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  • Writer's pictureTamara Schneider

The Scrumptious History of Pancakes

By Intern Olivia Harper

I don’t know about you guys but growing up having pancakes for breakfast on the weekends was a staple in my family. Even now as I have moved out of the house, I still make pancakes for my boyfriend on the weekend. The only difference now is that my pancakes probably include more fun toppings than when I was little. Sorry mom, it’s just the truth. However, I think we can all agree that although we consider pancakes delicious, we don’t actually know how they became a staple in American breakfast. Grab your fork because this is Pancakes 101!

The Beginning

Once upon a time, two men named Cratinus and Magnes wrote in a journal about warm cake. Little did they know, they became poets and didn’t even know it. Today, we recognize this journal entry as the first recorded mention of pancakes. This entry dates back to 600 BC Ancient Greece. However, these pancakes probably weren’t as scrumptious as the ones we know today. In Rome and Greece, pancakes were made from flour, olive oil, honey, and curdled milk. Yes, you read that right. Curdled milk. This continued, and in 1100 AD, Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) became a way for the Christian community to use up dairy products before Lent. However, back then they were known as flapjacks.

The Renaissance of Pancakes

In his plays "All’s Well That Ends Well" and "As You Like It", William Shakespeare mentions pancakes. During the English Renaissance, the Tudors enjoyed flavoring their pancakes with spices, rosewater, sherry and apple. Talk about a royal stack! This continued into the 15th century when people began using the word "pancake" instead of "flapjack". Fast forward into the 1700’s and the invention of baking soda. Before pancakes could be fresh and fluffy from an easy pinch of baking soda, chefs would use snow (which contains ammonia) to create the same effect. In the 1800’s, Thomas Jefferson loved his fluffy pancakes so much that he sent his special recipe from the White House to his hometown. There’s something to be said about wanting to share a great breakfast with the ones you love, and Thomas Jefferson proved that.

An Instant American Breakfast

It wasn’t until 1889 that the first instant pancake mix was introduced in the United States. Pearl Milling Company, formerly known as Aunt Jemima, released boxes of ready-mix pancakes. Pancakes quickly became the earliest and most widespread breakfast food eaten during that time period. This success continued and in 1966 Pearl Milling Company released their first pancake syrup. From then on, pancakes and syrup were yin and yang. Today, we spice up our pancakes more than originally intended. Popular toppings include fruit, chocolate and various spices to add flavor to the batter. Many people also create fun shapes with their pancakes by using cookie cutters or free handing fun characters. With pancakes, the possibilities are endless fun!

Pancakes are an American favorite, classic and past time. What originally began as a strategy to use remaining dairy products before they went bad during Lent, has become an American tradition for families. Now that you’ve attended Pancakes 101, don’t forget to share it with the rest of your family. Round up your toppings and gather around the pancake griddle, because everyone needs to eat pancakes to properly celebrate National Pancake Day. Until next time – Liv


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