Pancake Day (better known outside the UK as Shrove Tuesday) wasn’t and isn’t something I celebrate. Still, the fact that it exists by that name amused me enough to make some on the 17th of February. Doing so brought back some old memories from my childhood that I will gratuitously share with you:
Growing up, my father did most of the cooking at home – and by that, I mean basically all of it, unless there was a special occasion and my mother needed to make a dish for it. One of the things he liked to do (perhaps because money was tight and pancakes are cheap to make from scratch) was give us pancakes for dinner.
You’d hear him in the kitchen at the griddle; using a tissue to smear a thin layer of grease to keep the pancakes from sticking – always swearing when the first pancake didn’t turn out right (it never turned out right) and feeding it to the dog.
My brothers and I would be in the dining room at the table, which was conveniently located outside the door to the kitchen. Waiting. Waiting for the signal that would have us up and running.
“PLATES!” my father would call and it would be all elbows and A-holes to get to him. He would drop two pancakes on each plate and then we would make our way to the butter and syrup. Sometimes there would be sausages or bacon to go with, but most of the time it was just pancakes.
As kids, we never objected to the notion; it wasn’t until I grew up and recognised that perhaps it was a bit unusual to have for dinner. However, it really didn’t hit home until Pancake day.
Something about getting a funny stare from my husband when I suggested it as the final meal of the day… Yeah, you can connect the dots.
So they were not had for dinner, but (perhaps bizarrely in my mind) for dessert, which got me thinking about other things I’ve had in my life in meals that might appear to an outsider as being rather peculiar.
Having rice (sometimes as a porridge with milk, sugar and cinnamon, but I’ve eaten it with butter and/or other seasonings as well) for breakfast is the one that comes to my mind. Like the pancakes for dinner, rice for breakfast was a way my family stretched their food budget. They would make a pot of rice the night before, have it with dinner, and then we would eat the leftovers for breakfast the next day – sometimes over the next several days.
The biggest things I can take from these memories is the knowledge that, for the most part, starches and carbs are cheap. Were it not for the fact that my parents also kept a vegetable garden, I’m pretty sure we would have been far more malnourished. One cannot survive on starch and carbs alone, though many of us may try in a pinch, much as my family did.
It should come as no surprise that, for how often I ate rice growing up, it is probably my second biggest comfort food next to homemade soup. If given the choice of any of my comfort foods (including chocolate and/or ice-cream), homemade soup comes first, rice second then the rest of the junk. It’s just a pity that the junk is easiest to come by, which is why I’m more likely to have that than the other two options.