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Alright mate. I’m Dan from DanSenseiEnglish.com and welcome to The DanSensei British English Podcast, the show that explains everything about British Life, British culture, and of course, British English for the intermediate and advanced English learner that loves the uk. In this episode, we’re talking about Pancake Day.
Yay Pancake Day, which is also known as Shrove Tuesday is a traditional holiday celebrated in the UK and several other countries around the world. The celebration always falls on the Tuesday before the start of Lent and Lent is a period of like fasting and reflection that’s observed by a lot of Christians around the world.
So in this episode, we are gonna explore the origins of Pancake Day and how it came to be one of the most popular, and delicious celebrations in the uk. As always, before we get started, please like and comment and leave a rating wherever you are listening to this podcast from, it really helps me out. And if you like what I’m doing and you wanna support me even further, check out my Patreon.
It’s got bonus content as well as access to my study squad community. So do it now!. Don’t forget, you can find the full transcript for free over on dansenseienglish.com. So if you wanna follow along with every single word that I say, check that out. The link is in the show notes, and you can also get a free, downloadable vocabulary cheat sheet that goes along with this episode also for free. Check the link in the show notes, but let’s take a look at some key vocabulary terms that are gonna be in this episode.
- Medieval – relating to the period in Europe between about AD 500 and AD 1500:
- To Fast – to eat nothing, or much less than you usually eat for a period of time
- Lent – the religious period before Easter in which some Christians do not allow themselves something that they usually enjoy:
- Go off – If food goes off, it is not good to eat any more because it is too old.
- A clean slate – a state in which you are starting an activity or process again, not considering what has happened in the past at all:
- Gutted – To be extremely disappointed and unhappy
- Left to my own devices – to allow someone to make their own decisions about what to do
- Each to their own – used to say that everyone likes different things
- To whip up – to make something, usually very quickly without much preparation
- To whisk – to beat eggs, cream, etc. with a special tool in order to add air and make the food light:
- It is what it is – used to say that a situation cannot be changed and must be accepted
- Promenade – a path for walking on, especially one built next to the sea
Right then, let’s get cracking.
The history of pancake day
First of all, I wanna take a look at the history of Pancake Day. So like how did this even get started? Well, the history of Pancake Day dates back to the medieval times where the Christian Church took part in a period of fasting during Lent. Now, this fast requires Christians to stop eating certain foods, including like meat and dairy products for 40 days leading up to Easter. And this meant that people had a lot of like eggs and fats that they needed to use up before Lent started, or you know, it’d just go off and they wouldn’t be able to eat it. To solve this problem, people would make pancakes on the day before Lent began, because it’s a really easy way to use up all those kind of foods, and it’s pretty delicious.
This day became known as Shrove Tuesday, which comes from the old English word shrive. Now Shrive means to confess your sins and receive forgiveness, and it was believed that doing this allowed them to enter the Lent period, the fasting period, with a clean slate. Now, the church used to ring a big bell, you know, Dingle, Lingle, Lingle Ling, and this was called the Shriving Bell, right? And it was used to call people to the church so they could confess to all the bad stuff they’d done. Apparently these days a lot of churches still ring a bell. Um, but it’s called the pancake bell now, and that sounds much better to me. A bell that you ring because it’s time to eat pancakes. Sounds pretty good.
Now Pancake day is always 47 days before Easter Sunday, and that means it’s usually somewhere between like February 3rd and March 9th because, you know, Easter just moves around for some reason that I don’t really understand. Think it’s got something to do with the moon, but I don’t really know. Anyway, when is Pancake Day this year?
Hang on. oh, pancake Day was last week, um, it was on the 21st of February this year. So that’s a bit of a disaster innit? Because firstly, this podcast is already outta date. And most importantly, I didn’t eat any pancakes, so I’ve missed my chance to eat some bloody pancakes this year. Gutted!. Anyway, that’s how Pancake Day got started but I guess we should talk about the star of the show, the Pancake.
How pancakes are made.
Now let me start by saying that I am absolutely crap at cooking, and if left to my own devices, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t make a pancake if my life depended on it. As that’s the case, I’ve looked online to find a recipe for how to make pancakes.
Now, if you are listening to this, maybe you already know how to make a pancake, but you know, at least you’ll practice listening to some English. So it’s not all bad. If you’re not actually sure. A pancake is a flat cake that’s made of batter and it’s fried in a frying pan. Now, a traditional English pancake is not like American ones. It’s really, really thin, and we eat it as soon as it’s cooked. We serve it immediately. Then you add toppings, right? You can add whatever toppings you’d like. Common toppings are stuff like Golden Syrup, lemon juice, sugar. And nowadays, like people use Nutella or chocolate spread, but you know each to their own.
According to the recipe, I found online the ingredients in pancakes can be seen as like a symbol of the four points of significance for this time of year. I don’t know, but this is what it said. It said that eggs represent creation, kind of makes sense. Flour is the staff of life, apparently. Salt represents wholesomeness. And milk represents purity. Well, I don’t know about all that, but you know, if you say so.
