Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Amazing Grace - Amazing Race!


 It seems there is a "special" day for just about everything. There are days delighting in doughnuts. There are days for savoring sandwiches and hallowing hamburgers. Pie even gets more than one day.

At our house, it's always a good day to flip for pancakes. But if you need an excuse, International Pancake Day is today - Tuesday, February 21.  These Apple Spice Pancakes could be the choice today - for breakfast, lunch or supper.

Pancake Day is a moveable feast whose date is determined by Easter. It's celebrated exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday (April 9 this year). 

2023 Youth Short Sleeve Shirt

Down the road in Liberal, Kansas, the 74th International Pancake Day will pit pancake flippers from Kansas vs. women from Olney, England. It's been a tradition for 74 years to have women race 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.

A TIME magazine picture of the Olney women racing each other to the church caught the eye of Liberal Jaycee’s President, R.J. Leete. He contacted the Rev. Ronald Collins, Vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul's church in Olney, challenging their women to race against women of Liberal.  With that, the two communities were off to the races - so to speak - back in 1950. 
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.  
This 74th year of racing also marks the 250th anniversary of the writing of the familiar hymn “Amazing Grace”. The words to this hymn were first spoken during a service on January 1, 1773, by John Newton, curate of Olney’s St Peter and St Paul’s Church, the very church where the Pancake Day Race was born, according to Liberal's International Pancake Coordinator, Kara Howery, in a press release.

 This year's Liberal winner gets a special gift from Olney to commemorate the Amazing Grace anniversary - a plate and a hymnal. Photo from the International National Pancake race website.
 On both sides of the Atlantic the race still culminates with Shriving Services that feature the singing of “Amazing Grace” as an integral part of the service. That will again be the case on this 250th year of the hymn's writing.

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.

If you're looking for your own International Pancake Day treat, Apple Spice Pancakes are good for breakfast ... or for a breakfast-themed lunch or supper. They are packed with grated apples, pecans and spices. 

I served them with Cinnamon Cream Syrup. Jill lived in Nashville, Tennessee, while she was completing her dietetics degrees. The Cinnamon Cream Syrup is a copycat for the syrup served at the Pancake Pantry there, a favorite stop when we visited Nashville. Since it echos the pancake spices, it was the perfect topper, especially for someone like me who isn't a real fan of maple syrup.

 Apple Spice Pancakes

2 cups flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp. maple syrup
2 Gala apples (or similar), cored and grated
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Cinnamon Cream Syrup (recipe below)

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and maple syrup. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir to combine (don't overmix). Stir in grated apples and pecans.

Heat a skillet to 350 degrees. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto hot skillet, a few pancakes at a time. When pancakes start to bubble on top, flip and cook until pancakes are cooked through all the way. Makes about 20 pancakes. 

Serve pancakes with Cinnamon Cream Syrup (or other favorite syrup).

 Cinnamon Cream Syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 5-oz. can evaporated milk

In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, water and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Stir in milk.

Serve over pancakes, waffles or French toast.


  1. What interesting facts you have unearthed. I had just listened to Sara Brightman singing Amazing Grace.
    Throve Tuesday crept up on me. Alas no pancakes. The tradition here, is to have them with butter, sugar and orange or lemon juice.

    1. Our daughter's family likes having them with peanut butter, along with syrup. Do you use the orange or lemon juice like a syrup?