Don't get fat on Tuesday

Did you know Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday?

Yup, the name is straight-forward; the day before Ash Wednesday is traditionally the last day to binge on all the rich foods and other excesses you would be giving up for Lent.

It is a day to consider in what areas of our life we might need to improve, and how better to do that than over a great meal?

While I am not a member of a congregation that takes on this traditional belief, I don't mind the opportunity to enjoy the spirit of the day.

Rich foods such as donuts and pancakes have been customary on this day as they were a good way to use many of the rich foods in the pantry before Lent began, like eggs and milk and sugar.

I'm making pancakes to celebrate Fat Tuesday. Since they are such a traditional food for the day, some call it Pancake Tuesday.

It strikes me that the rich foods of winter start to become less popular about this time of year even in secular circles. Even those without religious background can look upon this day as an opportunity to reflect on the coming of the lighter and often healthier fare of spring and summer.

A lighter attitude is also part of the warmer weather. In England, there is a town that has held a pancake race since 1445 as part of the Shrove Tuesday festivities.

The race is in honour of a parishioner who apparently lost track of time and ran out her door with her pan of pancakes in her hand when the church bell rang to signal the service starting.

Today, contestants dress up like housewives in aprons and kerchiefs and must carry their pan (complete with pancake) over a 415-yard course through town. They are even required to flip their pancake at the start and finish of the race.

I’m hoping they make fresher pancakes to consume after.

In Iceland, my heritage on my father's side of the family, the day is called "Sprengidagur," which translates as Bursting Day (don't you love the sense of humour?)  

Salted meat and peas were the traditional fare, but I think I would have preferred Icelandic pancakes, called Ponnokukur. If you’re feeling adventurous, try out my recipe.

Despite my lightheartedness at describing these activities, my aim is not to belittle the serious religious custom that is at the core of Shrove Tuesday.

"Shrove" is the past tense of the English verb shrive which was to obtain absolution for one's sins through confession. Your last chance to be shriven was on Shrove Tuesday, as Lent begins the next day and penance would start.

Similarly, Carnival (spelled in various ways in different languages) comes from the Latin carne levare, meaning to take away meat, a common practice during Lent.

The festivities of Carnival — dressing up, dancing, indulging in rich foods and other decadent pastimes — were other ways of celebrating the excess before Lent.

The masquerade, where people covered their identities with a mask, was said to sometimes offer a chance for lovers to be together in public.

This is perhaps the culmination of all things excessive and is a famous part of the Carnevale in Venice, Italy.

The Bauta mask is one of the oldest styles, worn traditionally by men with a black cape. This mask signified anonymity and was even used in democratic voting sessions.

Whatever you do in the coming weeks, as the year edges on and spring comes ever closer, I hope you will have a chance to reflect on how you can make the most of it and how you can enjoy your blessings.

I think that might be the simple truth of this ancient holiday.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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