Proving more than a mere flash in the pan, Pancake Day has endured since the
15th century. Providing a spot of light relief before the privations of Lent, what better excuse to indulge in some wanton Nutella indulgence. Never missing a treat, London’s office workers have also got in on the act with pancake races taking place across the capital. Grabbing my frying pan, I nipped down to London Bridge during my lunch break to catch a slice of the action.
Pancake Day origins
Shrove Tuesday is the first day of Lent and traditionally a day when Christians are asked to consider their “wrongs”. In preparation for Lent’s ritual fasting on Ash Wednesday, pancakes are savoured as a last indulgence before the 40-day privations to come.
But what of the traditional Pancake Day races? It’s dubious origins are based on the tale of a gluttonous worshipper from Buckinghamshire who rushed down to catch the last confession slot, while tossing her batter in a frying pan. A passion which is still shared today. In Britain, 52 million eggs are consumed every pancake day – that’s 22 million more than on any other day of the year.
Better Bankside Pancake Day Relay
One of the capital’s most exciting pancake races is hosted by the Better Bankside Business Improvement District team in the London Bridge area. Teams of local office workers – ranging from lawyers to architects – compete for a chance to win all-you-can-eat pancakes and a glass of lunch time Prosecco at local OXBO restaurant.
There’s an excited frisson in the air as the first teams jostle for position on the start line. Flexing their wrists in anticipation, last minute tossing techniques are perfected before the race starts.
With a bang, the tossers sprint off clutching their frying pans like precious cargo. Half way through the circuit, they screech to a halt to perform the all-important flip for the judges. Winners are selected not only on speed but also on the height of the toss. Once accomplished, it’s a sprint to the end of the course before they race back to the start line again.
Squeals of excitement ring out as the tossers make their last gasp dash to the finish line before passing the frying pan to their team mates. Anyone caught sneakily clutching their pancake round the edge of the pan is automatically disqualified.
With twenty-five teams taking part, the action takes a full lunch break to complete. Just as well there’s a vintage crepe van on hand to cater to the loyal spectators’ cravings. The crepe creations on offer range from traditional lemon and sugar to Nutella, Belgian Chocolate or cinnamon.
With each team paying a contribution of £25.00, the participating office workers prove to be flipping good eggs. The proceeds go to local charity, Paintings in Hospitals, who help bring fine art to clinical settings including: hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries and care homes.
Having to rush back to work, I never did find out who the winners were. But I did enjoy the vicarious thrill of watching true team-bonding in action, while savouring my own battered delights. Such a shame my office isn’t based in Bankside.
Have you ever participated in a Pancake Day race? Tell us about your experiences below.