Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Flipping for Pancakes

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

For the past 65 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. The overall record stands at 36 wins for Liberal to Olney's 27. (Liberal has lost the past two years, so it's time for a Kansas victory, don't you think?)
Image from International Pancake Day website,
2011 Liberal winner Nicole Schowengerdt

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 for Coconut Pancakes and Coconut Syrup in honor of today's festivities, though I actually made the pancakes earlier 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.
Coconut Pancakes
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup coconut milk (not coconut water)
1 tbsp. melted butter
Additional butter or cooking spray

Lightly mix together all dry ingredients. Mix all wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir just until incorporated. Don't overmix. In a skillet or on a griddle over medium-hot heat, drop rounds of batter (about 1/4 cup). Let cook until bubbles begin to pop in center of the pancake, about 2 minutes. Flip pancake and cook for an additional minute or so until golden brown. Test cook surface and temperature, and adjust cook time accordingly.

Serve with Coconut Syrup (or traditional syrup). I had fresh blueberries in the fridge, so we also used some of them on top.  And I sprinkled with toasted coconut, mainly for the picture, but it was pretty tasty, too.

Coconut Syrup
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 to 2 tsp. coconut extract

Place butter in a medium-sized saucepan, and melt over medium high heat. Add buttermilk and sugar. Stir together. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and let it boil 1 minute.

Remove from heat and add baking soda and coconut extract. The syrup will start to foam up and bubble. (That's why it's important to use a medium pan and not a small one.) Let it sit for about 5 minutes. It will thicken slightly as it cools. However, it is still foamy (just FYI!).

Need some other ideas for pancakes (or waffles)? Try these:

Copycat from Nashville's Pancake Pantry

I'm linked to Wichita blogger Ashley's Wake Up Wednesdays feature. Click on the link for loads of other tried and tested recipes. 


  1. What a neat celebration! Love the history and little tid-bits you shared, Kim.

    I am not a pancake eater; I do like from scratch buttermilk waffles though. Kind of like I love my Mom's bread pudding, but don't like french toast. My husband is a french toast fan and will not touch bread pudding.

    Glad to hear your electricity is staying on. Life is much more simple when we have electricity; I would not fair well as a pioneer.

    It's my own fault on the glasses deal, but accidents happen. Like you, I can't see without them.

    Here's to warmer weather heading our way!

    1. I probably prefer waffles, too, but I like any breakfast food. Waffles are our normal Sunday lunch so I don't have to get something prepared before choir run-through, church and Sunday School. The kids complained about it when they were home. Now, they definitely want that meal when they are home visiting. Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

      We may get a little snow today, but then the rest of the week is supposed to be a warm up. I'll vote for that! We could melt some of this snow!