In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada, Fat Tuesday is called Pancake Tuesday, since it’s customary on that day to carb-load with flapjacks. See, pancakes are made from rich ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar, all of which have to be used up before party-pooping Lent starts. But there’s no reason you can’t get a jump on things and use up all your rich ingredients a couple of days early. Bonjour, Mardi Gras pancake brunch! (Bonus points: Make your own version of the traditional Mardi Gras king cake by adding a dime to one of the pancakes as it cooks — whoever gets the coin will become richer than eggs, milk and sugar. Ch-ching!)
Although a Sunday pancake brunch may not be the beads-throwing
bacchanal you typically associate with Mardi Gras festivities, it does
offer the unique opportunity to host a traditional pancake race right
in your own backyard. Pancake race? You heard me.
In the UK, it’s a tradition to hold Pancake Tuesday races in which
contestants run to the finish line while, yes, flipping flapjacks.
Supposedly the custom stems from a 15th century housewife in Olney,
England, who was so busy making breakfast that she forgot all about
church till she heard the chapel bells ring and sprinted to the
service, skillet still in hand. In 1950, the town of Liberal, Kansas,
got in on the act by challenging the women of Olney to race against
Liberal’s ladies. From then on, every Fat Tuesday women in both towns
have donned their aprons and hotfooted it while flipping pancakes in
hopes of collectively coming up with a better overall time than their
competitors across the pond.
You needn’t restrict your race to female revelers, although as the host, you can
make contestants wear aprons if you feel like it. Don’t have more than
one skillet? Ask a friend to bring one and let the 100-yard-dash bash
begin! The only real rules are that racers have to flip the cake once
at the start, once during the race (which is actually an optional rule,
but it’s more fun that way), and once at the end. If a pancake is
dropped, a competitor can pick it up and throw it back in the pan, but
spectators can’t help.
Surprisingly, not a single pancake touched the ground during the
recent contest between my little brother and husband, pictured above.
Although the traditional trophy for the victor is a smooch from the
bell ringer who signals the race’s start, you might offer a box of
Bisquick®, a jumbo bottle of maple syrup or, hey, a shiny,
beaded necklace. But the real prize is the race itself, since there is
no one alive who can toss pancakes in the air while tearing across a
yard without giggling with glee. It’s flippin’ good fun, I tell ye!