‘This is Pancake day,’ said the Professor, taking his four pairs of spectacles off, and getting them just as mixed up as he usually got his five pairs. ‘It is a festival that is inclined to die out, because although people like pancakes they won’t trouble to cook them. Too much trouble. Too much mess. That is what people say.’
Such was the grim outlook of one scientific expert in the mid-1930s. Speaking from his research laboratory in Great Pagwell, Professor Branestawm envisioned a joyless future where we’d have given up on this peculiar Christian tradition altogether. So the maverick scientist, ably assisted by the century’s greatest inventing mind, Mr. W. Heath Robinson, set out to create a device that would mix, fry and toss pancakes of varying degrees of thickness.
It’s a brave soul who takes on Heath Robinson in the mad machine stakes, but here illustrator Raymond Briggs provides a wonderful updated version of the pancake maker, complete with battery hen.
Briggs had already created one of the finest depictions of the pancake feast as the climax of his picture book masterpiece, Elfrida Vipont’s The Elephant and the Bad Baby. Having sampled the town’s entire range of cakes, buns and other sweet purloinables, Bad Baby’s mum attempts to assuage the fury of the local small business community with an epic pre-lenten blowout. It does the trick. Of course it does, pancakes are brilliant.
The best part of pancake day is of course the tossing, or rather the inability to toss. A friend can be helpful in this capacity. Though maybe not a friend like Pippi Longstocking.
Her technique is simple. When Pippi makes pancakes she tosses the eggs high in the air. One lands on her head. Not a problem.
Once transfered from the frying pan it is most important to keep hold of the pancake. They do have a terrible habit of running away.
Should you hang on to it, watch out for thieves. Shrove Tuesday sees pancake robberies rise by 110%.
Many people believe that the days of the traditional ’round’ pancake are numbered. Have you tried a square pancake yet? It’ll never catch on.
Pancakes are of course best enjoyed with friends, but as Tove Jansson explains in Finn Family Moomintroll, even a Hobgoblin will do: ‘Someone who eats pancakes and jam can’t be so awfully dangerous. You can talk to him.’