Well I guess in some places they still do, but I really can’t remember having ever seen a pancake race. We may have had one at school - there was definitely egg and spoon racing and that falling over in a sack race thing, but pancake racing? Well, it beats me.
The most famous pancake race takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire where legend has it that in 1445 an Olney woman heard the shriving bell (a bell that shrives) while she was making pancakes and ran, still clutching her pan, to the local church in her apron. Well - as anybody from Oxfordshire will tell you - they are all mad buggers in Bucks.
Of course Shrove Tuesday is also celebrated in
New Orleans and Rio
de Janeiro with Carnival (arriba, arriba!) . But no amount of almost naked ladies and
partying in the streets could possibly compare to the excitement of running
through the streets in an apron and an obligatory hat or scarf (it’s in the
rules) with a frying pan in your hand on the way to church while a bloody bell
is tolling morosely.
Yes, we Brits certainly know how throw (toss even) a pancake party
Mind you, just how long we’ll be allowed to continue to celebrate Shrove Tuesday with pancakes could be in question. Apart from the very clear Health and Safety issues associated with the actual racing, there's also the small matter of the pancakes themselves. Let’s face it the ingredients aren’t that healthy at all; so we can expect a government ban, or at least a tax, on all pancake products (including crepes, pikelets, blinis, and Chinese crispy duck) in the not so distant future. To be honest given the serious health risks associated with pancakes I’m surprised they haven’t already implemented the pancake tax.
Pancakes contain eggs (salmonella and high cholesterol), white flour (bowel and digestive problems), salt (heart disease and strokes), milk (cancer even if your aren’t dairy allergic) and lets not forget all that sugar (diabetes) and lemon (which makes you pull a funny face). So given that a pancake is a health time bomb waiting to go off I might just give them a miss and stick to celebrating Shrove Tuesday the Carnival way and get some wine down my neck instead.
Not that I give a toss!