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International Pancake Day, What?

Every year I think I'll add International Pancake Day to the calendar and every year I am blindsided by this day of goodness. This year I decided I needed to have an understanding of why we have such a wonderful day. After a quick Google search I found some credible sources that made a whole lot of sense and go wonderfully with the work I am doing to trace the pathways of Southern foods, though pancakes are NOT Southern.

If you are someone who likes to get down in the kitchen, like moi, you'll know that pancakes are a relatively simple recipe. Much like biscuits, how they vary depends on where in the world (literally) you live, how you like them (flat as pancake or crepes as they eaten in some parts of the world) or fluffy (how I like them), and how many ingredients you want to add to create the desired effect.

Pancakes, or something very similar, have been traced back as far as 79AD. In other words, there is evidence of a pancake type food as long as 2,000 plus years ago and that evidence was found in Pompeii. You remember the story about Pompeii, right? Those pancake remains were preserved thanks to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In all likelihood, the ancestors of pancakes probably date even further back as the cultivation of wheat traces back to what we know as the Middle East around 10,000 years ago.

Arriving back to a time closer to Pompeii's famous devastation, the idea of eating pancakes (and thus today's International Pancake Day) is tied to Shrove Tuesday and the start of Lent. In 325 the Council of Nicea came together to formalize many traditions now part of the Christian faith. Lent was developed as a way for the faithful to fast for the 40 days leading to Easter in much the same way that Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert or Moses fasted for 40 days prior to receiving the Ten Commandments. In an effort to prevent the wasting of foods, such as animal products, they would be giving up during the Lenten period, they used the eggs and dairy to make pancakes on the night prior to Ash Wednesday which is known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday! Shrove (Fat) Tuesday is the final day of Carnival or Shrovetide and we see this play out in Carnival in Brazil and in Mardi Gras in New Orleans! (Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday!)

Who knew all of these things were so connected?

Whether or not you celebrate Shrove Tuesday or take part in a Lenten practice, the International Day of Pancakes is probably one that can unite us all.

I have spent a ridiculous amount of time through the years looking for the perfect pancake recipe. I found the winner at All Recipes ( and this is the one you want to save, print, share, all of it - but most of all you want to make this recipe!

Just for fun I also found the first recipe for pancakes known to be published in a recipe book in the United States. It was written by Amelia Simmons and is titled American Cooke (sometimes American Cookery) and was published in 1796. I have it here as it is not under copyright restrictions. Mrs. Simmons listed the recipe in the "Cakes" section of her cookbook. Note she uses corn meal or "Indian" meal. I have been known to add corn meal to my pancake recipe. Corn meal adds an interesting taste and texture! But, for the most part I stick to the recipe linked above. Mrs. Simmons' recipe is as follows:

Johny Cake, or Hoe Cake.

Scald 1 pint of milk and put 3 pints of Indian meal, and half pint of flower -- bake before the fire. Or scald with milk two thirds of the Indian meal, or wet two thirds with boiling water, add salt, molasses and shortening, work up with cold water pretty stiff, and bake as above.

Regardless of whether you like them flat as a pancake or light and fluffy and no matter what your toppings of choice are, I hope you will enjoy pancakes tonight for dinner!



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