FOOD HISTORY: Pancakes

 Griddlecakes or griddle breads, the antecedent to "pancakes" are an ancient food. While the word
"pancake" appears in print in 1430, griddle cakes/ breads have been around since Neolithic man domesticated einkorn wheat (Farro-an ancient grain), made flour from it, added a birds egg and goats milk to it and cooked it on a heated rock. Ancient "pancakes" differ from modern "pancakes" in that while they approximated "pancakes", they may have been more like fritters made with either  sweet or savory ingredients.The first "pancake" that could be distinguished from older griddlecakes/breads was described by the Roman gourmet, Apicius who recorded recipes, in Latin, using batters of eggs, milk and oil, some with, some without flour, that were either baked in an oven or fried in a pan. These were  served with lemon and pepper or placed in between layers of savory foods in a casserole. However, it wasn't until 1430, that an English culinary manuscript used the name "pancake" to describe this dish. In early Catholic Europe, pancakes had a large place among Easter foods. Shrove*Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of day of Lent, a long period of fasting and of denial of eating certain foods forbidden by the church. These include flour and fat. Pancakes became a means by which people could deplete their supplies of these items which would not hold up for the long duration of the Lenten fast. This tradition remains in in many countries around the world with large Catholic populations. However, during the Protestant Reformation, many Protestant groups rejected Shrove Tuesday as a day of religious significance. Whether Shove Tuesday is considered a religiously important day or not, the tradition of eating pancakes on the day before Lent begins, continues in many countries; only what the day is called differs. It is "Pancake Day" in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and "Pancake Tuesday" in Ireland and Scotland. In Brazil and the US it is called "Mardi Gras" (Fat Tuesday), "Carnavale" in Italy, "Fasnacht" in Germany and "Apocreas" in Greece. Australians use the name "Mardi Gras" as well as "Pancake Day". The religious aspects of pancakes associated with Christian tradition aside, sweet and savory pancakes are enjoyed everywhere. How pancakes "traveled" around the world is unknown but they are a delicious food eaten  everywhere,  differing only in their shape and ingredients. The French have their crepes; Germans their potato pancakes. In Hungary there are palasinta, blinis in Russia, trid in Morocco, pannekoeken in Holland, jeon in Korea, taginetes in Greece and bao bung in China. In colonial American there were cornmeal Indian cakes and in 19th century America, people ate flapjacks. From the American flapjack, drenched in butter and drowned in maple syrup to the Russian blini served with caviar and sour cream to the Chinese pancakes served with Peking Duck, pancakes are prepared, worldwide, and served and enjoyed regardless of religious belief.




*Shrove comes from the word, "shrive" which means "to confess". The day before Lent was a time for confession in the early church, so, that one was was clean and forgiven before Lent started.