Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Flip for Pancakes!

It's Pancake Day today in Liberal, Kansas, and Olney, England. So I thought I'd celebrate with them.

For the past 60 years, the women of the two communities have raced down the streets of their respective communities, flipping pancakes and running against the clock and each other. The race is always on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It's the only race of its kind in the world.

In Olney, the Pancake Race tradition dates back to 1445. Legend has it that a woman was busy making pancakes and using up cooking fats, which were forbidden during Lent at that time. Hearing the church bells ring to announce the Shrove Tuesday service, she grabbed her head scarf and ran to the church, with pancake-filled skillet in hand. In following years, neighbors joined the race to the church. The first to arrive collected a Kiss of Peace from the bell ringer.

The international race with Liberal began in 1950, when Liberal Jaycee President R.J. Leete saw a photo of the English race in Time magazine and then contacted Olney, challenging their women to race against the women of Liberal.

Racers must still wear a head scarf and apron. Each runner must flip her pancake at the starting signal and again as she crosses the finish line to prove she still has her pancake after running the 415-yard course.

Image from International Pancake Day website,
2011 Liberal winner Nicole Schowengerdt

This year, the Liberal women will again be defending the international title. The overall record stands at 35 wins for Liberal to Olney's 25.

According to the book, America Celebrates! A Patchwork of Weird & Wonderful Holiday Lore, some superstitions have evolved among Liberal racers:
  • It is considered good luck to carry a past winner's skillet in the race or wear a past winner's apron.
  • One year, the stack of concrete pancakes marking the starting point of the race was stolen. This was considered a bad omen, but the stack was later returned.
  • Although the women practice running 415 yards, it is considered bad luck to run the official race course during the practice sessions.
I flip for pancakes anytime, not just on International Pancake Day. So I decided to try out a new recipe in honor of today's festivities, though I actually made the pancakes on Sunday to make sure they were blog worthy. They were.

I'm an advocate of breakfast-for-supper, so if you want to celebrate Shrove Tuesday in a way that's been a tradition since 1455, here's the recipe. And you don't even have to wear a head scarf or run a race to enjoy them!

Whether you make pancakes today or not, I'll leave you with the traditional blessing bestowed upon the winner - whether it be in Liberal or Olney:

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Vanilla Pancakes
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
Butter for frying

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until there are no dry spots. Don't overmix. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto hot griddle or skillet and cook each side 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown.

I served the pancakes with Cinnamon Brown Butter.

Cinnamon Brown Butter
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

In a small heavy saucepan, cook butter over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Don't burn! Add maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg. Remove heat. Stir in nuts. Serve over pancakes, waffles or French toast.


Looking for another pancake recipe? Try Pumpkin Pancakes, also delicious with the Cinnamon Brown Butter.


  1. Oh how fun! It's interesting how Hometown events get started. There is always a story to share!

    I like to do breakfast for supper meals too! Pancakese and bacon are easy and very Rancher friendly.

  2. That is one of our favorite pancake recipes! The topping looks like it would be a great addition! Yum!