Wednesday 28 June 2017

Sinfully sweet pleasures of Shrove Tuesday

Pancake Tuesday is just around the corner. Photo: Paul Sherwood Photography
Pancake Tuesday is just around the corner. Photo: Paul Sherwood Photography

Fiona O'Connell

My sights are set on the sweetly spiritual this last Sunday in February - for Shrove Tuesday is just two days away. I've already loaded up on lemons and (only slight exaggeration, crates of caster sugar).

Maybe it's a case of forbidden fruit (or forbidden pancakes) since gorging on this blissful batter was largely confined to this one day of the year when I was growing up. And while my inner child is still proffering her plate for more like Oliver Twist, and would kill me for saying so, limits - as Lent imposes - make treats tastier.

Certainly, there are no barriers on how much, when or what you can eat nowadays (as all those sweet snack shacks in the Big Smoke illustrate). It makes me wonder that selling waffles constitutes a bona fide business that can afford the rental on some of Ireland's most expensive streets. Alongside those places selling 40 shades and flavours of 'gelato' (apparently 'ice cream' is too common).

Speaking of pretentious words, a kiosk on O'Connell Street that has been there for as long as I can remember sells donuts - another batter-based treat that I adore. I once asked the owner why they didn't sell pancakes too, and he told me that they had tried advertising crepes but no one was interested. It turned out that most Paddies didn't realise they meant pancakes.

So you can keep your too cool for school 'crepes'. Because no matter how cosmopolitan this country claims to be, everyone knows that pancakes are the real deal.

But even if you're a lapsed Catholic who loathes Lent, a pancake-loving Protestant, crepe-choosing Quaker or a sacrilegious atheist who opts for savoury fillings, you have to watch your portion size when it comes to these calorie-laden pleasures.

But here's an idea. 'Meatless Monday' has gone mainstream, while many in this country town enjoy a 'Chipper Fish and Chips Friday'. Perhaps a permanent Pancake Tuesday, including all forms of puddings, would prevent us eating promiscuous amounts of sinful sugar?

Until then, those 24 hours that allow theologically attuned taste buds to go on a bender is coming to a frying pan near you. So better get those ingredients pronto.

Because just as it's possible to make vegan pancakes to preserve your principles, every purist knows that you have to do the penance and make your own. However tempting it may be, those funny- shaped plastic bottles that involve you doing nothing more than adding milk and shaking won't cut it. Nor will the stacks of pre-made ones that you find in shop fridge compartments.

Even then, one needs to be piously patient and wait for the batter to rest before ladling out a spoon. You must further mortify the flesh by making a hames of your first attempts. The final suffering step is to share.

For that is the spiritual secret that keeps you slim and truly sweet. You can't just have your pancake and eat it.

Sunday Independent

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