Love Letters and Lent
In our house, as in households across the UK, the day before Ash Wednesday — Shrove Tuesday — was the day of the pancake feast. Shrove Tuesday is observed in several Christian denominations. The term “shrove” is derived from the word “shrive,” meaning to confess. It is a day of reflection, before the penitential season of Lent.
The Tuesday before Lent begins — Mardi Gras or fat Tuesday — is also the day to use up foods that would be avoided during the relative scarcity of Lent, foods such as flour, milk and eggs. Of course flour, milk and eggs are the ideal ingredients for pancake or crêpe batter.
Margery Radford was a skilled crêpe-crafter. I’d observe the ritual from a corner of our kitchen in Hunter Crescent, Troon. She sifted the flour and salt into the bowl and created a small well in the center into which she cracked an egg. After some intense whisking, she let the batter rest while we set the table together. We were a team — she carried the placematss and crockery while I followed behind with the cutlery.
And then the magic of crêpe creation began. She deftly tipped the hot frying pan, spreading the paper-thin layer of batter evenly over the base. Mum turned to me and asked, “Know how thin these crepes should be pet?”
I shook my head no.
“So thin you could read your love letters through them,” she declared, nodded for emphasis, and with that flipped the crêpe with a brisk movement. Now that’s really thin, I thought to myself.
After half a dozen crêpes had been arranged on three plates, Mum gently tapped the sieve containing the powdered sugar, dusting each one. She cupped her left hand over her right as she finished the dish with lemon juice. “Ah,” said Dad, “another perfect plate of pancakes.”
So perfect, you could read your love letters through them.
Tags: batter, crêpes, fat Tuesday, Lent, Mardi Gras, Margery Radford, Pancake Tuesday, pancakes, Shrove Tuesday