Tuesday, March 8, 2011
For our Christian friends, today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent.
“Shrove” is the past participle of “to shrive,” meaning to absolve one’s sins through confession and penance. The tradition, at least among certain Christian denominations, is that one should have confessed one’s sins prior to Lent, allowing one to enter the season with a clean slate. Kinda sorta like Yom Kippur, except without the fasting.
Because Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lenten dietary restrictions kick in, many people enjoy a Last Hurrah, consuming mass quantities (pun partially intended) of meat, eggs, sugar, and butter. It’s a cholesterol-fest of biblical proportions. It’s also why the day is popularly known as Mardi Gras (“fat Tuesday”) or Carnival (“goodbye, meat”).
So: what do you do with all the sugar, eggs, and butter? Why, you make pancakes. Yes: it’s Pancake Day!
Pancakes are a venerable food. Nutritious and tasty, they’ve been around ever since some ancient genius figured out that you could take the carbohydrate-rich seeds from certain grasses, grind them into flour, mix that flour with water or milk, and bake the resulting goop on a hot rock. And just as many cultures have their own version of protein wrapped in a dough casing (ravioli, kreplach, pelmenyi, gyoza, won ton), there are at least as many varieties of pancakes.
How’s this for a restaurant idea? Open a place that serves the pancakes of many nations. French crêpes, German pfannkuchen, Dutch pannenkoeken, Jewish latkes, Mexican tortillas, Japanese okonomiyaki, Russian blini. Griddle cakes, hotcakes, flapjacks. Say, you could even call it The Multinational Place for Flapjacks. No, wait...
Me, I loves me some pancake. If I’m making conventional pancakes, local food guru Alton Brown’s recipe gives excellent results. With a dab of butter and a warm splash of real maple syrup, those cakes are as delightful (and indulgent) a breakfasty meal as anything one could ask for. But today, I will leave the pancake-eating to our Christian friends.