It’s Pancake Day!

Have you ever wondered why we eat pancakes at the start of Lent? I was always told that it was because they were a good way of using up all the good food before the Lent fast, when  you weren’t supposed to eat things like meat or wine. I’ve always been baffled as to why the using-up meal wasn’t a roast dinner (or at least a meaty stew or pie). Why have an abstemious vegetarian dish which would have been perfectly acceptable in Lent?

In fact my last blog post, about Candlemas, may give the answer – and it seems it’s not the ingredients that are important, it’s the colour and the shape of the pancake. Candlemas rituals are all to do with the end of winter, and in some parts of Europe pancakes are cooked at this feast, because their round golden shape is thought to symbolise the returning sun. In the UK we have moved Pancake Day to Shrove Tuesday, the start of Lent, although this year Shrove Tuesday falls only eleven days after Candlemas.

What about a PAS record for Pancake Day? How about these two objects (WILT-E20CC5 and LON-A6B625): 17th- or 18th-century toy frying pans. Ironically, these tiny toys survive much better than the full-size originals, which would have contained valuable metal and so were probably recycled rather than discarded. They show the kind of shallow circular frying pan in which a pancake could have been cooked a few hundred years ago.

Toy frying pans from Zeal, Wiltshire (WILT-E20CC5) and Tower Hamlets, London (LON-A6B625)
Toy frying pans from Zeal, Wiltshire (WILT-E20CC5) and Tower Hamlets, London (LON-A6B625).