Next week is Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and one of my previous incarnations as an RE teacher it was always an easy lesson to prepare. In case you were absent that day (and in case you're remotely interested) here are some of the most commonly asked questions about Pancake Day, with answers in varying degrees of seriousness...
1. Why 'pancakes'?
The usual answer is that it was an attempt to use up all the rich foods that would otherwise have gone to waste during the fast of Lent (which begins the day after, Ash Wednesday). Hence the name 'fat Tuesday' (Mardi Gras) in some parts of the world.
2. Ok then, why is it always on a Tuesday?
Ah, slightly more complicated, that. But basically, because Lent (which begins when? Come on, I've told you once!) is the forty day (ok, it's more than forty straight days but Sundays don't count, right?) period leading up to Easter. And Easter is the traditional 'moveable feast' as it has to be based (for historical reasons) on the phases of the moon. And as we know, lunar and solar months are different.
3. And why 'Shrove'?
Bit technical, that one. It comes from the word 'shriven' which basically means 'to be forgiven' and refers to the need to 'fess up before fasting. So, 'Shrove' Tuesday means 'confess-your-sins-and-be-forgiven-ready-for-fasting' Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is shorter, obviously.
4. Tossing. Tell me about tossing.
Well the story goes that housewives busy with their pancakes forgot the time and had to make a dash for the church to receive absolution (forgiveness - see above) in time - taking their pancakes and their frying pans with them. Personally I think that's possibly one of the most far-fetched pseudo-explanations in history so here's my theory: everyone knows how hard it is to toss a pancake and what a mess it can make of the kitchen if it goes wrong. So do it outside and if the worst happens, the birds will clear the mess. It's a short step from that to running - back inside, having tossed (successfully) - to feed the family before the pancake goes cold.
5. Sounds a bit far-fetched to me. Are you sure?
Of course not. But if you think that's far-fetched how about the traditional Irish custom of pancake crocking - basically going from door to door demanding pancakes and threatening to throw broken crockery at the house if unsuccessful. Don't try this at home.
Instead, why not try winning one of these fabulous Abra-ca-Debora Pancake Day Hampers? I've got one to give away to the lucky reader who leaves the most entertaining pancake-related comment or anecdote below (criteria: Charlie's amusement as measured by breadth of smile or length of laughter - judges decision final!) before pancake day itself, next Tuesday March 4th. And in the meantime why not pop over to the Abra-ca-Debora website and get some inspiration for the big day from their fabulous pancake recipes.