Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) / Shrove Tuesday

Fat Tuesday is the last day in the Season of Epiphany. The day has a two fold purpose, ending one season and beginning another. First, the end of carnival is marked by indulging in or finishing off any foods from which you will be fasting, traditionally, meats, eggs, and fat.  Traditions that emphasize this part refer to the day as Fat Tuesday or Busting Tuesday (as they say in Iceland). The second purpose of the day is spiritual preparation for the upcoming fast through confessing one’s sins and deciding upon the nature of one’s fast. Traditions that emphasize this part call it Shrove Tuesday. The word shrove means finding absolution for one’s sins. The day also may include a bonfire made from the branches of the previous years palm Sunday celebration. The ashes from that celebratory fire are used the next day for Ash Wednesday. 

The most common food to celebrate the day, no matter what name you call it, is pancakes.  They are the perfect food to use up any lard and eggs that you may have leftover. It is possible that the pancakes, like crepes from the nearby Candlemas (February 2), go back all the way to the flat cakes enjoyed in Roman times during the feast of Lupercalia. Today, it is common for churches to have an early pancake supper before the community Mardi Gras parade. We think the secret to great pancakes is using buttermilk and having great toppings. Real maple syrup is always a treat; and southerners love cane syrup. But we think bananas foster is the best.  The flambé trick is always a show stopper. Mixing blueberries, chocolate chips, pecans, or walnuts into the batter also makes them special. A bit of whipped cream to top it off makes it worthy of this day of celebration.  We serve ours with a side of bacon, and some coffee. 

Pictured Above: The Pancake Bakery by Pieter Aertsen (1560); Oil on Panel; Housed at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Buttermilk Pancakes

Time: 30 minutes; Serving: Around 12 – 14 pancakes, depending on size


2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, separate yolk and egg whites
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) buttermilk
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  1. Combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tbsp sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl whisk egg whites from 2 eggs until stiff peaks form. (We found that an egg beater worked best to whisk the egg whites.)
  3. In another bowl, whisk the 2 egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, and 1 cup sour cream until combined. Slowly add the 4 tablespoons melted butter while whisking.
  4. Carefully fold in the egg whites until just combined.
  5. Pour the wet mix over the dry mix and fold until just combined (lumps are ok).
  6. Pre-heat a nonstick skillet (we prefer an electric griddle) on medium heat for 5 minutes. Carefully add a small amount of butter with a paper towel until no visible butter remains. Using about 1⁄4 cup batter per each pancake, cook until the edges begin to dry and bubbles start to appear on top, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip the pancakes and cook on the second side until golden brown.