So why do we celebrate eating pancakes?

 

Pancakes on plate
Pancakes on pancake day

I love pancakes. So having a day to celebrate them is my idea of heaven. But why do we?

Okay, so we’re not really celebrating pancakes. We are celebrating Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (sometimes known as Fat Tuesday in America, Sweden and France) and Carnival Tuesday in Trinidad and Tobago.

The name Shrove Tuesday comes from ‘shrive’, meaning absolution for sins by doing penance. A bell was rung to call Christians to go to Confession, where they admitted their sins to a priest and asked for absolution.

In France, it is called ‘Fat Tuesday’ because of the ancient custom of parading a fat ox through Paris. The ox was to remind the people that they were not allowed to eat meat during Lent.

So why is it called Pancake Day?

Pancake day came about much later on as a way of using up all the fats and foods that would not be eaten during fasting. In America it is called ‘Fat Tuesday’ because people use up their ‘fatty foods’ before Lent.

I found this explanation of Pancake day in Denmark and how it has its roots in history.

“To the Dutch it is called “Vastenavond” or “Dikke Dinsdag”. It is celebrated in the southern regions of the Netherlands and marks the last day of a celebration called “carnaval”. After this celebration a time of cleansing is done. Traditionally, around the start of February there would be a feast. This was the last opportunity to eat well before a time of food shortage at the end of the winter. On what nowadays is called “Vastenavond” meaning “the days before fasting” everyone ate the remaining winter stores of butter, lard, and meat before it began to rot, as livestock was slaughtered in the previous November.

It can’t be a coincidence that Lent is timed to match these lean months, with fasting helping the remaining food last longer.

Celebrating before fasting

This tradition of celebrating and then fasting happens in religions across the world.

In Hinduism it is believed that many diseases and damages to one’s body come from harmful substances in the digestive system. Hence, by fasting, one can purify himself, put his body to rest, and become healthier. Buddhists believe that fasting shows their determination to stay away from selfish desires, save the planet and all living creatures, and control their own greed. Muslims feel the most important reason to fast is for muslims to cleanse their bodies to present themselves to God and forgiveness for all their sins. Jews believe fasting will help them focus and bring them closer to forgiveness.

And before there was religion, there was nature. Hunting, foraging and storing food occured without fridges and freezers. So it makes sense that fasting occurred around this time, towards the end of Winter ready for Spring and the new seasonal foods she brought.

There is a common theme here. Indulge before fasting. We eat up all the good foods and then limit what we eat for so many weeks afterwards. Now what does that remind you of? Oh yes, Christmas. We eat all the rich and decadent foods and then go on a diet in January. Indulge before fasting. You might not be religious but I’m sure you’ve done this.

Pancakes and traditions

Celebrating Pancake day is a really old tradition but I found some other interesting traditions for Pancake day.

In Ireland, Pancakes would be cooked on the stove, and the honour of tossing the first pancake would go to the eldest, unmarried daughter. If she was successful, she would be married within the year.

In Canada, objects with symbolic value are baked into the pancakes, such as coins, nails, wedding rings and buttons. The lucky one to find coins in their pancake will be rich, the finder of the ring will be the first married, the finder of the nail will become a carpenter and the finder of the button will be a seamstress or tailor.

Dating back as far as the 12th century, many towns throughout England used to hold traditional Shrove Tuesday football (‘Mob Football’) games. Some still do. For two hours, men and women take part in  a ruby type of scrum to claim the football. Streets are closed and shops are boarded up to minimise the damage. Anything goes, and the only rule is that the ball is not allowed to leave the town’s boundaries. When the time is up, the man with the football in his hands is declared the winner, and gets to keep the ball as a trophy.

World record pancakes

  1. The tallest stack of pancakes is 101.8 cm (213 pancakes) and was made by Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, UK on 8 February 2016. (Guinness Book of records)
  2. The most pancakes made in one hour by an individual is 1,127 by Erica Price in Kansas, USA, on 17 April 2016.
  3. The Co-operative Union Ltd based in Manchester, England, made a pancake measuring 15.01 m in diameter and 2.5 cm deep on August 13, 1994.
  4. The oldest pancake race happened in 1445. According to legend, when the church bells rang for Shrove Tuesday service, a housewife wasn’t finished grilling the cakes. Not wishing to ruin her pancakes, she ran to the church with pan in hand. In memory of this housewife, women in Buckinghamshire, UK compete every Shrove Tuesday in a 415-yard race in which they must carry a pancake in a skillet.
  5. The Guinness Book of World Records does not recognize pancake eating as a category, but at an event at The Pancake Parlour in Melbourne, Australia, Hayden wilson ate 80 pancakes in 17 minutes and 26 seconds. That’s about 2.5kg of pancakes in less than 20 minutes.
  6. The fastest flipper of a pancake is Brad Jolly, who holds the record for most tosses of a pancake in one minute. He did 140 flips in 60 seconds during an event in Sydney, Australia in 2012.
  7. Dominic Cuzzacrea tossed his pancake 9.47 metres in the air at the Walden Galleria Mall in New York, USA, in November 2010.
  8. An incredible team made and flipped 76,382 pancakes in 8 hours at Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta, USA, back in May 2009. A total of 175 volunteers using 37 griddles cooked the pancakes and dished them out to approximately 20,000 people.

