Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Pancake Day!

Oops! Just found out that just because something says, 'free stock photos,' you can't actually use them for free, so you have to look at my old pic of hazelnut pancakes again till I take some new ones.


Today in celebration of Pancake Day I am experimenting with a variation on Lebanese pancakes which involves walnuts (haven't got any pistachios), rosewater and honey. There can't possibly be another food as versatile, cheap, ubiquitous or delicious as pancakes. You can have them with pineapple or banana in Bali; with smetana (sour cream) and berries or with ham and mushrooms in Russia; with stewed apple and cinnamon in Germany; as delicate crepes Suzette in France or with maple syrup in Canada and many variations in between.
Although the form  - usually some combination of flour, eggs and too much fat, varies from place to place, Pancake Day is celebrated in many countries too. While the familiar flat, round pancakes are the norm in most of the English speaking countries, Germany, German -Americans, Danes and Lithuanians favour a sugared or jam filled doughnut -though Lithuanians are pretty keen on both.  In Finland  and Sweden, where the day is called Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) they fill their doughnuts with marzipan and whipped cream. (Haven't tried those yet!). Canadians in Newfoundland and Labrador like to add trinkets and coins as a predictor of future fortunes, whilst Poles in Poland and abroad favour the pączki , another type of doughnut - glazed, filled and/ or sugared and eaten in large quantities on Fat Thursday, the Thursday before Lent. Meanwhile the Portuguese from the Island of Madeira, prefer their Masledas filled with custard or fruit, a custom which planters also carried to Hawaii and New Orleans.
[Most of this is from  wiki ]

These days, the custom is most often associated with the Christian Calender - it's the last Hurrah before the start of the Lenten fast, a period of austerity and atonement. In France, Germany and the Spanish speaking countries, it is usually also accompanied by colourful processions, costumes and frivolity, variously known as  Fasching in Germany, Carnivale (meaning farewell to meat) in Spain and South America, and Mardi Gras (also meaning Fat Tuesday) in France, the idea of this excess being to consume all the rich food left.
However, I just found a website from the Ukraine which celebrates Pancake Day (Maslenitsa) all week long. It describes it as an ancient pagan custom which was adapted to Christianity (like Easter and the Winter Solstice)  because the people could not be persuaded to give up their traditional festivals.
I couldn't agree more, though not all Pancake Day celebrations were great.  In Britain, for instance, along with pancake races with hot pancakes, football games and wrestling, cockfighting was considered part of the fun. Mercifully, this has largely been stamped out in Europe though sadly there are still parts of the EU, and other parts of the world where killing animals for fun, is still considered OK.

Cock -fighting in Bali a few years ago
I promised I wouldn't preach (much) this week, but I'm glad that most of us have learned to enjoy ourselves without having to be cruel to other animals. By all means bring on the pancake races. Life is much too serious these days. Men dressing up as housewives for a pancake race could be fun and bring on those free range eggs too so that we can unite in the joy of  
Pancake Day! 

PS I have been giving our major retailers a bit of a serve lately, so if you need some pancake ideas, I'll just say that there are  some good recipes on the Coles website.


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