Eat your pancakes!


Today is Shrove Tuesday. That means it’s 41 days until Easter Egggggies! (That will come as a shock to my supermarket, which had Easter eggs on its shelves on 2nd January!)

But let us forget the eggies for the moment for, today, all over the civilised world, people should be pigging out on pancakes. (The civilised world expands and contracts as I see fit, so for today it excludes most Catholics, many non-English speakers and all people of non-Christian faiths, but includes anyone who cares more about pancakes than religion.)


As a child, there was only One True Pancake. It was thin. Not quite crêpe-thin, but close enough for the crêpe-free people not to know the difference. Each pancake was bestrewn with soft brown sugar. Sometimes the sugar would clump into little black balls. We called those cockroaches. And then we squeezed lemon juice over it, watching the cockroaches slowly dissolve. Quick! Roll up the pancake and suck the sugary, lemony juice out of the roll.

I feel sorry for those uncivilised places (Germany, Sweden, France, …) where you can’t get the lovely, moist, fine brown sugar necessary for this primal pancake pleasure.

After rolling in pancakes, I began to reflect on what pancake means to people on less important days of the culinary calendar. Pancake has always meant thin for me and I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the spread of those thick things as the default. For me, those thick, leavened things are either pikelets (the smaller ones, also called drop scones or Scotch pancakes) or American-style pancakes (larger, often slathered with syrup).


Home economist: Duncan’s mum. Food stylist & photographer: Duncan’s dad.

I wonder what my readers think (depending where you live, of course) — what do you immediately think of when you hear or read ‘pancake’? And have you always had the same default pancake in your head?

[For anti-pancakers, please consider Swedish Easter buns, which I wrote about last year.]

13 thoughts on “Eat your pancakes!”

  1. Cockroaches! Appealing name, heh heh 🙂

    I’m Catholic and the only thing to pig out on is red meat… But most only do the abstinence on Friday and important days within Lent. Free-for-all on other days.

    Pancakes for us always mean the thick American-style ones. I suppose that’s default for the Japanese too. The thin ones are crepes to us. I dunno who calls the thick ones Flapjacks, but I know those are a completely different thing for you as well 🙂

  2. By your definition I guess I’m civilised, as I sure ain’t gonna be wasting any sweet sugar or drop of honey on religion. My preference for pancakes will always be of the thin variety with wafery thin edges and fluffier in the middle, but only when someone else makes them. Alas whenever I attempt the batter myself, I turn out less than perfect discs that others may define more as erm…crumpets 🙁

  3. Pancakes made as instructed – just a little thicker than crepes – sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar and rolled up. Belly now tendance d’être grand. 😀

  4. Hey Duncan, great to see you back online!

    For us pancakes were thin when little. I recall a phase where sunday night dinner was pancakes with bacon, maple syrup & vanilla ice cream… led by dad of course! It sounds odd but it’s a great combination.

    Another family favourite was jam and cream. And then there was the whole experience of wrapping up savoury combo’s a la “Pancakes” chain…

    Having also lived in USA I can identify with the thick pancake but in my mind these are “hot cakes” – because, like cake they are kind of doughy, and they’re different again to pikelets which are denser and served with butter & vegemite, or jam.

    But the first thing that springs to mind when “pancakes” is said, is the variety of which you speak.


    great post.

  5. Welcome, Campbell. Is pancake-belly a new syndrome peut-être? heheh.

    Hey Grocer — interesting what you say about pikelets vs hotcakes. For me, pikelets were very light – as light as most large thick American pancakes I’ve had.

    Thanks to all for their anecdotes and commentary on the pancake. Nice to see different terminology too! Keep the comments coming:)

  6. Crepes are my default pancake. On Shrove Tuesday in 1977, (in Grade 6) my teacher was flabbergasted when I began turning out perfect crepes. She didn’t know that I had already had two years practice because I loved them so much.

    My Definitive Pancake List:

    Crepes Suzette – started making them when I was ten when my folks felt it was ok for me to flambee!

    Hungarian Hortobagy pancakes – made them last night with a filling of venison, kaiserfleisch, onions and smoked paprika, topped with a sauce of pan juices deglazed with Tokay then mixed with paprika relish and sour cream

    Blintz’s – result of being fostered part time by Hungarian Jews

    Walnut, lemon & sugar pancakes – another Hungarian favourite

    Buckwheat Galettes – now enjoyed regularly with a Coeliac friend in Port Melbourne

    Pikelets with jam and double cream – a childhood favourite

  7. Living in one of those uncivilised countries you mentioned (France) mardi gras came and went without any ‘fanfare’; I didn’t even see any beignets de carnaval (little donutty-type things they have at mardi gras instead of pancakes). Oh well, there’s still Eggless Easter to come…

  8. When I think of pancakes, I am reminded of the USA and the lovely ones I have had there, topped with crispy bacon and smothered in maple syrup. My first preference though is the lovely thin ones with lemon and sugar, not brown sugar though, just a sprinkling of white. I love the sour tang of lemon juice, the soft pancake and the crunch of the little jewels of sugar. MMMMMMMM delicious!!!!

    See now you have done it again. I have to make them tonight. Your such an influence on me 🙂

  9. I remember I was younger, and mum would be working either morning or night shift, and my brother would make us pancakes for breakfast… usually with heaps of lemon juice and sugar… good times… makes me smile. To this day pancakes hold a special place in my foody-memories.

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