Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” [Account given in the gospel attributed to St Matthew, Chapter 4].
Today is the Christian feast day best known as Shrove Tuesday. This moveable feast day, also known as Pancake Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, is traditionally observed by Christian communities here in Ireland; occurring each year between February 3rd and March 9th, to coincide with Easter.
Positioned the day before a time dedicated to fasting; 47 days before Easter Sunday, Christians continue to use Shrove Tuesday as a time to confess and be “shriven” or absolved from all their sins, by way of their confession and the undertaking of penance, before the start of Lent.
The association with Shrove Tuesday and pancakes of course is the fact that Shrove Tuesday is the last opportunity to use up your eggs and fats, before embarking on your Lenten fast, which for the most part saw meat removed from your diet over your subsequent 40 day venture.
The ingredients of pancakes or griddle-cakes were viewed as representing the four pillars of Christianity, e.g. eggs representing creation; flour signifying the mainstay of our human diet; salt expressing wholesomeness and finally milk indicative of purity.
Traditional pancakes, featured in cookery books as far back as the 15th century, are thin flat cakes served immediately on being cooked; usually with sugar, perhaps a sweet syrup or lemon juice.
Your Traditional Thurles Irish Pancake Mix:
One serving of pancakes for a family of 5 will necessitate the whisking of 8 ounces of plain flour, 2 large eggs, 1 pint milk, 1 tablespoon of melted butter and a pinch of salt. When whisked this mix should be left to stand for some 30 minutes.
Next, heat a little oil in your frying pan, before pouring or ladling in sufficient batter to thinly cover the base, (Tip: Tilt your pan so as to spread the mixture evenly; while allowing it cook until the base of the pancake has browned. Then shaking your frying pan to loosen the pancake, you can with minimum practise flip / toss your pancake over to brown the other side. Of course you can avoid spills by ‘Flipping’ your pancake over using a palette knife or fish slice.
This tradition of ‘tossing your pancake’ however goes back in time:- “And every man and maide doe take their turne, and tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.” (Pasquil’s Palin, 1619).
Shrove Tuesday next year, 2018, will fall earlier, on Tuesday, February 13th.