Friday Food and Drink Post: Not So Fast

 

Five days to go before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lenten fasting for many Christians. Of course, that means that Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is coming up too.

We didn’t call it “Fat Tuesday” when I was growing up. We knew that the religious context of the day, the last day of Shrovetide, deemed it Shrove Tuesday. But we didn’t call it that, either. We called it “Pancake Tuesday.” And the big news story of the day was always which housewife or young lady won the Pancake Race in Olney, Buckinghamshire. (Take a look at the photo in the linked article. It seems the transgender sports craze (and I use the word advisedly) hasn’t reached this sleepy little town yet. At least, not obviously. And if it’s not obvious, it probably hasn’t.)

The Pancake Race, like another historic Spring event, the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling, has had its ups and downs over the years with the Health and Safety authorities of the nanny-state occasionally complaining, reacting to injuries, changing the rules and banning parts of the festivities outright. But both seem to be heartily enjoyed in the closing years of the second decade of the twenty-first century, and that is nice to see.

The legend of the Pancake Race is that it originated, sometime in the fifteenth century, with a woman who was making pancakes when she heard the church bell calling the parishioners to the Shrove Tuesday service. She ran to the church still in her kitchen working attire, with her pan and the pancake still in it, flipping the pancake (more about that later) as she went. The Race continued for centuries, lapsed during the World Wars, and was last revived in Olney, in 1948. In 1950, the Pancake Race went international, when the town of Liberal, Kansas, challenged Olney, and Olney and Liberal now compete annually, exchanging prizes for the winner. (Sort of like America’s Cup, only pancakes instead of yachts.)

I know you’re all fascinated by now, so if you’d like to run your own version of the Olney Pancake Race this year, here are a few more things to keep in mind: Rule #1, most importantly: Participants must be “housewives and young ladies of the town.” No celebrities. No politicians. No men, or faux-women (enjoy it while you still can, Olney, it’s just a matter of time). You must have a pancake pan (cast iron makes the best pancakes, but is hard on the wrists if you’re racing and flipping). You must wear a skirt, even if you wear leggings under it. You must wear an apron. You must cover your head. You must run approximately 400 meters (that’s about 65 lengths of my kitchen), from the market-place to the church. You must carry a frying pan with a pancake in it, and you must flip the pancake three times during the race, and as you cross the finish line.

Now, those pancakes: English pancakes are not like their fluffy, thick American cousins. They’re thin and delicate, and best served (my family thinks) sprinkled with a little sugar and drizzled with lemon juice. They’re very much like French crêpes. But English, of course. Anyhoo, here’s a recipe, courtesy of BBC Goodfood, if you’d like to try them.

And here is a rather Monty-Pythonesque rundown of the race, which shows the critical “flipping” action quite well (it’s easy once you get the hang of it). Don’t worry about the train bit at the beginning, it’s only about three seconds; the video is poorly trimmed. And at the end, as well. I was sorry not to see the rest of the story that starts out, “Up at Ashbourne, among the Dales of Derbyshire, they take their fun a little rougher . . .” But it ends there. Sigh:

This Shrove Tuesday, we’ll start the day at Chez She as we always do, with an English-style pancake breakfast. Then, I have scheduled a very mardi-gras treat for myself and one other in the afternoon. Sorry, you can’t join us. Perhaps we’ll invite you to share, vicariously and after the fact.

What are you doing, the week before Lent, to stock up on calories and richness? Even if you’re not super-observant (or even Christian), it’s a good excuse, isn’t it?

There are 17 comments.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    What fun! I love it! I felt kind of bad at the end when one racer’s pancake was in shreds, but all’s fair, right? Thanks, @she, for a light moment.

    • #1
  2. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    I’m Polish, so it’s Paczki! The Polish pronunciation has a sound that we really don’t have in English, but it’s basically “Poonshki” or “Pownshki.”  However, what it is not is a jelly donut.  It is not baked.  It is not split like a hamburger bun to encase whipped cream or gloppy filling.  A little rose hip jelly is very Polish.  I like to use the strawberries from a good preserve (Bonne Maman is good).  My grandmother used to make Packzki without any filling at all.  Paczki is made with plenty of egg yolks and butter and fries up a deep, dark, brown.  For some reason Lent sneaks up on me and I haven’t made them in years.  We are traveling next week, so I think I will make some this weekend.

    • #2
  3. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    We called it shrove Tuesday, too! But I don’t call it that anymore because nobody knows what I’m talking about!