I won’t be making 76,382 pancakes tonight although it will probably feel like it. And if you are eating out here are some ideas happening around London. Happy Pancake Day everyone.

Romance, bromance and womance. What do these words mean?

Womance and bromance - the new romance
Romance, bromance or womance?

Three things happened last week.

  1. Valentines day
  2. The film ‘Hidden Figures’ arrived in the UK.
  3. I met with my girlfriends in the park.

It was a culmination of these points that sparked this blog.

Let me set the scene. It was half term last week and Friday was a glorious day. With the kids in tow, I met up with three of my close friends (we have our own acronym so we must be close or mad!) As always, when we get together, we begin to chat, forget about the kids and generally have a lovely time. We discussed Valentines day which we all decided should just be called Tuesday (normal day, no romance) and the film ‘Hidden Figures’ which focuses on an amazing group of black American women who helped the US win the space race.

Whilst gossiping away, my daughter who was eavesdropping, pulled a face when I mentioned my ‘girlfriends’. When questioned, she said the word was like ‘lesbian’. Now there is nothing wrong with the word ‘lesbian’ apart from that it describes a friendship which generally involves sex. I love my friends very much but have never (to my knowledge) ever wanted or tried to initiate sex with them.

But they are my girlfriends. They are the friends I talk to, the friends I turn to, the friends who I need to get through life, who happen to be girls. My daughter said we could rename ourselves as ‘besties’ (too similar to beasties) or G’s. Apparently shortening the word ‘girlfriend’ to a single letter makes it all ok. Who knew!

It made me wonder what word best describes the relationship I have with my close friends.

Bromance

Most of us have heard of the word ‘bromance’. The concept of the bromance really took flight with the success of the Hangover trilogy films. And it’s been around for quite a long time. David Carnie, the editor of skate mag Big Brother first coined it – a portmanteau of “bro” and “romance” – in the ‘90s to describe the close friendships between pro-skaters.

There are many stories fictional and real of great male friendships: Sherlock and Watson; Lennon and McCartney; Ant and Dec; Batman and Robin. The Blues Brothers shows a great male friendship, while Reservoir Dogs shows what happens when they go wrong.

The word ‘bromance’ is in the english dictionary.

‘A bromance is a close but not sexual relationship between two men.’

The word ‘romance’ is also in the english dictionary. There are a few definitions.

‘A close, usually short relationship of love between two people.’

‘A feeling of excitement associated with love.’

So there must be a word for a close female friendship. There is but I bet you’ve never heard of it.

‘womance’

Womance

Yep, never heard of it until yesterday and then all of a sudden, like buses all arriving at once, there it is screaming out from the Sunday Times. It’s been around for a while but never really taken off which is probably why it’s not in the english dictionary. Maybe women are luckier than men. We can show our feelings and be tactile with our girlfriends without everyone thinking we are actually ‘girlfriends’. I’m not sure men can do the same.

We have a cultural problem, I think, where we’re scared by male friendship. A truly great friend feels like a brother or sister, someone you have actively chosen to be joined to and love no matter what they do. If two men love each other like that, we get all uncomfortable. Hence, the need for a word like ‘bromance’. This helps all men to know that they can describe their ‘non-sexual male friendship’ without reverting to mumblings and red faces or god forbid, having to talk about their feelings.

This still doesn’t help me though. I need a word that doesn’t belong to the pre-pubescent community or make my daughter and her friends pull sickening faces. Not ‘womance’. Anything that starts with the sound ‘wo’ can’t be good. We use it to tell an animal or person ‘woah’ (stop) or my life is full of ‘woe’. Neither define how I feel about the special women in my life.

But the words ‘soul sister’ do. Sisters because they are my family. And ‘soul’ because of the things we talk about at a deeper level, emotionally and intellectually.  A love of the whole person, including the hidden part you can’t see. That is the essence of a ‘soul sister’. And it’s also in the dictionary.

‘A woman whose thoughts, feelings, and attitudes closely match those of another; a kindred spirit.’

Our quote is so much nicer than the men’s. Don’t you think?

So to my soul sisters everywhere. Below is a list of films which celebrate close female friendships and are fab films too! Get some of your soul sisters round and celebrate the romance. And maybe do it on a Tuesday.

  1. Thelma and Louise
  2. Hidden Figures
  3. Beaches
  4. Bridesmaids
  5. Steel magnolias
  6. Clueless
  7. The Help
  8. First wives club
  9. Calendar girls
  10. The Color purple

 

 

How do you chose your baby’s name?

Choosing a name

Your name is an important piece of information about you. Something you are given at birth and (usually) keep until you die. Your name can have a profound effect on you as you grow and can influence how you feel about yourself and how others feel about you. If you don’t like your name or are embarrassed, it could damage your self-esteem and affect your future success. Which is probably why most parents take such care when they choose a name. Or do they?

