Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A choice for today: pancakes or shriving?

(Photo: www.wilsonsalmanac.com) This item is for the benefit of our Spanish readers, whose pronunciation of the word 'pancake' is too similar to that of 'pound cake', thus leading to much confusion - and confusion as to the connection between the day before Lent, today, Shrove Tuesday, and pancakes, might be cleared up below (where you will also find an international variety of pancakes and various celebrations and names for the same thing). Those of us brought up in at least a quasi-English tradition, or even a full English one, know all about Shrove Tuesday, though, don't we? So if you do (and we didn't) then there's no point in reading beyond this point. On the other hand, the rest of us might find the following interesting and informative, not to mention fattening.>

Shrove Tuesday is a term associated in English-speaking countries, especially the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of the United States for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of fasting and prayer called Lent. The word 'shrove' is the past participle of the English verb to shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and doing penance. During the week before Lent, sometimes called Shrovetide in English, Christians were expected to go to confession in preparation for the penitential season of turning to God. Shrove Tuesday was the last day before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, and noted in histories dating back to 1000 AD.

The popular celebratory aspect of the day had developed long before the Protestant Reformation, and was associated with releasing high spirits before the somber season of Lent. It is analogous to the continuing Carnival tradition associated with Mardi Gras (and its various names in different countries) that continued separately in European Catholic countries.

In the United States, the term Shrove Tuesday is less widely known outside of people who observe the liturgical traditions of the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic churches. Because of the increase in many immigrant populations and traditions since the 19th century, and the rise of highly publicized festivals, Mardi Gras has become more familiar as the designation for that day.

In the United Kingdom and many other countries, the day is often known as Pancake Day. Making and eating such foods was considered a last feast with ingredients such as sugar, fat and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent.

Fat Tuesday

All Catholic and some Protestant countries traditionally call the day before Ash Wednesday Fat Tuesday. The name predated the Reformation and referred to the common Christian tradition of eating special rich foods before the fasting season of Lent. Other countries called it the Tuesday of Carnival, referring to the popular celebration of Carnival that became associated with the feasting.

In Ireland, it is known as Máirt Inide (meaning, in Irish, Shrovetide Tuesday), and Pancake Tuesday.

For German American populations, such as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it is known as Fastnacht Day (also spelled Fasnacht, Fausnacht, Fauschnaut, or Fosnacht). The Fastnacht is made from fried potato dough and served with dark corn syrup. In John Updike's novel Rabbit, Run, the main character remembers a Fosnacht Day tradition in which the last person to rise from the table would be teased by the other family members and called a Fosnacht.

On the Portuguese island of Madeira they eat Malasadas on Terça-feira Gorda (Fat Tuesday in English) which is also the last day of the Carnival of Madeira, the reason for making malasadas was to use up all the lard and sugar in the house, in preparation for Lent (much in the same way the tradition of Pancake Day in the UK originated on Shrove Tuesday), Malasadas are sold along side the Carnival of Madeira. This tradition was taken to Hawaii, where Shrove Tuesday is known as Malasada Day, which dates back to the days of the sugar plantations of the 1800s, the resident Catholic Portuguese (mostly from Madeira and the Azores) workers used up butter and sugar prior to Lent by making large batches of malasadas.

In Iceland the day is known as Sprengidagur (Bursting Day) and is marked by eating salt meat and peas.

In Lithuania the day is called Užgavėnės. People eat pancakes (blynai) and Lithuanian-style doughnuts called spurgos. (Those Lithuanian ones sound and probably taste like Russian blinis, no?)

In heavily Polish Catholic areas of the United States, such as Chicago and the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Michigan, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests, music and other Polish food. However, in Poland this celebration falls on the Thursday which precedes Ash Wednesday and is called Fat Thursday. On that day Poles eat a lot of pączki, which are a Polish version of doughnuts. The Polish name for Fat Thursday is Tłusty Czwartek and since it is not a public holiday, pączki are not only eaten at home, but also at work and school. It is also a day of celebration in catholic parts of Germany to mark the beginning of the carnival parade season, ushered in by women and young girls, hence called "Weiberfastnacht".

Pancakes and more pancakes
USA:  We believe that American style pancakes (photo) are particularly thick or fluffy, and best served with Vermont maple syrup and butter. Some American cooks add a little vanilla, while others add blueberries; most also add baking powder to create their 'griddlecakes'.

Canada:  Canadian pancakes are moister than American ones but still served with maple syrup.

China:  Chinese pancakes are fried in sesame oil and are apparently superb with duck.

Finland:  Finnish pancakes are ideal for people with a sweet tooth, these should be served with jam, whipped cream, berries, cinnamon and sugar, honey or maple syrup.

France:  The French excel at crepes [sweet] and galettes [savoury] and often served with a bowl of local cider.

Germany:  The Germans tend to make apple pancakes which are baked in the oven.  They also have 'Puff' pancakes, which look like English 'Yorkshire Puddings'.

India:  Indian pancakes sound scrummy; savoury pancakes are prepared with ginger, garlic and cayenne. Mung beans may also be part of the recipe.

Italy:  Calzoni are common in Italy, they are more like an enclosed pizza than an English pancake.

Mexico:  The renowned Mexican pancake equivalent is the wheat tortilla; Will has also eaten them made from maize [cornmeal].

Netherlands:  'Flensjes' (photo) are crepe cakes, usually made with apples and occasionally rhubarb.

Nigeria: Nigerian pancakes are often served with beans, tomatoes and shrimp, making a complete meal.

Norway:  'Krumkakes' are thin, crisp, cone-shaped cookie-like crepes, often served at Christmas. They are sometimes made with a special flat iron which leaves a decorative pattern.

Poland: Polish pancakes, 'Nalesniki', are thin crepes which are usually served with a special cottage cheese filling. Lovely.

Russia: The regular Russian the pancake of choice is the 'blini': which is small and thick, ideal with sour cream or caviar.
Sweden:  The Swedish Raggmunk is made from riced potatoes.

Welsh: The Welsh make their pancakes with buttermilk or sour cream.
Can you add to the list? And have you discovered the connection between Pancake Day and Shrove Tuesday? And what are you giving up for Lent, anyway?

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