixed with 75ml/3oz water.
Pinch of salt.
Sift flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Break in eggs and begin to mix milk and water. Whisk until you have a smooth batter.
Melt a small amount of butter in a 7in frying pan. Put 2 tablespoons of batter in the pan and swill around. It will cook quite quickly. When you can lift a side up and it looks golden flip over and cook for another few seconds. Top with your favorite topping, lemon and sugar, golden syrup, maple syrup, Nutella – the combinations are endless. Enjoy!