It’s Shrove Tuesday. ‘Shrove’ is the past tense of ‘shrive’ which means to hear confession, give penance, or absolve a sin. I’ve mostly called it Pancake Day, but it’s also known as Mardi Gras, (French for Fat Tuesday). Somehow in America, Mardi Gras became a street carnival where women bare their breasts for strings of plastic beads, but in the (comparatively boring) older tradition we’re supposed to get whatever is left in the fridge and cupboard and fry it up, stuff our faces, then more or less starve for the following six weeks of Lent. Sounds like a good slimming plan.
A thin pancake, fried in butter, served with a generous squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of caster sugar is my favourite. I quite like it with maple syrup or honey, but the former is the best.
When I first married, we lived in a flat comprised of several high-ceilinged and huge windowed rooms in an old house (Weirton Place, just outside Maidstone). The little kitchen overlooked a bike shed, on the roof of which there was often a noisy peacock. Whenever I think of that kitchen now, where the open oven was the only means of heat in winter, I remember pressurised whipped cream, squirted all over our pancakes, then each other – Bonnie the border collie, bouncing around excitedly, and getting her share. We were cash-strapped, I was newly pregnant and unemployed, but that kind of shared hilarity kept the serious, responsible world from worrying us.