Pancakes are ancient food. The word pancakes appears in print as early as 1430. Pancakes may have been around since Neolithic humans domesticated einkorn wheat, ground it into flour mixed with bird’s egg and goat’s milk and poured the batter on a heated rock.
It happened before there were pans and long before ovens. The ancient cooks dropped a little gruel on a hot rock of campfire, resulting in thin cakes that were tastier than plain gruel or cakes cooked directly in the embers of the fire.
Perhaps because of this ancient lineage, pancakes are associated with rituals in many countries – Shrove Tuesday, Candlemas, and Chanukah to name a few.
From these rudimentary beginnings sprang a vast array of bread and pancakes, but the two were originally the same.
The ancient Greeks used griddles to cook a flat loaf drizzled with honey called ‘kreion’ and cakes of soft cheese.
The Romans as revealed in the cookbook by Apicius made dishes similar to modern pancakes.
Medieval pancakes, frequently made form barley or rye and lacking leavening, were relatively heavy affairs. They were quite different from contemporary fluffy or tender versions.
Pancake Day is another name for Shrive Tuesday, from the custom of eating pancakes on this day, still generally observed.
Shrive is an old Saxon word, of which shrove is a corruption and signifies confession.
The custom of dining on pancakes on Shrove Tuesday is Roman Catholic origin that on the day when all rejoiced alike in the forgiveness of their sins, all should feast alike on the same simple dish. The pancakes were prepared, denoted by the ringing of the ‘pancake bell’ from the church tower.
Pancakes are an essential part of a classic American breakfast. One of George Washington’s breakfast foods were pancakes that literally dripped in maple syrup. He would plunge each piece of his pancake under the syrup, sopping it good before he ate it.
Pancakes somehow evolved to be exclusively Sunday morning or overnight-guest breakfast fare. Since they are easy to make and there are so many different ways to prepare them, pancakes are a favorite’s hearty food to cook for a crowd.
The first colonial settlers were taught by local Native American to make griddlecakes from Rhode Island Narragansett maize. These griddlecakes soon became a staple, known among the settlers as johnnycakes.
Pancakes prevailed as the household bread in homes with no ovens, only an open hearth.
Why am I sharing pancake history you ask? Well it so happens I woke up this morning and with a sponsored pancake breakfast later today I decided to do a little background check on where this cake came from. This is what authors do we research everything.
Some day during a writing session this research will spill out and smoothly be explained by one of my characters why he is looking down at his shirt with slight disdain as a bite of pancake with blueberry syrup is sliding down his shirt on a first date with Beverly.