Pancakes: A US – UK Deathmatch

by awindram

Depending upon your point of view, yesterday was Shrove Tuesday or it was Mardi Gras. So are they the same thing and am I just making minor quibbles over the difference? No, I don’t think so.

If, for you, yesterday was Mardi Gras, then perhaps you found yourself on Bourbon Street having a wonderful time chundering and dancing the night away, or perhaps, more prosaically, Mardi Gras involved someone in the office handing you some plastic beads in a token gesture. If, however, for you, yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, then your thoughts were probably on higher things – such as cooking pancakes.*

You see, Shrove Tuesday is also Pancake Day, and as I heated up the frying pan to make myself some pancakes I wondered whether I should make myself British** or American-style pancakes, but which is better? People, I think we just might have ourselves a US – UK Deathmatch.

Round 1. APPEARANCE.

UK Pancakes: With its thin, palid appearance it might be best to think of the British pancake as the honest, unfussy cousin to the stuck-up crepe.

Unlike the crepe, however, which has forever been tarnished in the English-speaking world by its close assocation with hipsterdom, the UK pancake is a hipster-free product that you will not find being made on street corners in gentrified areas of Brooklyn or the Bay Area. Also, unlike the crepe which requires you

Just say "non!"

loose all dignity and sense of perspective by using a crepe spreader of all things, the honest, unfussy UK pancake just requires you to shove the batter in a frying pan and, with a flick of the wrist, flip the pancake over.

The British pancake can be folded so it looks pretty on the plate – in an honest, unfussy way, of course.

US Pancakes: An American classic – the Ford F-Series of the pancake world.

Though it has a much smaller span, the American pancake makes up for it by being thicker and less limp than its British counterpart. The pallid white of the British pancake is replaced with an attractive golden brown. Also, while the British pancake works well in isolation, the American pancake is designed to be part of a larger collective unit. To get the full iconic visuals, three pancakes at least (preferably eight though) are required to be piled on top of each other. They are then drowned in something diabetic-inducing (syrup) and served with a side of myocardial infarcation (bacon).

The American pancake cannot be folded.

Result: The ability to fold the pancake almost sees the British pancake win this round (I place a lot of emphasis on foldability), but it’s hard to overlook the iconic imagery of plate of US pancakes – it’s America on a plate.

US Pancake Wins.

Round 2. RECIPE

UK Pancake: 4 oz plain flour, 7 fl oz of milk, 3 fl oz of water, 2 eggs, and a pinch of salt.

US Pancake: A packet of bisquick, 2 eggs, and a cup of milk.

Result: Betty Crocker has made you lazy America. She’s just adding random shit to flour. This one goes to the UK.

UK Pancake Wins.

Round 3. TASTE

UK Pancake: Light and not at all heavy, although considering the purpose of Shrove Tuesday is to go on one last indulgent blow-out before forty days of Lenten misery, you think they could have come up with something a little more decadent. As is clear from the basic recipe, this is not a sweet pancake.

US Pancake: Fluffier and more cake-y than the UK pancake. Also very sweet in comparision. I think many cooks put a dash of maple syrup and dextrose is an ingredient in bisquick – thank you corn lobby.

Result: Though that sweetness is often too much for me, the fluffiness of the pancake puts the US pancake over the edge on this one.

US Pancake Wins.

Round 4. CONDIMENTS

UK Pancake: As you may have guessed from the recipe and taste sections, the British pancake needs some sweetness added to it. Adding some caster sugar and lemon juice is a popular choice. My preferred option is to open a tin of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup. That’s right, it doesn’t come in a bottle, it comes in a tin – like lead paint from China. This is a syrup so hardcore it has the image of a dead lion on it,*** well that’s what I drizzle on my pancake. Sure, you could put some Nutella on there and pretend it is a crepe, or alternatively you could just go to hell.

US Pancake: So the preferred choices are tree sap branded around a minstrel character called Jemima or tree sap that can be poured straight from a bottle in the shape of an octagenrian called Mrs Butterworth’s. It was bad enough as a child thinking syrup comes from lion corpses, thinking it comes from the heads of elderly women is a whole other level of disturbed. No wonder therapists do so well in the States.

As for the condiments themselves, it would be fine if they left it at just the syrup, but they then add butter, sometimes even whipped cream, eggs, meat, or fruit. It’s like a disruptive child was left unsupervised in the kitchen – a disruptive, disturbed child who thinks if he poleaxes ol’ Mrs Butterworth across the street he’ll be able to bottle her sugary goodness.

Result: Dead lion full of sticky goodness wins out over elderly woman and the use of a minstrel character.

UK Pancake wins.

Round 5. CULTURE

UK Pancake: A pancake culture in the UK? For one day it’s king, but the rest of the year it’s very much forgotten.

US Pancakes: The Americans absolutely adore their pancakes. Eaten all year. They even have an international house of pancakes – I think it’s a museum.

Result: The American pancake has a role in the fabric of that sociey that the British pancake doesn’t in the UK. It’s so engrained that the American pancake is third in line of succession for the Presidency after the Speaker of the House.

US Pancake wins.

OVERALL WINNER: THE US PANCAKE.

They just wanted it more. After all, they eat the buggers all the time.

*Or alternatively you might be enjoying some cock fighting if you like to go C18th-retro with your Shrove Tuesday. Here’s a great post on Shrove Tuesday in Shakespeare’s time if you’re interested.

**Yes, I am aware that they are such things as Scottish pancakes and that they are more like the American-style pancake.

***Other than watching Blue Peter presenters demonstrate how to flip a pancake, my chidhood memories of Shrove Tuesday are of looking intently at a tin of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup while my Mum painstakingly made pancakes, always to my disappointment refusing to flip them. As I waited I would be entranced at the picture of a dead lion, flies (well bees, but they looked like flies to me0 buzzing around its corpse, that Tate & Lyle had chosen as their company logo. “Out of the strong came forth the sweetness,” was written beneath the lion. I don’t remember if it was my Mum who told me about the story of Samon and the Lion that the image was referencing or if Tate & Lyle explained it, but that only confused matters. We get syrup from dead lions? If milk comes from cows and honey from bees, I was more than prepared to accept this latest revelation.

Nowadays I find myself raising an eyebrow at American firms such as Chick-fil-A or In-n-Out Burger with some of their surreptious use of religion, but they have nothing on this.