How do parents choose their baby’s name?

There are a lot of traditions and customs across the world which are used to help choose the baby’s name. Many years ago sons and daughters were often named after their fathers and grandfathers. This tradition still continues. Johny Depp is actually John Christopher Depp II and his son is John Christopher Depp III. Donald Trump named his son Donald Trump Jr and his son is named Donald Trump III. This naming can carry on in some families for a long time. Usher (the American singer songwriter) is actually Usher Raymond IV and he named his son Usher Raymond V.

Other traditions include naming babies after family members, saints, people from holy books and historical Greek and Roman stories. In Indian mythology there are 330 million gods and goddess names to choose from. Some countries use the horoscope and the map of the planets and stars at the time of birth of their child to choose a name. In Indonesia the order of your birth determines your name. For instance, if you are the first-born, your name will be Wayan or Putu and if you are the second, it will be Made or Radek. American red indians would observe the nature or events around their teepee when their child was born. Names included running water, sitting bull and little dear.

Sharing a name with a famous person

These traditions continue but the rise of the ‘celebrity’ and their baby name choices influence many more parents these days. On the ‘Humans of New York’ Facebook page, ordinary ‘not famous’ people tell stories of how they share their name with a famous celebrity. They include Donald Trump, Beyoncé, Serena Williams, Victoria Beckham, Julia Roberts, Kate Middleton. Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney to name just a few. I’m reading ‘Charlotte Street’ by Danny Wallace (see Book Recommendations page) where the main character is Jason Priestley (remember Beverly Hills 90210). The story illustrates this point perfectly and although the humour adds to the read, I’m sure it wouldn’t feel quite so funny in real life.

These people talk about how annoying it is to share a famous name. You can’t be found on a website and for those with their own businesses they often have to change their name. It can be embarrassing when people meet you for the first time and repeat the same comments you have heard many times before, either singing the songs of their famous moniker or saying lines synonymous with a character. There is also the disappointment factor when the person hearing your famous name, meets you for the first time and realises you’re not them.

Some of the ‘sharing a famous name’ people spoke about how it can be an ice breaker and for the lucky Bill Clinton Gates who works in HR, it’s actually a big selling point for him and he attracts people because of his name.

Other ways of choosing a name

And then we get to the other ways of choosing a name. We may choose a name because it’s unique or it’s actually a mistake. My husband’s grandmother was called Estranna.  A very unusual name for a child born in Wales at the turn of the century until you hear how she got that name. Her father went to register the birth of his daughter but not before he had celebrated in the local public house. In his drunken state he mouthed the words which sounded like Estranna but should have been Esther Anna.

A British study undertaken in 2010, Bounty.com, asked 3000 parents about the names they had chosen for their children. 20% regretted the choice they made, either because it was unusual or because it was spelt differently and it made it hard for their child and others to spell. It is obvious from a few forums that I looked at recently that there are quite a lot of people who don’t like their name and I can’t say I blame them. This list included Merry Christmas, Mayo Naise, Macarena Diab, Jack Haas and God Gazarov. Unique names, yes, but at a price.

Yet it seems that a lot of parents still want their child to have a name different to everyone else. Trying to find that unique name, the name no-one else has is not easy and even when you think you have found it, the chances are so has someone else. My sister-in-law named her son, Bailey. Very unique eleven years ago but even she commented that as soon she had named him she heard of another parent who had named their child the same. I wonder if this true for all names?

As I researched this, I found a list of ‘celebrities’ that have recently given their children unusual names. We have all heard of Apple and North West but what about these.

  • Bear – Kate Winslet (actress)
  • Sailor – Liv Tyler (actress)
  • Cricket – Busy Philips (actress)
  • Fox – Mark Owen (singer)
  • Sparrow – Nicole Ritchie (daughter of Lionel)
  • Striker – Nicola McClean (glamour model)
  • Audio Science (I’m not joking!) – Shannyn Sossamon (actress)

So is it true that you can name your child something unique and no-one else will have thought of the same? Well, it seems even the celebrities can’t make this happen. Sam Worthington (actor) and Jamie Oliver (chef) both chose the same name for their sons. What was it? Rocket. Either the lettuce variety or the thing that goes into space. You decide. After all it’s only a name.

 

George Orwell created ‘Orwellian phrases’ not ‘alternative facts’.

 

George Orwell 1894
George Orwell

The words ‘alternative facts’ are everywhere at the moment but a Washington Post reporter, Karen Tumulty, who is one of CNN’s reliable sources, said the words ‘alternative facts’ is a George Orwell phrase.

I would like to educate the Trumptons and reliable sources at CNN that the words ‘alternative facts’ is not a phrase that George Orwell has ever said. It does not appear anywhere in George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ or his classic essay ‘Politics and the English language’.

Continue reading George Orwell created ‘Orwellian phrases’ not ‘alternative facts’.