Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pancake Day

Star and Little Cherub are looking forward to Tuesday. In England the day before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Tuesday, or more popularly Pancake Day (which is why Angel is not anticipating it like her sister - she doesn't like pancakes). Pancakes were originally eaten on Shrove Tuesday to use up milk and eggs before Lent, in the days when there was a strict Lenten fast. The fasting from animal products has disappeared, but the pancakes haven't. The name "Shrove" Tuesday comes from "shriving" the old English word for confession. Traditionally Shrovetide was a time to go to confession in order to prepare for Lent.

There are a number of pancake related events around the UK - pancake races, pancake tosses, the ringing of pancake bells - which you can read about here. One of the best known takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire:

According to tradition, in 1445 a woman of Olney heard the shriving 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, cooking pancake. She must toss it three times during the race that starts at the market square at 11.55 am. The first woman to complete the winding 375-metre course (the record is 63 seconds set in 1967) and arrive at the church, serve her pancake to the bell ringer, and be kissed by him, is the winner. She also receives a prayer book from the vicar.

Olney is only about 20 miles away from us, but I've never been to see the pancake race. I really should go one year.

There are a few pancake related picture books, but I have only been able to find one specifically mentioning pancake day: Little Grey Rabbit's Pancake Day by Alison Uttley. It is out of print, but I was able to buy a copy for a penny plus postage from an Amazon seller. It is really a little long for Cherub, but the pancake flipping and eating descriptions kept her hanging in there - though I think she will enjoy it more next year.

We often eat pancakes for breakfast, but on Pancake Day we will have an extra large pile of them for dinner. This recipe is pretty much the one I use, though I don't put butter into the pancake batter.


Faith said...

Growing up we never did the pancake thing for Shrove Tuesday. I don't know why. So I always have trouble remembering to do something to mark the day. This week I've decided to make Belgian waffles for dinner. Close enough, I guess.

It is interesting to read about the orgins of the word 'shrove' and the British traditions surrounding the day. Hope Little Cherub enjoys her pancakes!

Fe said...

Have you seen 'Pancakes, Pancakes' by Eric Carle? Our copy has _just_ arrived (I'd borrowed it in the past from the library). It tells you how to make pancakes—starting from the wheat, the cow and the chook:-)

The Bookworm said...

Fe ... I wanted to get Pancakes, Pancakes, but left it too late and it wouldn't have arrived until half way through Lent. Unfortunately our library doesn't have a copy :(. Next year!

Fe said...

It probably wouldn't arrive in time _now_, but I ordered my copy from Book Depository ( in the UK, cheaper than amazon for the most part, free shipping). I ordered it on 11/2, and it arrived on 19/2. I don't know if you've tried them, but I can only assume it would be even quicker for you!

Anonymous said...

A fun book about pancakes (though not Pancake day as such)is the Ladybird book "The Big Pancake." Gill

Jo Jordan said...

Oh do come over! The race starts at 11.55am in the Market Place. It's best to get here a bit earlier because of parking.

To see one of the previous races, have a look at

You can join Olney100 (we welcome everyone). If you are coming over, do let me know!

Jo on

Anonymous said...

i do a weekly reading theme challenge and we did pancakes this week!

Anonymous said...

i do a weekly reading theme challenge and we did pancakes this week!

Karen said...

Greetings from the West Coast of Canada! I came across a link to your blog from another mum's blog. We *always* had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday growing up Canucks and I'm all set for my brood tonight. Pax!