Anyway, to whip up about eight pancakes, you’ll need eight ounces of plain flour, two large eggs a pint of milk, and some salt. Start by mixing all the ingredients together and whisk it, erm to make a batter. Leave that batter to stand for about 30 minutes. Then you’re gonna heat a little bit of oil in a frying pan. Pour the batter in just enough to kind of cover the bottom of the pan, and then let it cook until the bottom of the pancake is brown. Then you’re gonna shake the pan to kind of make it come loose, and then you’re gonna flip it over, so the brown side is at the top and you’re gonna cook the bottom side.
Be careful though, when you’re flipping it not to drop it on the floor. Now for me, the flipping part of this is like the most interesting part. That’s the part that makes making pancakes fun. You know? Uh, I remember as a kid when we were cooking pancakes, my mum would always let me flip the pancake, and I remember proper enjoying that part, even though, you know, uh, I’m pretty bad at it and I think I probably enjoyed the flipping part more than the actual eating it part that came afterwards. Now there’s a real skill to flipping pancakes properly though, and I didn’t possess that skill. I was pretty bad at it from what I remember. And more often than not, you know, the pancake could end up on the floor, but it was still pretty fun.
So that is how pancakes are made. Next, let’s talk about how we actually celebrate Pancake Day in 2023.
Modern Pancake Day Celebrations
Nowadays, pancake Day is still celebrated in the UK and other parts of the world, and in addition to making and eating pancakes, people also take part in loads of pancake themed activities. This is usually stuff like pancake races or pancake flipping contests and pancake eating contests, you know, who can eat the most pancakes.
The most famous pancake race takes place in Olney, which is in Buckinghamshire, and according to the tradition, it started because in 1445, quite a while ago, a woman from Olney heard the shriving bell ringing from the church, you know, the pancake bell. And she realised like, oh, I’m late, but she was making pancakes at that time, so apparently she just ran to the church still in her apron, clutching her frying pan and that is where the tradition comes from. The Olney pancake race is now apparently world famous and competitors have to be local housewives from the area, and they must wear an apron and a hat or a scarf and each contestant has a frying pan containing a freshly made hot pancake. She has to toss it three times, and that’s at any point in the race, they can do it at the beginning, middle, end, whatever, and the first woman to complete the course and arrive at the church, serves the pancake to the guy who rings the bell, the bell ringer, and they get a nice little kiss and they are the winner.
Another weird event that takes place is at Westminster School in London. This is where the annual, and I had to Google this, pancake grease event is held. It’s nothing to do with the film grease, sadly, but it is what it is. Apparently, this is an event, I’m laughing because it’s weird. This is an event where a bunch of young school lads gather on the playground and then the school cook shows up and tosses a massive pancake over a five meter high bar for some reason that I don’t really understand, and then the lads, they like race to grab a bit of this pancake. Um, it seems pretty weird, but you know, it is weird, so it’s gonna seem pretty weird. And apparently the lad that’s got the biggest bit of pancake at the end gets some money. What a weird event.
Another event is in Scarborough, in Yorkshire, and it takes place on Shrove Tuesday. Where everyone assembles on the promenade to skip. Long ropes are stretched across the road and they might be like, uh, 10 more people skipping on one rope. Now, I don’t know what the connection between pancakes and skipping is, to be honest, but then again, people from Yorkshire have always been a bit weird, and I know that from experience because I’m from Yorkshire and I’m a bit weird.
Another thing that happens is a lot of towns in England hold a traditional Shrove Tuesday football game, but it’s not the footy that you’re used to seeing at like the World Cup. It’s what we call mob football. Basically, each team is a massive group from one part of the town. Maybe it’s town versus town, right? And it takes place. The pitch is like the entire town, right? . And the point of the game is to get the ball back to your team’s goal. So usually in footy you try and put the ball in the other team’s goal. In this, the aim of the game is get the ball to your goal, and that’s how you get a point. But the goal is usually like, a mile away in the town and the game lasts about two days. It starts on Shrove Tuesday and finishes on Ash Wednesday.
Originally when this started, there were only two rules, and that was that murder and manslaughter were not allowed. Well, that’s good to know. But everything else was all right. So must have been a bit of a wild game. These days, there are a few extra rules. Um, you know, you can’t use a motor vehicle and you can’t hide the ball, and apparently you’re not allowed to just traipse through a graveyard, but you know, whatever. And the most famous example of this is the Royal Shrovetide football game, which is still played to this day on the streets of Ashbourne in Derbyshire.
In recent years, just like everything else, pancake Day has also become more commercialized with restaurants and food brands offering special deals and promotions on pancakes, and I guess that’s helped to increase the popularity of this holiday and make it more accessible to people that maybe haven’t really grown up with this tradition.
Do you have pancake day in your country?
So that was all about Pancake Day in the UK and I hope you enjoyed it. Even though it’s a bit late. Today’s question is, do you have pancake day in your country? And if you do, how do you celebrate it? I’d love to hear from you. So either leave me a comment below if you’re watching on YouTube or send me a message on Instagram, if you’re listening to this podcast somewhere else.
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But that’s it for today. And I’ll catch you in the next one.
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