As everyone prepares to dig out our frying pans , we take a look at the history of Shrovetide and the meaning behind the humble pancakes that we all look forward to feasting on.
Find our recipe for this delicious dish of Baked Pancakes with Chicken, Bacon & Wild Mushroom here.
First of all, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day - which is it?
Shrove Tuesday origin dates back to medieval times and is closely linked to the Christian calendar. This was the name traditionally given to the proceedings, but over the course of the last century, as the day has become detached from its historical roots, it is now more commonly referred to as ‘pancake day’. We aren’t the only country to partake in pancake day. In France, it is referred to as ‘Mardi Gras’, which can be translated literally into ‘Fat Tuesday’; this theme is continued in Iceland, where they say ‘Sprengidagur’, meaning ‘Bursting Day’!
The history of Pancake day
Pancake Day has a rich history that merges various religious, cultural and culinary traditions.
Historically, Shrove Tuesday has always fallen on the day prior to Ash Wednesday, another date from the Christian calendar. Ash Wednesday is a day marking the start of Lent, which refers to a period of 40 days leading up to Easter. Traditionally, Lent was a time to fast. Fasting and abstinence was taken very seriously with “rich” foods such as eggs and milk temporarily banned, to signify discipline and sacrifice during an important time of the Christian year.
Shrove Tuesday was the day to use up any food that could not be eaten during Lent - a sort of ‘last hurrah’ prior to the fasting season. Pancakes became part of the day’s tradition as they offered a convenient way to use up the foods that would generally be forbidden, making sure they did not go to waste and removing temptation from everyone in the household!
Although its religious links are obvious, pancake day is also considered by some to have originated from a pagan festival, when warm, round pancakes were cooked to symbolic the sun, as a way of celebrating the longed-for arrival of Spring.
Pancakes in a modern world
Throughout the centuries, pancake day has become somewhat detached from its original roots; the vast majority of us look forward to eating a pile of pancakes at some point on pancake day, but it’s doubtful that many of us use it as an opportunity to clear out our fridges, or indeed observe the period of lent afterward.
On the contrary, it’s likely that most of us add extra ingredients to our weekly food shop ahead pancake day, rather than seeing it as a day to use up produce.
According to statistics, no less than 13 million kilos of flour and 52 million eggs are used on pancake day in the UK alone. That is approximately 22 million more eggs than on an average day of the week!
It’s days like this that remind us of the importance of acknowledging the effects of our consumption on our planetary health. Of course, this doesn’t mean go without your pancakes, but simply to do what you can to limit the impact they have. Ensure your eggs are laid by local, free range hens. Choose organic, unbleached flour that has been produced in harmony with nature, by small scale producers. Opt for milk that has been produced ethically, by local dairy farmers with grass fed herds. Not only do these small changes create a big difference by supporting small scale growers and makers and limiting environmental impact of your food consumption, but they make an even bigger difference when it comes down to taste.
A Pipers Farm Pancake
We have put together a recipe that combines the simple delight of a pancake with a luxurious savoury filling of roast chicken, wild mushrooms and bacon, in a creamy sauce made ever so moreish by the addition of artisan cheddar cheese.
This recipe relies upon the remains of a delicious roast chicken - both the tender meat and the remnants of a gravy jug. We like to think of this as a respectful nod of acknowledgement to the humble roots of Shrove Tuesday.
However you intend to spend Shrove Tuesday, and whichever recipe you choose to follow, be sure to honour the centuries-old tradition by enjoying a plate of deliciously tasty pancakes with an array of your favourite toppings.