Pancake day! Today is Pancake Day. Really we should call it Shrove Tuesday but I am willing to bet that loads of people don't actually know that. (Is that ignorance one of our British Values?) Indeed, if you google Shrove Tuesday, this is what you will find on Wikipedia:
"Shrove Tuesday (also known in Commonwealth countries as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake day) is the day in February or March immediately preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), which is celebrated in some countries by consuming pancakes. In others, especially those where it is called Mardi Gras or some translation thereof, this is a carnival day, and also the last day of "fat eating" or "gorging" before the fasting period of Lent."
Is it some throwback to puritan times that we have Shrove Tuesday, a name that comes from the word "shrive", meaning absolution for your sins, making today a day for confessing all the awful stuff you have done before eating pancakes as a symbolic eating up of the remaining sweet stuff that you plan to give up for Lent?
The countries that refer to it as Fat Tuesday go about giving stuff up for Lent with a good deal more style with carnival parades and masked balls and other grand goings-on.
I was going to say that climate might have something to do with it but then I remember having seen some very chilly carnival parades in Vigo, Galicia. Dancing through the streets in skimpy costumes which consist largely of feathers is one thing in Rio de Janeiro and something completely different on a wet and windy evening in North West Spain. Goose bumps don't do a lot for a body!
Anyway, we did pancakes early this year. Today most of the family are working or at school so everybody came to tea on Sunday and I made pancakes. The thirteen year old decided that she did not like pancakes any longer. Considering how few things she will eat and how very many she will not, it seemed rather a shame to cut put pancakes as well. We persuaded her to try one. She became reconverted. We reminisced about the times when she and her brother were smaller and for a while were dropped off at my house for breakfast before I took them to school. It became a tradition to have pancakes for breakfast, followed by a game of tig around the kitchen table. On Sunday we dispensed with the game of tig!
Today being Pancake Day, there was an article about eggs in the paper. Apparently this is the day of the year when the greatest number of eggs are sold. The UK consumes an estimated 52m eggs on Pancake Day, more than double the normal rate. This is because of people making pancakes. Really? I find that hard to believe. On Sunday I made enough pancake mix to provide six people with several helpings each and I only used one egg. Maybe all the people who rush out to buy eggs for their pancake mix never buy eggs the rest of the year. Or maybe they simply do not know how to make a good pancake mix.
Besides, for those people who truly do not know where to start there are packets of pancake mix on sale. All you need to do is add milk or water. Then comes the hard bit: putting just the right amount of mix in the frying pan to give you a nice thin pancake (a crêpe - surely that's why we call that thin, crinkly, coloured paper crepe paper) and tossing the thing successfully without throwing it around the room. I confess to flipping my pancakes over with a spatula; it's a lot less messy but not so spectacular. In my kitchen pancake making is not really a spectator sport!
The article about eggs was not really about Pancake Tuesday at all; it was about free range eggs not being so free range as we might think. It stated that about half the eggs sold in supermarkets are usually free range. Who knew that? Because of an outbreak of bird flu, chicken farmers have been advised to keep their birds indoors. Consequently free range egg boxes will carry a sticker explaining that the box contains “eggs laid by hens temporarily housed in barns for their welfare”. How thoughtful!
The egg producers hasten to reassure us that their normally free range birds are not being badly treated by having to move indoors. They said, “While free-range egg farmers would prefer their birds to be outside, they also wouldn’t want to risk the health of their birds. Their sheds have plenty of room for the birds to move around freely and include scratching areas so birds can still display their natural instinctive behaviour.
Farmers have also put in additional stimulants like footballs, cabbages and even Christmas trees to keep the birds happy.”
Perhaps they could arrange a little carnival for them while they are at it!