The pancake is a thin flat cake made from batter and fried on a griddle or in a skillet. The batter usually consists of eggs, flour, milk or water and oil or melted butter. Whether they are called pancakes, flapjack, griddlecakes, flapjacks, wheat cakes, hot cakes, or funnel cakes, they are among our most popular food choices. A piping hot stack of buttered pancakes drenched in maple syrup is an all-American image. Pancakes, in one form or another, are found in almost every culture and all nations have at least one dish, which uses a pancake as container for fillings or toppings.
Archaeological evidence suggests that varieties of pancakes are probably the earliest and most widespread types of cereal food eaten in prehistoric societies whereby dry carbohydrate-rich seed flours mixed with the available protein-rich liquids, usually milk and eggs, were baked on hot stones or in shallow earthenware pots over an open fire to form a nutritious and highly palatable foodstuff
In the medieval and modern Christian period, especially in Britain, pancakes were made to use up store items prior to the period of Lent fasting beginning on Shrovetide.
The pancake's shape and structure varies worldwide. There are numerous variations of them throughout Europe.
- Australia: pikelets
- Austrian: palatschinken
- China: egg rolls, spring roll, po-ping
- Dominican Republic: yaniqueques
- Egypt: katief
- England - pancakes, crumpets, oatcakes, English crumpets, crempop
- France: crepes, eierkuckas
- Germany: pannkucken
- Holland: poffertjes, pannenkoeken
- 'Hungary: Palacsinta'India : pooda, cheela, dosa, appam, uttapam
- Indonesia - serabi
- Italy: crespelle, cannelloni
- Korea : jeon, pajeon, bindaetteok, kimchijeon, hotteok
- Kosher: Matzos pancake, blintzes
- Latin America: tortillas
- Nepal : chataamari
- Netherlands: pannenkoeken, poffertjes
- Norway: lefse
- Poland: naleśniki
- Romania: spinach pancakes
- Russia: blini
- Scotland: Bannocks, drop scones
- South Africa: pannekoek, plaatkoekies,
- Southern India: lentil patties
- Sweden: plattar, flaeskpannkaka
- Trinidad: roti
- U.S.A: flapjacks, griidlecakes, hotckaes, johnny cakes, fry bread, cracklin' bread, funnel cakes
- Wales: crempog, ffroes
- West Indies: green corn cakes, or corn oyster fritters
Nobody knows just how long people have been making and eating pancakes but you could call the flat bread made by primitive families twelve thousand years ago, a pancake. Grinding grains and nuts and adding water or milk made pancakes. This mixture was then shaped into flattened cakes and baked on the hot stones surrounding the fire. One of the earliest known pancake meals dates back to 4th century B.C. China, where fragile pancakes of millet meal or wheat flour were popular because of their short preparation time. Spring pancakes, a thin pancake made of ground rice, and filled with vegetables and meat have been traced as far back as the Song Dynasty. Archaeologists excavating Stone Age Swiss lakeside settlements have found well-preserved examples of cakes made of pure wheat, millet or barley.
In colonial America, slaves carried homemade dry pancake “mixes” in a pouch to the fields with them. When it was time to eat, they added water to the pouch, worked it into a batter and baked patties on a hot hoe over an open fire. In earlier times, English pancakes were sometimes moistened with ale, which had a leavening effect when the pancake was fried. German pancakes were leavened by eggs and served thin, with jam or jelly.
- The best-known one is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, which heralds the beginning of fasting in Lent. On this day there were feasts of pancakes to use up the supplies of fat, butter and eggs - foods that were forbidden during austere Lent.
- In England there are several celebrations on this day, but perhaps the best known one is the Pancake Day Race at Olney in Buckinghamshire which has been held since 1445. The race came about when a woman cooking pancakes heard the shriving bell summoning her to confession. She ran to church wearing her apron and still holding her frying pan, and thus without knowing it, started a tradition that has lasted for over five hundred years.
- In France, the main ceremonial day, for pancake eating is Candlemas on the 2nd of February. This holy day is six weeks after Christmas and is the day that Christ was presented at the temple by his mother. During this festival, French children wear masks and demand pancakes and fritters. In various parts of France, there are different customs. In Province, if you hold a coin in your left hand while you toss a pancake, you'll be rich. And in Brie the first pancake (which is never very good anyway) is always given to the hen that laid the eggs that made the pancake. And it's always regarded as bad luck to let a pancake fall on the floor while tossing it.
- Pancakes are the traditional treat of the Jewish Hanukkah festival. They are fried in oil to commemorate the oil found by the Maccabeans when they recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians, two thousand years ago. The one-day's supply of oil for the temple lamps burned miraculously for one week. And, tradition says, the wives of the soldiers hurriedly cooked pancakes behind the lines for their warring husbands.