With the distant memory of Christmas behind us and the month of January coming to an end, it can only mean one thing: Pancake Tuesday is just around the corner! Pancake Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, precedes the beginning of 40 days of fasting for Lent. It’s said that on this day there were feasts of pancakes to use up all the fat, butter, milk and eggs which are some of the foods forbidden during Lent. In our family, Pancake Tuesday usually meant opening up a box of Aunt Jemima’s, adding water and presto! Instant pancakes!
But as delicious as Aunt Jemima pancakes are, it’s more traditional to make crepes. Customary to French cuisine, they are a thinner, lighter pancake served with either a sweet or savoury filling. According to the Larousse Gastronomique they were commonly served on Shrove Tuesday â€˜to celebrate renewal, family life and hopes for good fortune and happiness in the futureâ€™.
In Dublin, Ireland, where I currently reside, crepes are often served with icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice or filled with a spread of Nutella. YUM! But to be honest, if Aunt Jemima was available in Ireland, I wouldn’t be able to resist making a few!
If pancakes aren’t your thing, Windsor’s vast Polish Community celebrate Paczki (POONCH-key) Day. Celebrated on the same day as Pancake Tuesday, Polish Roman Catholics indulge in eating Paczki which are a deep fried dough filled with a fruit filling, similar to jelly doughnuts. Next week, bakeries across Essex County will be filling their shelves with this favourful treat.
On Monday and Tuesday, Blak’s Bakery, 1022 Langlois, will be selling paczkis filled with blueberry, spiced apple, raspberry, lemon, plum or custard for $9.50/dozen. Italia Bakery, 571 Erie Street, sells the traditional flavours but also adds a unique Italian spin on the sweet. Paczkis filled with ricotta and chocolate chip!
Wherever, you go, be sure to get there early, because, as we all know, packis are only here for a limited time and they go fast! Pancake Tuesday, originally known as Shrove Tuesday, dates back to medieval times in England and takes its name from the ritual of shriving, when Catholics would confess their sins to the local priest and receive forgiveness before the beginning of the Lent season. The word shrive means to hear confessions, assign penance to or absolve someone of their sins. Once forgiven, Catholics would then begin the Lenten period guilt free!
(Zeinab Sbeiti, left, and Julie Blak of Blak’s Bakery enjoy some paczki’s)
My Sicilian grandmother, a devoted Roman Catholic, always fasted during this time. I remember always feeling concerned for her because she ate so little. She adored food. She loved cooking it, eating it, sharing it and talking about it. I suppose for her it was one of the greatest sacrifices she could make during Lent. However, when the fasting was over and Easter finally arrived, it meant that my Nonna would arrive with an overwhelming tray of cannolis to be consumed as part of Easter dinner.
The cannoli was traditionally prepared as a treat for Carnevale which falls on February 3rd this year. The Carnival traces it roots back to Roman and even ancient Egyptian times. The word Carnival itself comes from the Latin word carnem levare, Latin for to remove meat. It is a day of celebration, commencing before Lent.
Nowadays, cannolis are not reserved for one day only, but are eaten all year round and for every occasion. So if pancakes aren’t your thing, don’t worry, Windsor’s vast cultural diversity offers you many alternatives come this February 5th. So before making all your promises of giving things up during the Lenten period, indulge yourself with a tasty treat. Happy Pancake Tuesday everyone!
Basic Recipe for Sweet Crepes Adapted from the Larousse Gastronomique cookbook
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1tsp vanilla sugar or couple of drops of vanilla essence
- 2 beaten eggs
- 2tbsp of melted butter
- pinch of salt
- 6 fluid oz milk
- 4 fluid oz water
Combine flour, salt and vanilla. Add eggs, mix well. Gradually add the milk and water. Add melted butter. Stir. You can also add liquer to this recipe, Rum, Grand Marnier or Cognac, depending on the taste you want. The batter must be put in the fridge and stand for up to 2hrs. After resting, it may thicken, if so just add a little water to lighten the batter. Heat a heavy bottom pan, melt a little bit of butter, pour in a ladle of batter and cook approximately 2 minutes per side. Make sure when you pour the batter in the pan you make a very thin layer. It may take a few tries to perfect this. This recipe makes about eight crepes, depending on the size of your pan.
Originally from Windsor, Rose is currently living in Dublin, Ireland. She is a graphic designer who is passionate about food. Her dog, Winnie, shares the same passion and supports Rose in all her cooking adventures….just as long as she gets 10%.