Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is this some sort of cruel joke????

Call me paranoid, but I'm really feeling like the country of England has read my blog and decided to mess with my head. Look at what I found:

Celebrate Pancake Day 2009!
On 24 February from 11am-2pm, National Trust property Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire will hold a Pancake Fun Day. Enjoy a Pancake Recipe Trail, obstacle course, pancake tossing competition and the obligatory pancake race. The restaurant will turn out lots of lovely pancakes, too ... so make sure you have at least a taste!

Apparently, my search for pancakes could have been satisfied on one day this year. The day before Ash Wednesday is Pancake Day. Everyone gorges themselves pancakes...granted, the pancakes they prepare are not the ones we are accustomed is a link to the recipe for their kind:
But still, it is apparent that they appreciate the delight of a pancake nonetheless.

This discovery raises a few questions and observations in my mind. (As things usually do.) In the interest of time and attention spans, I will only pose two of them here. First, when I stumbled around town in December and January, begging for pancakes (and that's clearly exaggerated for effect), why didn't anyone mention this to me? Even if it was something as simple as, "No, me luv. You'll just need to wait until 24 February."

Here is a link to an explanation of this holiday here in the UK:
(Let it not be said that I don't share the knowledge. Okay, it's more like I share the links to the knowledge, so point and click.)

My second observation is not so much about pancakes as much as it is about the culture here. Pancake Day is also known as Shrove Tuesday. Even on my most PMS-ish days I never considered that carbs could be a splurge of choice. (Unless you are on Atkins, of course.) It is contemporary tradition in Catholic-dominated cultures to binge on alcohol (and food in general) prior to Ash Wednesday. That's just Mardi Gras...and we all know about that. The genesis of both traditions is that historically, people give up alcohol and other enjoyable things for Lent.

But the thing that confuses me is this: it's not like pancakes are so readily available and massively consumed sacrificing your daily pancake during Lent is a real sign of living your faith. As far as I can tell, the last time most of the folks here had a pancake was last year's Pancake Day.

I'm thinking that they don't celebrate Mardi Gras here the way the US or Brazil celebrates it is not because they dislike a day of drunken debauchery. Who doesn't like a day like that every once in a while? Rather, they are willing to forgo that one day so that they are not bound to the rest of the tradition....the following 40 days of sacrifice. My theory is that Pancake Day is just a red herring. There. I said it.

Here in the UK they don't mess around with the binge before the dry spell because they have no intention of having a dry spell. They drink, they drink often, and they can drink a lot. They are good at it...and trust me, I know. I grew up in a town boasting the world's largest brewery, and in a family where beer was considered one of the major food groups.

There are actually television commercials here, sponsored by the government, regarding how many units (10ml.) of alcohol per week is considered safe to consume, and it lists the dangers of exceeding that amount. Women can get by safely with 14 units. For men it is 21 units. (If you have read Bridget Jones's Diary, you'll recall that she kept totals on her units.) No one should exceed three or four units in a day. Here is a link to an explanation if you are curious: (Again with the links!)

So, like the observation I made with their driving on the wrong side of the road, here is another example of the 'my island, my rules'-attitude. And you know what? I just LOVE that about them. Seriously.

You may be wondering if I'm going to celebrate Pancake Day...and to be honest, I'm not sure. Despite all my pissing and moaning about things, I really do like it here. I am enjoying all of the new experiences - even the humiliating ones. I love watching the boys enjoy their new surroundings, broadening their horizons, learning in a way not possible through a book. The history is everywhere - not just museums - and it is flippin' PHENOMENAL. I am fascinated with the culture, the sub-cultures, and how little of it I know. Pancake Day would be a great way to experience more of that culture. However, there's this tiny part of me that says there is NO WAY any British pancake could be as good as ones from The Original Hotcake House (Portland) or Uncle Bill's Pancakes (St. Louis). So, if I decide to go to one of the kajillion celebrations, I will go with an open mind and hope for the best. It's not about the pancakes.

Then again, if nothing absurd happens, what will I write about?????

1 comment:

  1. Hi Renee
    I came across your blog because you have linked to our school website. I am so glad I did. I have just spent the last hour reading your posts in fits of laughter. It is so lovely to come across someone from across the pond writing about their experiences in England. I have learned so much from you.

    Easter and May are the main times of the year when the weird and whacky British come out of hibernation. I would love to read your thoughts if you ever saw any of our more unusual customs like cheese rolling, bog snokeling or shin kicking.