Shroving on a greasy Tuesday: Pancake Day


by SajiniW
28th February, 2006 at 2:53 pm    

First things first. We’ve established that Christians celebrate Shrove Tuesday to mark the beginning of Lent aka the forty days of austerity prior to Good Friday.

The devout Catholic (most commonly seen in Latin America) prefers to fast and abstain, since recklessness isn’t exactly the bullet train to salvation.

The Francophiles among us know that ‘Mardi Gras’, most famously celebrated in New Orleans, translates as ‘Fat Tuesday’.

Fasting, in ye olden times translated as ‘no meat’, signifying one had to say goodbye (or valé) to the meat (carne). This gave rise to ‘carnevale’, an outburst of crazy behaviour with bikini babes galore before the self-denial kicked in.

Abstention, to the common man, meant laying off the richer dairy products in the home. On the last day before Lent, cooks found themselves seizing all the remaining eggs, butter and milk in the house to make the richest dish possibly. For the culinarily challenged, pancakes came up trumps and a holiday was born! Contrasting how carnival celebrated much misbehaviour in the streets, while it’s sensible cousin mardi gras kept the naughtiness indoors?

As mentioned previously, the world’s biggest Mardi Gras takes place in New Orleans. Tellingly, this year’s occasion is comparatively sedate in the post-Katrina aftermath.

In 150 years the Margo Gras festival has been running, only the American Civil War and by two world wars have had the cheek to interrupt the city which lives to eat!


The current set of city “krewes” or merchants’ organisations decided that investors would not consider the council were serious about rebuilding and rebranding unless they went to town with their traditional parade of floats, masks and topless tits.

CNN colludes with the view that the festival is a ‘much-needed respite from the harsh realities‘ of rehabilating a city.

Alas, over two-thirds of the city population haven’t made it back from their places of retreat, 100,000 homes are wrecked, and many of their owners have rejected local attempts to pull down their properties – guaranteeing that much of New Orleans will resemble a construction site for decades. The devastation in the poorest wards of the city continues, with tables and chairs, gas ovens and Westinghouse fridges left standing in the street thanks to the city council running out of recovery dollars. Depressingly, these residents are left between a rock and a hard place – if they don’t ‘celebrate’, the investors won’t come in. If they do, then funds which could’ve been used for the relief effort are directed towards a few hours of pleasure.

I’m still mystified as to what ‘shrove’ means. Upon consulting a dictionary, I read that the name is derived from ‘shriven’, the Olde English verb meaning ‘to confess’. Back in the day, villagers found themselves going around the village singing for money at Shrovetide, whilst absolving themselves of their sins at the holy lair.

Our old friend Wiki has more – detailing the traditions and tribulations of pancake day round the world.

I’ll spare a thought for the Katrina victims when I tuck in tonight. Happy Eating!


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  1. laban — on 28th February, 2006 at 8:50 pm  

    You go to a priest to be shriven – to confess your sin and be given absolution (unless its a particularly bad sin).

    Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and at all Catholic schools the children will attend Mass and have a cross traced in ash on your forehead.

    There’s a famous old ballad about the English king Henry II, who decides to disguise himself as a priest to hear his wife’s confession. He asks a courtier, the Earl Marshal, to accompany him, but the Earl seems strangely reluctant …

    http://sniff.numachi.com/~rickheit/dtrad/pages/tiQECONFES.html

  2. Sunny — on 1st March, 2006 at 1:03 am  

    Mmmm… pancakes…. *drools*

    btw, the Guardian blog has a bit on the New Orleans Mardi Gras and the Rio carnival:
    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2006/02/28/dont_stop_the_carnival.html

  3. Don — on 1st March, 2006 at 8:56 am  

    ‘You go to a priest to be shriven..’ Hence ‘To give short shrift’; a hurried confession before a brisk execution.

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