In a month’s time it will be Ash Wednesday – and we no doubt will be recalling the delicious pancakes we ate yesterday on Pancake Day. if we are not church people we could have them again on the Wednesday too!
I wrote yesterday about Philip Harben’s thoughts on Pancake Day and pancakes, and he gives careful instructions about tossing pancakes – ‘a flick of the writs sends the thin pancake up into the air where it turns a somersault and is caught, other side up, back in the frying pan.’ However, he has words of advice to those who can’t quite manage this: ‘if in spite of all this (the recipe and instructions he has just given) tossing really defeats you, do not despair; you can dispense with it altogether if you would rather. After all, tossing is only a means to an end, and that end is the reversal of the pancake when one side is cooked, so as to cook the other.’ he suggests a simple solution to lack of tossing skills, put the pan under the grill, or use a metal slice to turn it!
As usual, he has a few stories to tell… here are two:
There are a number of traditions associated with pancake tossing. About two of them i can tell you something from first-hand knowledge.
One is the Olney Pancake Race. Olney is a small town in Buckinghamshire famous as a home of the poet Cowper (the local pronunciation is Cooper) Once a year the housewives of Olney race, tossing pancakes, along the main street. The finishing post is the church, the judge is the Vicar, and the prize is a kiss from the sexton. I know about it because the winner one year was a Mrs. Looms who in the same year was a finalist in a television Cooking Contest at which I adjudicated.
The other pancake occasion is the famous Westminster School Pancake Greaze, because my son once took part in it. The idea is that the whole School assembles in the great hall and the chef comes in and hurls a pancake over a certain high bar. It is then scrambled for (the word ‘greaze’ in Westminster School parlance means any kind of scrimmage) and the boy who secures the largest pieces is presented with a special guinea coin by the Dean. So far as i know nobody has eve actually been killed in this primitive sport but reporters and cameramen are always in attendance.