I confess. Who put the “shrove” into Shrove Tuesday? What is a shrove when it’s at home? Yet the French version, Mardi Gras, is obvious. It’s Fat Tuesday!
Shrove Tuesday used to mean – cue one of those whizzy-whazzy onscreen flashbacks to the monochrome, monocultural Catholic Ireland of yesteryear – the day to stuff your gob with pancakes, chocolates, sweeties, crisps, biscuits, cake, fizzy drinks, jelly and ice cream and so on (did I miss anything out apart from the booze and fags?) and… oh oops yeah right. Tons and tons and tons more pancakes.
Because it’s flippin’ Pancake Tuesday today. And Ash Wednesday tomorrow, so tomorrow we die. Tomorrow it’s Lent.
Pancake Tuesday is a movable feast. Literally. This year it’s a month before St Patrick’s Day (which is always 17 March, though in Ireland in recent years the day has expanded into St Patrick’s Entire Week). A movable feast and a last gasp of fun before Lent.
But as the comedian Tommy Tiernan once observed, only the Irish would schedule the biggest piss-up of all time, Paddy’s Day, bang in the middle of Lent, “as if Jesus came out of the desert and said, ‘Ah lads the divil is wreckin’ me head, give us a pint will ye’.”
Pancake Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, was probably a pagan holiday originally, one of those many rituals that were hijacked and refashioned by the Christian Church. Those hot round yellow pancakes symbolise the alleged return of the Sun after all that winter darkness, allegedly.
But why should pancakes be a once-a-year here-comes-the-spring thing?
They can range from sweet crêpes to savoury stuffed rolls. They can be thick like the North American breakfast ones (that I’m not a great fan of), or ever so thin like the French variety.
There are tons of possible fillings, sauces and accompaniments rather than just the “traditional” lemon juice plus granulated sugar, or butter plus jam.
They are also handy in dishes such as the inside wrapping around the beef (before the puff pastry) in a Beef Wellington, or the outside of a homemade version of the classic Findus crispy pancake (they don’t have to be just ham and cheese either – think chicken and sweetcorn).
So go on, let your hair down, flip your wig, be imaginative out there. And have some pancakes today, tomorrow, and the next day too.
Right, I’m off to make some crêpes suzette.