British, Culture, Dutch, Food

Today’s the Day for My Annual British Pancake

Today is pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday if you want to get technical. Growing up in Britain this was the only day of the year we really ate pancakes. And then as pudding, not as our main meal. It was a festive affair, and something to get excited about.

Every year, on this Tuesday we would sit in the kitchen watching my mum mix up a large batch of pancake batter and then ladle it into the hot pan. She’d quickly swirl the pan around so the batter entirely covered the bottom of the pan, and we’d watch the pancakes take form.

When one side was done, she’d toss them into the air. Occasionally they landed on the floor, but most of the time the pancakes ended safely back in the pan. As we got older we were allowed to try our hand at tossing pancakes, invariable ending in disaster. Then we’d be waiting on the sidelines ready for our mum to slide a pancake out of the pan onto the plates in our outstretched hands.

On the dining table there’d be white sugar and Jif lemon waiting for us. The pancake was only ready to eat once we’d sprinkled sugar over it, lashed it with drops of lemon juice and then rolled it up.

The origins of pancake day lie in getting rid of foodstuff to prepare for Lent. It’s Fat Tuesday, mardi gras or carnival time, depending on where you live. For us as young children pancake day was the day before we gave something up for Lent. As we got older this stopped, and it just became a wonderful family tradition.

Essential ingredient for my annual British pancake
Photo Credit: Adam Eret

When I moved to the Netherlands I discovered that the Dutch are pancake crazy, but the pancakes here are not the same as my annual pancakes growing up. Dutch pancakes are much thicker, and the Dutch have dreamt up just about every feasible and unlikely topping you could imagine for a pancake. Delicious but nothing nostalgic about them. 

Pancakes are no longer a once-a-year affair for this expat Brit and pancake day will certainly not hold the same lure for my children as it did for my brother and me – I guess when you live in a country where it’s acceptable to have pancake day any old day of the week an annual pancake feast will never have quite the same appeal.

In any case Happy Pancake Day – and if you fancy doing it British style today head over to Smitten by Britain for a pancake recipe
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3 thoughts on “Today’s the Day for My Annual British Pancake”

  1. Ditto for Canada – we eat pancakes all the time. As we currently live in the UK, we have discovered that unlike the British variety, Canadian pancakes have baking powder in them. Awesome with lots of Canadian maple syrup of course! We’re moving to the Netherlands in one month, and when we visited, our kids were DELIGHTED to try the Dutch version for breakfast!

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