Today is Shrove Tuesday. It’s the day before the day when those who are so inclined give up things they enjoy such as sweets, caffeine and alcohol for a period of forty days. Though I’ve never been a practitioner of self-denial, one year I decided to see for myself why my Catholic friends were always moaning about Lent. I gave up watching soap operas. I suppose I missed the point since not giving a toss about the thing you are foregoing really doesn’t generate much suffering or self-reflection. Weaning myself off pop would have been a much more worthy test of my will; however, those close to me would have endured great hardship and I couldn’t put them through such horrors.
So today is the day when people around the world indulge in rich food and drink or just let their hair down for one last hurrah before they subject themselves to acts of penance and atonement for the next six weeks. In America, some people have been known to do this:
Where I live now they don’t throw huge parties as much as they eat substantial Polish pastries called paczki (prounounced pawnch-ki). I had never heard of these tasty fruit or custard filled doughnut-like treats before I moved to the Cleveland area, but if you’re dedicated to experiencing an authentic Fat Tuesday in Northeast Ohio, there should be paczkis present.
The best Shrove Tuesday tradition I’ve come across so far was when I was in London in the spring of 1986. My roommate took me to a cafe around the corner from our house to feast on what I would call a plate of crepes. Garnished with powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, they were very delicious and perhaps even more so because we were consuming them on a holiday called Pancake Day.
I get the feeling that lobbing the pancakes around a frying pan is a bigger part of the ritual than eating them. There are more flipping (you may take that literally or figuratively) videos out there than I care to mention. Here’s a very short one.
Pancake day! https://t.co/XTxgn8XBO9
— Charlie McDonnell (@coollike) March 4, 2014
And moving forward in space while tossing your pancake in the air is apparently a competitive sport one day a year…
Pancake races or flashing your baps at a mob of strangers for a few strands of cheap plastic beads? You decide which is the most appropriate way to prepare for a period self-sacrifice or to achieve a basic sense of self-respect come Wednesday morning. Call me a party pooper if you must but I, like my philosophical hero, Mancunian Karl Pilkington, can’t abide “forced fun.”