10 Things You Might Not Know About Pancakes

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Honestly, every day should be pancake day, but today is the day that gets the official designation. For National Pancake Day, here are 10 facts you might not know about the lovely, fluffy breakfast favorites.

1. THE ROMANS INVENTED PROTO-PANCAKES.

While some suggest that Ötzi the Iceman was eating einkorn wheat in an early sort of flatbread form, most food historians say that the earliest pancake-like dish, known as Alita Dolcia ("another sweet" in Latin), was made by Romans in the 1st century CE from milk, flour, egg, and spices. They were sold hot from vendors on the corners of the new market squares—the first version of our modern-day crepe stand, you might say. Rather than slathering them in syrup, they'd use honey to sweeten their pancakes.

2. YOU SAY PANCAKE, I SAY PANNENKOEK.

A group of trainee cooks from the London School of National Cookery watch an expert toss a pancake, circa 1933. Getty

By the 15th century, many European countries had their own types of pancake using a wide range of ingredients such as wheat, buckwheat, occasionally alcohol like wine or ale, and herbs and spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In 18th-century Friesland (a province in the Netherlands) the traditional wedding breakfast was pannenkoek with milk and honey. Pancakes take various forms around the world, from the wafer-thin, buttery French crepe to the savory, crispier Japanese okonomiyaki.

3. PANCAKE DAY IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST IHOP.

In the U.K., Ireland, and Australia, Pancake Day (also known as Pancake Tuesday) is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday (which you might know better as Fat Tuesday). It's the last day before Lent, the traditional Christian 40 days of abstinence before Easter. Traditionally, the custom was to empty the pantry of all sugar, fats, and eggs to avoid temptation and reduce waste. These ingredients were put to good use by making and consuming large batches of pancakes.

4. PANCAKE RACES HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR CENTURIES.

A pancake race in Olney, England in 1927. Getty

The all-female annual Pancake Race began in the town of Olney, England in 1445. Legend says it was inspired by a harried housewife arriving at church on Shrove Tuesday still clutching her frying pan, complete with the pancake. Since 1950, the race has become an international event, with the Olney racers competing against the women of Liberal, Kansas. Unfortunately, this year's Olney leg suffered from a technical glitch, meaning no official time was recorded for its winner and making a showdown with Liberal impossible. As it stands, the ladies of Liberal are leading with 37 wins to Olney’s 29.

5. PANCAKES HAVEN'T ALWAYS BEEN IN VOGUE.

In 1935, Vogue told its readers that "pancakes are frankly difficult and not worth eating at all unless they are of paper thinness and succulent tenderness." These days, they seem to have changed their tune—they at least offer a recipe for gluten-free chocolate banana pancakes online.

6. AUNT JEMIMA WAS THE FIRST LADY OF PANCAKE MIX.

The world's first pancake mix was made by the R. T. Davis Milling Company, who hired storyteller, cook, and missionary worker Nancy Green as a spokesperson for their Aunt Jemima mix in 1890. Green was born in Montgomery County, Kentucky, and she played the Jemima character until her death on September 23, 1923. In 1937, the Quaker Oats Company first registered the Aunt Jemima trademark.

7. ONE MAN HOLDS NUMEROUS PANCAKE RECORDS WITH GUINNESS.

The flipping-a-pancake-while-running-a-marathon award goes to Dominic "Mike" Cuzzacrea, who completed a 1999 marathon at Niagara Falls in a time of 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 27 seconds—all while battling wind from the falls. Of course, he had to have some specialty gear, considering he was estimated to have flipped the pancake once every 1.8 seconds for the duration of the race. "There’s a special technique for the pancakes," Cuzzacrea said last month while reminiscing about his pancake-flipping runs. "When you make them for a marathon, they have to be wrapped in Saran Wrap with weather stripping because they have to go through 5000 to 6000 flips over 26.2 miles, plus consider the elements of wind and rain."

And, that wasn't Cuzzacrea's first time setting that particular record, nor would it be his only pancake-related record. He also holds the record for the highest pancake toss at 31 feet, 1 inch, which he set in 2010.

8. PANCAKES ARE FLAT, BUT SEVERAL U.S. STATES ARE FLATTER.

Circa 1955. Getty

A tongue-in-cheek study from the Annals of Improbable Research used polynomial equations to figure out that Kansas was flatter than a pancake, but six states are flatter, namely Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware. Incidentally, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, the phrase "flat as a pancake" has been used since the 1500s to describe everything from flat-chested women to the vast Australian outback.

9. THE WORLD'S LARGEST PANCAKE WEIGHED MORE THAN THE AVERAGE HIPPOPOTAMUS.

Measuring over 49 feet in diameter and weighing 6,614 pounds, the world's biggest pancake was made in Manchester, U.K. in 1994 by the Co-Operative Union, Ltd. And yes, in order to qualify for the record, the giant pancake must be flipped and be edible.

10. THE WORLD'S MOST EXPENSIVE PANCAKE COST MORE THAN A TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT.

Circa 1957. Getty

If your love of pancakes knows no bounds (and you have a budget to match), the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel's Opus One restaurant in Manchester, U.K. holds a place on the culinary map for having the "most expensive pancake in the world." Created in 2014, it would set you back a solid £800 (around $980), but at least that includes lobster, caviar, and Dom Perignon champagne.

Canned Pumpkin Isn’t Actually Pumpkin

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We hate to squash your autumnal dreams, but baking a pumpkin pie might not be as easy as you think. That’s because the canned pumpkin that normally makes pie prep such a breeze isn’t made of pumpkin at all. Food & Wine reports that cans of pumpkin puree—even those that advertise "100 percent pumpkin"—are actually made of a range of different squashes.

Most pumpkin purees are a mix of winter squashes, including butternut squash, Golden Delicious, and Hubbard. Meanwhile, Libby’s, the largest pumpkin puree brand, has developed its own unique brand of squash called the Dickinson, which is more closely related to a butternut squash than a pumpkin. The FDA is vague about what counts as "pumpkin," which allows companies to pack unspecified squashes into their purees and still list pumpkin as the sole ingredient.

While it’s a little unsettling to find out your favorite pie is not what it seems, pumpkin puree brands have a good reason for their deception. While pumpkins are a quintessential part of autumn, they don’t actually taste that great. Most pumpkins are watery and a little bit stringy, and turning them into a puree takes more work, and involves less reward, than other, sweeter winter squashes.

[h/t Food & Wine]

What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

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For carbohydrate lovers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal quite like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say stuffing, though. They say dressing. In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. Dressing seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while stuffing is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it filling, which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If stuffing stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to The Huffington Post, it may have been because Southerners considered the word stuffing impolite, and therefore never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

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