One of my favorite English customs is pancake day. This is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday (the day before Lent starts) and traditionally it was then you used up the fat and sugar before Lent began. Obviously it is a similar idea to Fat Tuesday.
When I was at school we used to make and sell pancakes for charity. Some places hold pancake races or pancake tossing (flipping) competitions. There is of course a world record for pancake tossing. At Westminster School where I used to work pancake day is known as the Greaze and the tradition of an organized pancake fight has been followed since 1753. It is a bizarre event with a level of violence that would not otherwise be condoned, where the headmaster and staff join pupils in a packed school hall to watch the selected gladiators beat each other up over a large and disgusting horse hair filled pancake. The one with the largest piece at the end wins.
English pancakes are really like crepes and not american pancakes. The most common filling on pancake day is sugar and lemon juice. You put your pancake on a plate, sprinkle it with sugar (ideally caster sugar/ fine sugar) and then squeeze lemon juice over the sugar. It can then be rolled or folded. They can of course, be served with other toppings but I am generally a purist when it comes to pancakes.
Here is a basic pancake recipe:
2 tablespoons melted butter
7 fl oz milk and 3 fl oz water
4 oz flour
pinch of salt
Ideally you should make the batter 1-3 hours ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. This helps to reduce bubbles when you make the pancakes. I believe the recipe originally came from Delia Smith.
I was particularly excited by my pancakes this year because all of the ingredients were local. Snowville milk, home made butter made from Snowville cream, 2 silos eggs and Flying J wholewheat flour. Obviously the sugar and lemon weren’t, but we did have some Ohio Maple syrup as well. The wholewheat flour worked fine in the pancakes, but did add some texture!