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The Breakfast that Stacks Up: A Brief History of Pancakes

A plate of two overlapping pancakes with a strip of bacon on top of each. A cup of coffee in a white and teal mug is sitting next to the plate.

As we celebrate National Pancake Day on March 1st, it comes as no surprise that millions of people are thrilled for an extra excuse to make time in the morning to flip on the griddle and whip up a batch. But, even though the official holiday of hotcakes only started in 2006 (thanks, IHOP!), pancakes have actually been a staple food in nearly every culture around the world for centuries. Keep reading for a brief (re: not boring) history lesson on how pancakes came to be.

 

Scientists have proven that hot rock-fried cakes made of ground up grain appeared in the diets of our earliest human ancestors! (Somehow while they were running away from wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers, they still had time to bake!) In about 600 BC, there are records of a pancake-like food being present in Ancient Greece and Rome, where they started to get fancy and include luxury ingredients in their recipes like honey and olive oil, along with spices, cheese, and fresh fruit.

 

We see these cake creations referred to by many different names throughout the world, but the word “pancake” itself entered our western vocabulary in 15th Century England, right around the time of Shakespeare, who mentioned them in two of his most famous plays, As You Like It and All’s Well that Ends Well. (He talks about something called a “pancake bell” and honestly, that’s something we could get behind!)

 

As Christianity started to increase in global popularity in the Middle Ages, more cultures would turn to pancakes to offload some of their perishable, fatty ingredients like milk, eggs, and butter to prepare for Lent, where they would spend the 40 days before Easter fasting in spiritual preparation. What started out as “Shrove Tuesday” where people would cook up large batches of pancakes as a final feast for family and friends, later became known as “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras” where you could gorge yourself on literally anything and everything as a final hurrah before the Lent period. And now, at least in America, our annual National Pancake Day is always hosted on “Fat Tuesday”...fitting, right?

 

In the USA, pancakes have been a breakfast classic for generations, but the first actual dry pancake mix was sold by Aunt Jemima in 1889, which brought a standardized style and taste of pancakes to households across the states. Even though we only started celebrating them on an official day about 15 years ago, Americans are very opinionated about how they like their pancakes served. According to an online poll, plain old buttermilk is still the most popular variety, followed by chocolate chip, blueberry, and banana. And while most prefer butter and maple syrup as their topping of choice, jam, peanut butter, fresh fruit, powdered sugar, whipped cream, and honey all made honorable mentions.


However you’re celebrating National Pancake Day this year, Whiskware wants to be a part of it. From recipes, to batter dispensers, pancake molds and shapers, and pancake art kits, your pancake breakfasts will be a hit this year!

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