Shrove Tuesday is just around the corner and for many Christians, February 21st, 2023 will mean pancakes for supper!
Not being a pancake lover, I decided to do a little research on this questionable meal choice. I knew that Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras) preceded Ash Wednesday when many folks give up something that they love as a sort of penance during Lent. Historically, it would be rich food of some sort that was given up and your Shrove Tuesday meal would be your last kick at the rich food can, so to speak.
This just made me all the more curious why anyone would choose pancakes as their last tasty meal!
Well, it seems that we owe a debt of gratitude (or not) to a lady in the middle of cooking up a pancake supper. When the Church bells rang in Olney, UK one day in 1445 indicating it was time for confession (where one would be “shriven” or absolved of sin), she ran to the Church in her apron, clutching her frying pan full of pancakes.
And now, centuries later, in many parts of the UK, pancake races are a big part of Shrove Tuesday celebrations. And, not surprisingly, the most famous race of all is held in Olney where local “housewives” don their aprons, hats and scarves, clutch their frying pans and race to the finish line, all the while flipping their pancake at least three times. The first woman to finish the course and arrive at the Church, serve her pancake to the bellringer and kiss him wins the race.
Pancake recipes can apparently be traced back to Roman times. The main ingredients – milk, flour, eggs – were considered “rich” ingredients which, I guess, accounts for their becoming the “rich” meal of choice.
Even if they aren’t my favourite food group, the following description of Shrove Tuesday at the Cathedral may be enough to entice me out this year. I asked Jim Morrell for his memories of Shrove Tuesday meals at Christ Church Cathedral.
Here’s what Jim had to say:
“Male members of the Cathedral (take that Olney!) have been preparing and serving pancakes, sausages and beans for the Shrove Tuesday congregation-and-friends supper for over 60 yeas. One of my childhood memories is eating pancakes that my Dad served to my Mother, brother and me in the original Memorial Hall lower level in the late 1950’s. Not only was it a tasty (mmmm) and plentiful meal for the growing number of post-war baby boomers like me, it was a 'day off' so to speak for our stay-at-home Moms who didn’t have to prepare it. It’s always been lots of fun for those who come to enjoy the food and the conversation and for those who cook and serve.”
Well, Jim, you and the members of St. Joseph’s Guild will be warming up your favourite pancake flipper in no time!
Maybe even I will put aside my pancake dislike and come out for that evening of fun with family and friends. After all, there will be lots of time after supper to grab some chocolate or other rich delicacy on the way home before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent!
by Gail MacGillivray
Celebrate the beginning of Lent by attending Christ Church Cathedral’s Shrove Tuesday pancake supper at Cathedral Memorial Hall on 21 February from 4:30-6:30 pm. Enjoy pancakes, sausages, and beans followed by gingerbread with toppings. Coffee and tea will be available. Admission is through freewill donation. Everyone is welcome, so bring your friends and family!