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National Pancake Day, or How We’re Celebrating Shrove Tuesday

By Melissa Summers

I somehow made it to adulthood without ever learning about Pancake Day. I feel like I have missed out on years of carb-y goodness.

Pancake Day — also known as Shrove Tuesday — falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. For many Christians, Lent (the 40 days before Easter Sunday) are a time of abstinence and reflection. Traditionally, certain foods, including butter, eggs and fat, are given up as a kind of penance during Lent.

Butter, eggs and fat are three things you need to make pancakes. Thus, Pancake Day.

After all these years of not knowing about the pre-Lenten pancake feast, I’m ready to celebrate this year.

Our Favorite Pancake Stories

Pancakes Pancakes! by Eric Carle
This story walks young readers through the process of making a pancake from cutting the wheat, creating flour and so on, all in Carle’s signature bold style. This process is almost mythical for Max, since in our world you pretty much open a box and add milk and eggs.

Pancakes for Breakfast, by Tomie de Paola
Madison loved this book when she was little. The wordless illustrations tell the story of a woman who creates pancakes in a process that is dreamlike and creative. Of course, if it was a story about a mother who makes pancakes out of a box but illustrated by dePoala, I think Madison would still love it.

Toss the Box Mix for Pancake Day

I’m thinking tonight will be an impromptu Pancakes for Dinner night and I’m going to step out of my normal box o’ mix routine and  attempt “real” pancakes.

Martha Stewart’s Pancakes 101 primer is a good place to start if your usual approach to pancakes is to open a box and add water. I like the idea of making pancakes from scratch but I have a hard time wrapping my head around this one instruction: “Never whisk the batter until smooth; leaving lumps of unmoistened dry ingredients will result in fluffier pancakes.” That doesn’t seem right. If you’re ready to ditch the box mix, though, you can start with Martha’s Easy Basic Pancakes recipe, or challenge yourself with these ideas for pancakes from around the world. I am intrigued by the English Toad-In-The-Hole and the Buckwheat Blini from Russia. I feel like I should note that these are not what Americans think of as pancakes. If I served any of these so-called “pancakes” to my children, I’m not sure they would ever forgive me.

Alton Brown’s “Instant” Pancake Mix is billed as an easy alternative to premade mixes (the dry ingredients can be store for up to three months in an airtight container, which does save some time, I guess). This recipe looks like it would be a little more tasty than your standard box mix, but it’s also more complicated. I guess you’ll have to decide how desperately you don’t want to make your pancakes from a box.

(I’ll be honest, I’m feeling a little less enthusiastic about this process the more I research recipes.)

Even Box Mix Pancakes Can Be Cute

I’m going to stick with my box mix for now. My theory is that if you make the pancakes look good, it won’t matter how you made them.

Crate and Barrel’s silver dollar pancake pan lets you make seven perfect silver dollar pancakes at once. I have just a teeny bit of OCD and the thought of uniform pancakes makes me feel a little giddy. The pan is also dishwasher safe which goes well with my aversion to washing dishes. You could also opt for a heart-shaped pancake pan, which makes all your pancakes look like love, even if they’re from a box.

Considering the link between Lent and Pancake Day, I think a Jesus Pan would be incredibly appropriate (if a little bit irreverent). “Kids, we’re having Heavenly Hotcakes tonight!” If the pancakes have Jesus’ face on them, does it really matter that you used a box mix? I’m guessing the pancakes will taste extra special. I’m also willing to bet you can come up with a few other foods you’d like to see Him on. Grilled cheese? I wonder if you could see Jesus in an omelette? There’s only one way to find out!

If the Lord’s face on your hotcakes is too much, how about just serving them on some fun Pancakes Make People Happy plates? Because, it’s true: Pancakes DO make people happy! I feel like you could serve just about anything on these plates and they would make you smile. I’d like to serve a steak on the pancake plates because things like that are funny to me.

If you’re just not up to making pancakes, even from a box, then IHOP can help: To mark National Pancake Day, you can get a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Free pancakes and no cleanup! Let’s go! It’s all part of a fundraising partnership with charities that help children battling critical illness, including the Shriners Hospitals, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Even if you make your own pancakes at home, consider making a donation to one of these organizations — it’s a nice way to start the Lenten season.

Hooray for Pancake Day! Sure it’s not Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but it has its own appeal. Like, no hangover.

