For those of us whose lives more or less revolve around food, it doesn’t take much of an excuse to get us tucking in with gay abandon. But if you do need an excuse, I have a great one for you this week: it’s Pancake Day!
Yes, this year, Shrove Tuesday has been kind enough to fall during the half term break, giving those of us who have kids (or are just big kids ourselves!) the chance to make the most of this truly scrumptious holiday.
Its name deriving from the term ‘shrive’, meaning ‘to confess’, Shrove Tuesday is a Christian celebration; a time of self-reflection and preparation for the penitiential and contemplative season of Lent. It became customary to indulge in a final meal of the rich, fatty foods one would abstain from for the coming forty days, and making pancakes would be a sensible way to use up foods like eggs, sugar and milk. This is the origin of Mardi Gras, which is French for ‘Fat Tuesday’, and has evolved into the Carnival tradition of wild and ecstatic revelry; a ‘last hurrah’ before the sombre Lenten season of fasting.
In England we have a slightly less spectacular but equally entertaining tradition. It is said to have originated in the town of Olney, Buckinghamshire in 1445, at which time Shrove Tuesday was known as a ‘half-holiday’, which would begin with the ringing of bells for the Shriving church service. It is said that a local housewife, who had lost track of the time while busy cooking pancakes, ran to the church still dressed in her apron and kerchief, frying pan in hand, tossing a pancake to keep it from burning. Thus was the first ever Pancake Race!
Pancake races are held in towns and villages all over the UK on Pancake Day, as community gatherings and often raising funds for local charities and good causes. And if you’re in Bath this week, you can see one firsthand for yourself, or even take part – there’s still time to sign up!
Bath’s Flippin’ Pancake Race 2015 takes place right outside the Bath Abbey from 2.30pm on Shrove Tuesday 17th February, in aid of the fantastic charity, FoodCycle Bath. Run from St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Julian Road, FoodCycle Bath aims to benefit the local community with that simplest of pleasures, a hot meal in good company:
“We’re all volunteers, and we all like to cook. We don’t like to see food wasted, and we know that supermarkets and shops have to throw away lots of edible food every day. We know there are people going hungry because they don’t have the money, time, or equipment to cook a proper meal for themselves. So we thought – let’s get in the middle of that, take the edible food and cook for the community.”
The first hour of the event is for kids, who can have a go for 50p, without signing up in advance. The grown-ups race then begins at 3.30pm, with teams of four competing to win the coveted Golden Frying Pan. If you want to take part you can sign up via the Fringe Arts Bath website for a £20 entry fee, which goes directly to FoodCycle. See you there!