Stuart Orme, director of operations, Peterborough Cathedral:
It’s coming up to that time of year when we have the debate on the vexed question of a suitable filling for Shrove Tuesday’s traditional delicacy; in other words, what do you have on your pancakes?
Do you go for sweet or savoury fillings? Do you prefer the traditional sugar and lemon juice, some jam perhaps, or maybe maple syrup? That’s after you’ve worked out whether to make your own pancake mix or buy ready-made, or whether you can pluck up the courage to toss your pancake into the air in the traditional manner, or turn it more delicately using a spatula…
Shrove Tuesday started and remains as an event in the Christian calendar, the word Shrove being derived from the old English word ‘Shrive’, meaning ‘to be absolved’.
It was traditional that on this last day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, that a person confess to their priest and be absolved of their sins as an act of spiritual cleansing. As the 40 days of Lent are a period when Christians fast or give up certain foods, in remembrance of Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness, Shrove Tuesday has always been a last day to enjoy these before giving them up (hence the pancake fillings).
In French speaking parts of the world it is ‘Fat Tuesday’, perhaps better known as Mardi Gras!
Whilst we don’t quite have the party that some nations have, there are some peculiarly English Shrovetide traditions. As someone brought up in Derbyshire, I’ve been to the football match at Ashbourne, once a Shrove Tuesday tradition in many parts of the country, where the game is played using its original 12th Century rules (but with less bloodshed!) Pancake races are also an ancient tradition, the earliest started at Olney in Oxfordshire in 1445.
Tradition says that a housewife was cooking pancakes when she heard the service bell ringing at the local church. She rushed to the service, carrying her pan and tossing the pancake to avoid it getting burnt.
It’s appropriate then, that this Shrove Tuesday, 28th February at 1.00pm, Peterborough Cathedral is also staging a Pancake Race, inviting people to take part in a fun-run style event around the Precincts, helping raise funds for the cathedral. Pancakes for the race will be provided free of charge by event caterers, The Fenland Roaster, and the cathedral will invite donations from those who take part. Freshly made pancakes will also be on sale, making this a great way to spend a lunch hour for spectators too!
Anyone who would like to enter the pancake race must register online via the Cathedral’s Pancake Race web page at www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk.
We do ask you to bring your own frying pan and make sure you’re wearing suitable shoes for running or walking! We’re hoping that groups of work colleagues will take up the challenge, but the race is open to anyone who would like to try their hand at flipping pancakes in front of the city’s best known landmark.