More From AlphaMom

Teach Your Teen to Make Pancakes From Scratch
Easy Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Pancakes
Celebrate National Pancake Day With a Pancake Craft

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • Laurie

    February 20, 2007 at 11:14 am

    It’s Fat Tuesday! Yeehaw! And, yes, we here in Baton Rouge, LA (one hour from the debauchery of New Orleans) had pancakes for breakfast…or at least my little family did! Of course, pancakes are a staple to a three-year old…so it wasn’t a huge treat!
    Throw me somethin’, mistah!

  • AmyinMotown

    February 20, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I love pancakes, and seriously, pancakes from scratch are the most insanely easy things to make and you feel quite competent and cheflike. I use one from Cooking Light called Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes, if you want to go to their site and search, except I use 2 eggs instead of one egg and an egg white, no oil, and less sugar than the recipe calls for.
    The secret to fluffy pancakes, I once discovered when I got distracted after I’d mixed up the batter, is to leave the batter to sit for 10 minutes or so. The leavener activates and fluffs everything up. It’s really thick, though.
    I am Polish, but don’t like paczki so no paczek for me today! Maybe pancakes (although it’s not like I am giving THOSE up for Lent).

  • emily

    February 20, 2007 at 11:48 am

    The almight Barefoot Contessa’s sour cream pancakes are our Sunday favorite:,1977,FOOD_9936_25681,00.html
    I substitute blueberries, peaches, etc. or just eat them plain, soooo good. Thanks for the breakfast-for-dinner idea, Melissa!

  • Blythe

    February 20, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Have you seen this pancake spatula?
    It’s great for those of us who have trouble turning the pancake without splattering raw dough all over the freaking kitchen.

  • Jenny

    February 20, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I’m from England, and I had frozen pancakes for breakfast because I’m especially lazy- 30 secs in a microwave and they’re perfect! Toad in the hole is delicious, sausages in a savoury batter served with gravy and veg. I loved it as a kid, and my sister survived her teens on it (her palatte couldn’t handle curry)!

  • Jackie

    February 20, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    We are having chocolate chip pancakes tonite! Mmmm …

  • karyn

    February 20, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I was in Windsor one year around Shrove Tuesday and had a paczki. Or I should say, had about half of a paczki. Blargh. Too much jambuster for me.
    We are, however, headed over to the local church tonight for some pancakes and sausages. Because I like it when someone else makes me pancakes.

  • slouching mom

    February 20, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    I like to throw some mashed-up banana or other fruit into the batter to give the kids a little more nutritional variety. They never can tell the difference, because maple syrup is so strong a taste that it hides a multitude of kid-unfriendly flavors! Even zucchini, I kid you not.

  • christopher garlington

    February 20, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    I make pumpkin pancakes for dinner sometimes and my kids treat me like a long lost culinary god king. I just get a can of pumpkin pie filling and stir some of it into the pancake mix. I assume it will work with waffles but waffle makers are deadly and prone to random acts of weird waffle destruction so I’d tread lightly there. But the pumpkin pancake, she is gooooood.

  • toyfoto

    February 20, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Aw … and this morning I made WAFFLES!!! Drat!

  • a cup of tea

    February 20, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Pancakes! My English husband has never celebrated Lent in his life, but nonetheless looks forward to Pancake Day every year, and somehow we always manage to forget it. Thanks to you, tonight we shall dine on pancakes.

  • Nora

    February 20, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    The pancakes in a box phenomenon is such a marketing scam. From scratch is so easy (though I didn’t know that leaving lumps was a good thing. My lazy-butt technique is justified)!
    My favorite recipe substututes cottage cheese for eggs. That way you get melty curds of cheese in your pancakes. Mmmm. Cheese.

  • ageekymom

    February 20, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Being a “Mom Who Drinks” I’m leaving a tip that my Dad taught me about making pancakes that are the fluffiest you’ve ever had. Substitute beer for 1/2 of the liquid called for in the recipe. Don’t worry, the alcohol will cook off and there is only the slightest whiff of beer. The pancakes taste fine.

