The Pancake Day rant: has it all gone too far?

Flippin’ ’eck, says Katy Salter – how can something so basic be marketed with complicated kits, plastic lemons and weird additives? It’s time we rediscovered the beautiful simplicity of Shrove Tuesday…

The Pancake Day rant: has it all gone too far?

There’s a Pancake Day display in my local supermarket. Lined up on the shelves are ‘pancake pans’, bottles of ‘pancake mix’, plastic lemons filled with something that was – presumably – once lemon juice, jars of chocolate spread and packs of ready-made crêpes. You need to really hunt around the store to find the only items necessary to make pancakes: flour, eggs, milk.

For carb lovers and connoisseurs of low-budget fried things, Pancake Day is
a highlight of the culinary calendar. It involves no gifts, no expensive outlay, no weeks of planning, just a frying pan and ingredients you almost certainly have in your cupboards. Yet Shrove Tuesday has been hijacked by the marketeers. They’re trying to convince us that making pancakes is somehow a tricky endeavour that requires pre-made mixes and specialist equipment. It doesn’t. 

Why does this matter? These products seem innocuous but I think they discourage people from cooking at home. If something as simple as making pancakes requires special mixes, then doesn’t that make the whole concept of cooking meals from scratch seem a bit, well, scary? 

Plus, if you convince shoppers that they can’t make a batter themselves, then you can sell them a mix chock-full of additives for 16 times the price per kilo as a bag of plain flour (plain flour from my local supermarket costs 40p/kg. A bottle of pancake mix costs £6.45/kg). It’s full of grim extras, too. Mmmmm, I love the smell of whey powder, palm oil, dextrose and dried egg yolk in the morning. 

Ironically, Pancake Day began life as a day of thrift. Shrove Tuesday marks the last day in the Christian calendar before Lent. Worshippers were encouraged to eschew rich foods such as eggs and milk for Lent, so whisking up pancakes was about using up what was in the cupboard, not racing to the supermarket to buy new stuff. 


Let’s use it as an opportunity to teach children how to cook

Perhaps Pancake Day’s religious roots don’t matter any more. The batter treats are so popular these days that, when I worked for a well-known cooking website, it crashed on Pancake Day because so many thousands of people were Googling ‘how to make pancakes’. You can, however, simply click here for our easy peasy pancake recipe.

Whether you like your pancakes with lemon and sugar, chocolate and chopped nuts or bacon and maple syrup, know this: you don’t need packet mix, you don’t need those ready-made scotch pancakes (I’d rather eat a bath sponge) and you certainly don’t need an electric crepe maker.

Let’s return Pancake Day to its origins as a low-fi, low-budget occasion. Let’s use it as an opportunity to teach children how to cook – to get them measuring, whisking and flipping. Let’s spread the word about how sometimes the best dishes can be the simplest and quickest ones to cook. And let’s stay well away from the bottles of dextrose and dried egg yolk.

And to top it all off, take a look at our sweet and savoury pancake toppings – ten ideas to inspire you.

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