Happy Pancake Day!

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In the Christian tradition, today the the final day before the beginning of Lent, also known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Faschingsdienstag, Malasada Day, Sprengidagur, Martes de Carnaval, and Pancake Day! All these terms refer to the last hurrah of overdoing it before the Lenten fasting begins. Celebrating by eating pancakes uses up your supply of oil, eggs, milk, and sugar, which you may be giving up until Easter. So let's celebrate the pancake!

Pancake Race

Many communities have a pancake festival or some kind of gathering to eat pancakes together before Lent. One of the oldest is in the village of Olney, England where an annual Pancake Race dates back five centuries! On Shrove Tuesday, women compete against each other in a 415-yard race in which they must carry a pancake in a skillet. The legend is that when the church bells rang for Shrove Tuesday service in the year 1445, a certain housewife was not finished grilling the cakes. Not wishing to ruin her pancakes, she ran to the church with pan in hand. The traditional race will be carried on today in Liberal, Kansas as well. The Kansas event is now a three-day festival.

The Pancake Project

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The Pancake Project is a blog chronicling the art of the pancake. The author has been experimenting with creative cakes for over ten years, and welcomes submissions of your best flapjacks. See pancakes that look like other food, scenes, and even 3D artworks made of pancakes! Other pancake blogs include Illinois Pancakes with reviews of pancake restaurants in Illinois and Daddy Cakes, which is a blog attached to a baking products store, but they feature pancake news and stories from all over.

History of the Pancake

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Pancakeology has a wealth on information about pancakes. The history of flatbread goes back at least to ancient Rome, where Alita Dolcia (another sweet) was consumed. The use of pancakes before Lent dates back to medieval times in Europe. Native Americans already had soft flatbread made from cornmeal before the Europeans arrived. Why are pancakes so popular? Because they are made of simple ingredients people have on hand, can be made quickly with available appliances, and lend themselves to additions of your favorite flavorings. With some variations, fried flatbreads are found in dining places all over the world. Image by Flickr use Gilmoth.

World Records

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The largest pancake breakfast ever was held on February 9th, 2008 when the Fargo (North Dakota) Kiwanis Club served up 34,818 pancakes! The Guinness organization awarded the Kiwanis the record of "most pancakes made in 8 hours".  The "most pancakes made by an individual" title belongs to Steve Hamilton of Chris Cakes, who poured and flipped 956 pancakes on May 6th, 2009. In February of 2009, chefs Sean McGinlay and Natalie King built a stack of pancakes 29.5 inches tall at a hotel in Glasgow, Scotland to claim the "tallest stack" record.

Pancakes in Literature

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In the rarely-seen children's book Little Black Sambo, the story ends with a large dinner of pancakes. The racially-charge illustrations and the name itself overshadowed the basic story of a boy and four tigers. In 1957, Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett started a restaurant and used a combination of their names to name it Sambo's. The chain used pictures of the story's characters to decorate its dining rooms and advertising, including the pancakes. The connection with the book led to charges of racism, and the restaurant chain went bankrupt in 1981. Other children's book featuring pancakes are The Great Pancake Escape and If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

Pancake Events

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The International House of Pancakes (iHop) celebrates Pancake Day when Lent is be well underway. The explanation is that the odd date extends their fundraising drive for the Children's Miracle Network. So whether you can take advantage of the free pancakes depends on whether you are giving up those treats for Lent. However, you can still donate to the fundraiser!

The Pancake Bunny

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The most famous pancake on the internet is that which lies on the head of Oolong,  the Pancake Bunny. Hironori Akutagawa took photographs of his very patient pet rabbit with various items balanced on his head. The picture of Ooolong balancing a pancake became ubiquitous in a picture used for forums and websites with the caption "I have no idea what you're talking about"¦ so here's a bunny with a pancake on its head."

Pancakes!

James Provan made a name for himself with the joyful music video Pancakes! in 2006. Happy Pancake Day!

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February 16, 2010 - 4:08am
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