Stephen Jardine: Feeling flat after Pancake Day

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jane Barlow

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jane Barlow

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FANCY a pancake? No, I didn’t think so. After the past week, most of us will probably be happy not to encounter one for another 12 months. And no wonder – Pancake Day is now big business.

But how many people know why we even bother to grease the griddle? The origins of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday lie in the fact it is the last chance to indulge in a rich food containing eggs, milk and butter before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Not that anyone really cares about the details.

Instead, Pancake Day has become just another opportunity to overindulge. The sheer scale of it is mind-boggling. On Tuesday, we consumed 30 million more eggs than we do on an average day.

With an average of one egg to one stack, that’s a lot of pancakes.

You don’t have to think back very far to find a time when Pancake Day was nothing more than an odd eccentricity. Growing up, I remember it just being the “and finally” item on the news when waiters raced against each other along the street flipping pancakes as they ran.

It certainly wasn’t the big deal it is now, so what has changed? For a start, the pancake has. Back in the day, they were thin, French-style crepes, doused in that odd Jif lemon juice that tasted like a watered-down version of the real thing. Since then, increased transatlantic travel has altered tastes. Now, more and more people opt for fluffy American-style pancakes packed with baking powder and buttermilk and topped with maple syrup.

But the greatest factor in the revival of Pancake Day has been the spread of social media. On Tuesday, you couldn’t look at Facebook or Twitter without seeing pancakes made with kale or shaped like Justin Bieber. We even had a picture of David Cameron in mid toss, with predictable captions.

Add to that recipes from Jamie Oliver, topping tips from Nigella and serving suggestions from the Hairy Bikers, and it was no time before pancakes were a trending topic all over the country.

In the constant search for content that is the driver of social media, Pancake Day is a gift from heaven. With images of death and destruction all over the digital world, it also represents a welcome break from grim reality. Even the most hardened troll would find it hard to build up their bile over a blueberry pancake posting.

Instead people competed on social media to post the most delicious looking pancake pile, while others pictured them in unusual places or pitched in with the most unusual accompaniments.

Above all, Pancake Day this year was delicious and fun – a glorious celebration of something we all love to eat. My favourite tweet came from someone on Wednesday morning. It simply said: “Can we do yesterday again?”

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