Ode to Pancake Tuesday

Allyson Kenning
By Allyson Kenning
March 3rd, 2011

A recent conversation with my father went something like this:<?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Me: Dad! Guess what next Tuesday is?

Dad: What? It’s the 8th.

Me: Yes, but guess what day it is?

Dad: What?

Me: It’s Pancake Tuesday!

Dad: So we’re having a dinner, then.

Me: You bet!  Can you bring sausages or what?

As I said here, I love Pancake Tuesday. I look forward to it every year. This goes back to when I was a kid and my mother, who is a bit of a religious traditionalist, marked Pancake Tuesday each year with a huge pancake dinner, complete with sausages and all the fixings. She made a large batch of homemade buttermilk pancakes and fried them off in her ancient green electric frying pan that dated back to her wedding in 1971.

She broiled sausages purchased from Wright’s Meats, the town butcher, on Columbia Avenue (the location is now Clansey’s). Incidentally, Wright’s had the best sausages ever, which still provide me with foodie nostalgia all these years later, and the likes of which I have never seen or tasted anywhere else.

As a young kid who didn’t have a clue what was going on, I just thought it was super cool to have a breakfast meal for dinner. As I grew older and my mother attempted to instill some religion into us kids by raising us in the Anglican Church, I began to understand that this was actually a religious occasion that had nothing to do with pancakes or breakfast at all.

Pancake Tuesday, AKA Shrove Tuesday, AKA Mardi Gras, AKA Fat Tuesday, is the last day before Lent. The day after Pancake Tuesday is Ash Wednesday, which marks the 46-day lead-up to Easter. Traditionally, Christians made big nutritional sacrifices for Lent, and often this meant a time of fasting, or at least a period of abstinence from fatty, rich foods. The day before the fasting time began, households in the British Isles made pancakes, because historically, pancakes were a food that used up the last of a household’s fats, sugar, and eggs.

Mardi Gras, which literally translates into “Fat Tuesday”, is something many of us are familiar with. Way back in the day, it was a period of carnival and celebration time before Ash Wednesday, a means of getting all the wild-child and partying out of your system before you started fasting and praying for the entirety of Lent. The word “shrove” comes from the verb “to be shriven” meaning that one would obtain absolution for one’s sins after spending Lent doing penance starting on Ash Wednesday.  

We certainly didn’t do anything Mardi Gras-ish in the Kenning household, and we didn’t have any pancake races like they do in some places, but we always had that pancake dinner on Shrove Tuesday, complete with local charcuterie, syrups, jams, and anything else you could think of that would go with a slap-up pancake meal.

When I left home and my family scattered hither and yon, I missed Pancake Tuesday, but when I could, I always kept the holiday, even if I was on my own. There was something about it that brought back great family memories, and when I moved back to Rossland in 2006 where my father, brother, and sister-in-law still lived, I restarted the tradition of the Kenning family Pancake Tuesday dinner.

I am very adamant about keeping this occasion going, and if schedules have interfered with having the dinner on the actual Tuesday, I’ve had it on the Monday before, or on Ash Wednesday itself, which has been renamed at these times Waffle Wednesday. I think some of my family members are perplexed by my zealousness about this event, but I just ignore them and flip away. No one has ever said, ‘no, we’re not coming’–and why would they? Who doesn’t love a pancake dinner made by a pancake or waffle enthusiast like yours truly? No one!

My father has an in with local hunters and charcuterie buffs, and he always has some form of non-pork sausage languishing in his freezer, so he contributes that to the meal. One year, we had the mystery meat sausage because the person my dad got the sausages from hadn’t labeled the packages with anything more specific than “sausages”, so we spent quite a bit of time that night guessing what the sausage was made of (it was probably elk). My dad also has a few people in his life who make homemade bacon, so we usually have locally-made bacon along with the sausages, too. It’s such an indulgent meal it’s not even funny. And I make sure there is real maple syrup on hand.

Pancake Tuesday has the added bonus of being a hassle-free celebration which doesn’t require shopping or large outlays of money or harassed-looking people waiting in long queues in stores. For me, it’s purely a time for hanging out, having a simple meal, and enjoying each other’s company.

This Tuesday it will be just me and my dad, who once again has mystery meat sausages he’s bringing and some experimental bacon from a friend of his who makes bacon out of all sorts of cuts of pork and smoked with different flavours.

I have a bunch of favourite pancake recipes, but this is the one I make most often because my dad likes stuff made with whole wheat (it’s a concession, I have to admit, but I’m okay with it because the sausage and bacon are worth it).

I just wish I still had my mom’s old electric frying pan, because let me tell you, it made the best pancakes. Alas, that gadget is long gone, but I remember it fondly.

Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

3 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp salt

2 eggs

3 cups milk

3 tbsp melted butter or vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla

Whisk together all the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Drop in ¼ cup dollops onto hot griddle, or into a waffle maker to make waffles.

Enjoy!  I know I will!


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