J FPtak Science Books Quick Post on a Moment Frozen in time, an Engraved Snapshot
"As fit as a pancake for Shrove Tuesday"--All's Well that Ends Well
Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras was a celebration of absolution going back to Roman times, of confessing and cleansing the soul of sins--and also famous for being the day before Lent and the sacrifices as practioners of faiths lean-in towards the Easter holiday. In some Presbyterian places it was a season good time, an issuing of Merry Shroventide.
"It was customary to present the first pancake to the greatest slut or lie-a-bed of the party..." The Book of Days, page 237
The pancake is one of the oldest human cereal foods, stretching back to prehistoric times. The food appears in Greek poetry about 2500 years ago, and makes its first appearance in English in about 1440. It is an old food, and cultures around the world have varied approaches to its construction and components, many of which have the pull of hundreds of years worth of history.
"Pancakes are eat by greedy gut, and Hob and Madge run for the slut"--Poor Robbin's Almanac 1677
There have been pancake races and pancake displays and pancake throwing that reach back into the 15th century. I must say though that in these many years of print collecting that I cannot recall seeing a very old print of flying pancakes. Which is why I've included the scan (above) of the image above, which is a relatively old wood engraving found in R. Chambers The Book of Days, a Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar...and printed in London in 1863. Its cheery and judgmental crowd observing the cook's effort to throw a pancake as high in the air as possible and then catch the thing again in the pan. Pancakes on dubious display, all waiting to be eaten before start of the fasting season before Easter.
And just for good measure, we'll toss in this beautiful work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fight between Carnival and Lent, which was painted in 1559 and shows the opposing forces on the edge of the Lenten/non-Lenten world, each side abounding with its demands for attention. In particular though is the food on the little trolley of the woman leading the Lenten contingent, where we definitely see bagels, and probably see pancakes.