At my last newspaper job, my colleagues loved celebrating Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, last day before (Western) Lent). A favorite co-worker, from New Orleans, of course, would bring in a King Cake and we would feast. Some people would wear beads, etc. And then the next day when I came to work with ashes on my forehead, dozens of people would ask me what that was for. I never quite understood celebrating Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday without Ash Wednesday being the next day. For an introduction into how Mardi Gras came to be celebrated, let's look at this entry in the Los Angeles Times food blog the Daily Dish:
In England and here in the U.S., many churches mark the day with pancake suppers; it's also a day when people who don't ordinarily make crepes will get out their battered French crepe pan to make the thin French pancakes. As I wrote a year ago in a story about crepes, the tradition was born from kitchen economy: Cooks made pancakes or crepes in order to use up eggs, butter and milk before Lent.
So when a reader -- who also happens to be a Lutheran minister -- e-mailed me his recipe for sourdough crepes after he'd read my recent sourdough starter story, it seemed perfect timing.
Reporter Amy Scattlergood goes on to make the recipe. It's kind of awesome to find liturgical baking in the Los Angeles Times.
The pancake theme is carried out in another Fat Tuesday story that perfectly demonstrates how commercial interests use the liturgical calendar. It seems that the International House of Pancakes was alarmed to find out that today's 15-state primary and caucus event coincides with Pancake Day. Drew Hasselback reports for the National Post:
Shrove Tuesday, which also goes by several other names like Mardi Gras and Pancake Day, marks the final day before the beginning of the somber season of Lent. The tradition of eating pancakes flows from a need to use up rich foods like milk, sugar and eggs before the launch of Lent's 40-day fast.
The flapjack festival is obviously crucial to any restaurant chain specializing in pancakes. Indeed, starting in 2006, IHOP began using Shrove Tuesday as an opportunity to hold in-store fund raising events for the Children's Miracle Network.
With 15 states planning key primary elections on Feb. 5, 2008, IHOP wrote the state governors and asked them to change the date of the elections.
Despite the lobbying efforts, the Feb. 5 votes are going ahead as planned. In what is being billed as a compromise, IHOP says it will celebrate "National Pancake Day" on Feb. 12. Several state governors, meanwhile, have pledged to proclaim Feb. 12 to be "National Pancake Day."
There is no word on whether IHOP has asked the Vatican to shift the timing of Lent.
A Google News search shows quite a few interesting stories about Shrove Tuesday, this one in particular. We'll also be looking out for how well the media cover Ash Wednesday and other events throughout the Christian liturgical season of Lent. Please let us know if you see any noteworthy stories.
Photo via The Department at Flickr.