By Helen Morgan
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, the day on which pancakes are traditionally eaten, falls on the 25th February this year. It is the day before Lent, which runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday with the forty days in between being devoted to fasting and penance.
Pancake Day was originally a way of using up food before the long fast began. The word ‘shove’ has its origins in the archaic language of the Roman Catholic church with the word ‘shriven’ meaning to have ones sins forgiven.
The humble pancake predates Christianity however, having been around since ancient times. Known as ‘Alita Dolcia’, meaning ‘other sweet’, the first pancakes were made from a mixture of eggs, flour, milk and spices and were cooked in the open on hot stones.
In the early 15th century, the first pancake recipe appeared in England. In addition to the three basic ingredients we use today (flour, eggs, butter) honey or sugar was added.
Made by the native Indians, the first American pancakes were called ‘nokehick’ meaning ‘it’s soft’.
The early settlers made pancakes from cornmeal and called them Indian Cakes while the Dutch substituted buckwheat for cornmeal and called them Buckwheat Cakes. It was the English settlers who introduced Pancake Day, previously known as Shrove Tuesday, to the United States.
In the 18th Century, American pancakes were called Hoe Cakes because they were cooked over an open fire on the blade of a hoe. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the word ‘pancake’ came into general usage.