  • Kaleigh

    February 20, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Our family’s recipe for pancakes is oil-free too…I always thought that was strange, but it’s always good. So good, in fact, that when I’ve reached for the box at the grocery store, my son has stopped me, looked me square in the eye, and told me, “No, Mom,your pancakes are so much better.” Kind of a suck-up, but it works.
    1 cup flour
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2 eggs.
    If you want to be fancy, whip the egg whites separately and fold them into the mixture at the end, but I’m never fancy…I just mix all the dry ingredients then add the wet ingredients. If you don’t have buttermilk, just use regular milk plus a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Yum.

  • amy

    February 20, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    My daughter loves the “Pancakes Pancakes” book, but noted that Jack “shouldn’t shout so much.” I guess he is kind of a bad example, what with all the shouting, and churning of butter, and cutting wheat at dawn…
    Oh, and thanks for giving me an excuse to have dinner tonight without any fighting…everyone loves pancakes!

  • Pants

    February 20, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    My dad used to put corn in our pancakes sometimes. They seemed unconventional but we liked ’em.

  • Rose

    February 20, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    I’ve lived in the United States for 8 years. It was just half an hour ago that I received the shocking news that Shrove Tuesday was not a traditional part of the American Lenten/Mardi Gras experience. This goes a long way towards explaining the anomie which plagues America. America, and indeed the rest of the world, will be a better place once Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) becomes a national holiday.
    Thank you for doing your part, Melissa!
    Peace, love, and pancakes all around 🙂

  • Meg

    February 20, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    I have celiac disease, and yes, you can still have delicious pancakes with this awsome mix. Happy Pancake Eating!!!

  • Kelly

    February 20, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    go gluten intolerant! yay us! we get more creative, I swear, and by shear force of cost alone I have learned some cooking and baking.
    Let’s just say, I prefer Bob’s Red Mill mix for pannycakegoodness. Or a little substitution (or 4) in a basic recipe does wonders. Waffles, however, suck still. any suggestions, fellow celiacs?

  • Melanie

    February 21, 2007 at 9:46 am

    Oh my HOLY, I need a Jesus pancake pan! My new absolute favorite pancake recipe is really easy and hard to screw up:
    1 cup whole-wheat flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 cup milk
    1 egg
    1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
    1 apple, peeled and grated.
    Mix it all up and toss it in a lightly oiled pan.
    The amazing part is that 1) you get to feel all virtuous because, hey, apples and whole wheat flour! and 2) the whole wheat flour just makes them taste even better than regular pancakes, sort of sweet-ish. And they aren’t heavy like whole wheat pancakes usually are, I think because of the yogurt. Just pure awesomeness. I’m actually going to eat some right now.

  • javamama

    February 21, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Hmmmm. My kids’ school had a pancake feed last night. We don’t go to a Catholic school. Coincidence? Anyhoo… yay, pancakes!

  • TeriLynn

    February 21, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Oooh! Lis, you have other Celiac readers! I’m so sorry for all of you, but still, YAY! for you being around!
    For my gluten-free pancakes, I use my own flour mix (adapted from Bette Hagman’s) with quite a bit of soy flour, and extra baking soda & powder for fluffiness, and a little bit of corn meal for texture. I’ve never tried to make my own waffles because I grew up on frozen ones, so Van’s plain frozen are fine with me. Besides, with enough peanut butter on them, they CAN’T crumble.
    Hungry now.

  • Carol-anne

    February 21, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    I always try to give something up for Lent… this year we (the girls in our office) have decided we will give up bitching about colleagues…
    I’m English and when I was a child my Father always made the pancakes from scratch and we would always use the same pan… it was the “Pancake Pan”… used for nothing else and brought out of the cupboard on very rare occasions… but it was the ONLY pan pancakes were cooked and flipped in…

  • Amanda

    February 22, 2007 at 8:38 am

    We just bought a malted pancake/waffle mix from Williams Sonoma. I don’t remember the name of it, but there’s an old-fashioned little boy on the front. He looked happy enough so we bought it. They’re VERY good as waffles AND pancakes!

  • mad muthas

    February 22, 2007 at 9:14 am

    if you like toad-in-the-hole (at least as a concept), you’ll love welsh rarebit (more amusing if pronounced rabbit) and spotted dick (which is amusing however you pronounce it). they’re nothing at all to do with pancakes, but who cares? on the subject of pancake slackness, however, marks&spencer had tubs of ready-made pancake mix for sale on tuesday! i’m all for making life easier for the intellectually fatigued, but come on ….!