    My youth group would host a pancake dinner for our church as a fundraising effort. $5 a ticket for all you can eat pancakes. Our praise band offered entertainment.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    I’m Polish, so it’s Paczki! The Polish pronunciation has a sound that we really don’t have in English, but it’s basically “Poonshki” or “Pownshki.” However, what it is not is a jelly donut. It is not baked. It is not split like a hamburger bun to encase whipped cream or gloppy filling. A little rose hip jelly is very Polish. I like to use the strawberries from a good preserve (Bonne Maman is good). My grandmother used to make Packzki without any filling at all. Paczki is made with plenty of egg yolks and butter and fries up a deep, dark, brown. For some reason Lent sneaks up on me and I haven’t made them in years. We are traveling next week, so I think I will make some this weekend.

    This is embarrassing . . . the drool is collecting in the corner of my mouth! Yummy!

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Back around Chicago, the pączki were everywhere. I think I know a bakery that can set me up, but I might have to settle for a bear claw.

    • #5
  6. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Stina (View Comment):

    We called it shrove Tuesday, too! But I don’t call it that anymore because nobody knows what I’m talking about!

    My youth group would host a pancake dinner for our church as a fundraising effort. $5 a ticket for all you can eat pancakes. Our praise band offered entertainment.

    That sounds lovely.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    I’m Polish, so it’s Paczki! The Polish pronunciation has a sound that we really don’t have in English, but it’s basically “Poonshki” or “Pownshki.” However, what it is not is a jelly donut. It is not baked. It is not split like a hamburger bun to encase whipped cream or gloppy filling. A little rose hip jelly is very Polish. I like to use the strawberries from a good preserve (Bonne Maman is good). My grandmother used to make Packzki without any filling at all. Paczki is made with plenty of egg yolks and butter and fries up a deep, dark, brown. For some reason Lent sneaks up on me and I haven’t made them in years. We are traveling next week, so I think I will make some this weekend.

    Gosh, those look good, and remind me of my mother-in-law (in a good way).  

    • #7
  8. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Percival (View Comment):

    Back around Chicago, the pączki were everywhere. I think I know a bakery that can set me up, but I might have to settle for a bear claw.

    The photo above is from a Chicago Tribune article about where to buy them published a couple of years ago.  

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):

    Back around Chicago, the pączki were everywhere. I think I know a bakery that can set me up, but I might have to settle for a bear claw.

    Same here in Detroit area.

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Back around Chicago, the pączki were everywhere. I think I know a bakery that can set me up, but I might have to settle for a bear claw.

    Same here in Detroit area.

    Same with Grand Rapids. The Chicago Diaspora seems to cover most of Michigan, though there are still more people of Polish descent in Chicago than there are in any other city (including Warsaw).

    • #10
  11. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Back around Chicago, the pączki were everywhere. I think I know a bakery that can set me up, but I might have to settle for a bear claw.

    Same here in Detroit area.

    Same with Grand Rapids. The Chicago Diaspora seems to cover most of Michigan, though there are still more people of Polish descent in Chicago than there are in any other city (including Warsaw).

    Many, many in Pittsburgh as well.  Lovely old churches with old ladies in the basement churning out the world’s best pierogies, and other lovely treats.  Such good comfort food.

    I’ve also been, a couple of times, to the Pittsburgh Ostatki, the Polish mardi gras celebration.  That’s a high-society event, and the food is spectacular.  (Also the only times in my life I’ve sampled bison-grass vodka.)

    • #11
  12. Nanda "Chaps" Panjandrum Member
    Nanda "Chaps" Panjandrum
    @

    She (View Comment):
    the pączki

    Giant Eagle started offering them on 2/28; too early, but still…

    • #12
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I hear the frontrunner somehow managed to waffle it last year.

    • #13
  14. Nanda "Chaps" Panjandrum Member
    Nanda "Chaps" Panjandrum
    @

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    I hear the frontrunner somehow managed to waffle it last year.

    Ba-dum-pum…

     

    • #14
  15. Shauna Hunt Inactive
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    I read about this in an encyclopedia when I was a child. It’s nice to understand it better as an adult. I always thought it looked like fun! Thanks for sharing the recipe, too.

    • #15
  16. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    I read about this in an encyclopedia when I was a child. It’s nice to understand it better as an adult. I always thought it looked like fun! Thanks for sharing the recipe, too.

    Thanks, and you are welcome.  Hope you try the recipe.

     

    • #16
  17. Shauna Hunt Inactive
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    She (View Comment):

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    I read about this in an encyclopedia when I was a child. It’s nice to understand it better as an adult. I always thought it looked like fun! Thanks for sharing the recipe, too.

    Thanks, and you are welcome. Hope you try the recipe.

     

    I will! We’re big fans of crepes here. I like mine with lingonberries and butter. Lingonberry butter is even better!

    • #17

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