Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Flip for Pancakes: International Pancake Day

It's always a good day to flip for pancakes. But if you need an excuse to celebrate pancakes, International Pancake Day is today - Tuesday, February 25. 

Pancake Day is a moveable feast whose date is determined by Easter. It's celebrated exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday (April 12 this year).
It seems there's a day for every food these days. There are days delighting in doughnuts. There are days for sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs. Pie gets more than one day. But Pancake Day is especially important in Liberal, Kansas, and Olney, England. For the past 71 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.

"Shrove" is not a thing, but a verb. "Shrive" (shrove, shriven) comes from the Old English verb scrfan, "to decree, decree after judgment, impose a penance upon, hear the confession of," according to the dictionary. Shrove Tuesday is a day to reflect, to seek penance and get ready for Lent.

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.

Photo from the International Pancake Day Facebook page: Liberal's Billie Warden crosses the finish line in 1950. Billie won the local race with a time of 1:18 but lost to Olney's Florence Callow, who finished in 1:10.4.
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 flips 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.
Photo from the International Pancake Day Race Facebook page
 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 when Kinley and Brooke were here last week. I love to eat out for breakfast, but we don't get to do it all that often. (Let me re-phrase that: I don't eat out that much for breakfast. Randy meets his buddies at Joan's Cafe at least once a week.)  
I'm an advocate of breakfast-for-supper and so are the girls, 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 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.
 Banana Oat Pancakes
Adapted from Food Fanatic 
Serves about 6
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
2 medium bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped pecans (opt.)
Butter for griddle or skillet
Syrup, additional nuts and fruit for serving, if desired

In a medium bowl, combine oats, bananas and milk. Set aside to let the oats soak and soften.

Preheat pancake griddle or skillet over medium high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat the egg and oil into the wet oatmeal mixture, then pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Add nuts, if desired, and stir until just combined.

Butter the preheated surface of the griddle or skillet. Use about 1/4 cup batter per pancake. Wait until the entire exposed surface of the pancake is bubbly and the edges start to look as though they are set, then flip the pancake. Cook the second side and remove pancakes to a plate or a chafing dish to keep warm.

Garnish the pancakes with more chopped pecans and/or fruit and serve with your favorite syrup. 


  1. Have you ever used quick oatmeal in this recipe?

    1. I have. It worked fine. It just has a little less texture, but since you soften it anyway, it doesn't make a lot of difference. Enjoy!