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Should every day be a Pancake Day?

To celebrate Pancake Day (or Shrove Tuesday), Sarah Cardey, lead educator on “Our Hungry Planet: Agriculture, People and Food Security,” discusses the origins of the day, before asking what it can teach us about the global issues of food waste and consumption.

A stack of pancakes to celebrate Pancake Day
A stack of pancakes by Dirk Loop on Flickr.

Today is Pancake Day – the last day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The tradition originated because pancake recipes were a way of using up milk, butter and eggs – rich foods that were forbidden during Lent.

Pancakes and Shrove Tuesday around the world

If we look globally, we can see that Shrove Tuesday (and the idea of giving something up for Lent) is celebrated around the world in many different ways – from Mardi Gras (“fat Tuesday”) in New Orleans; to Carnival (“farewell to the flesh”) in the Mediterranean and South America; to Fasnacht (“night of the fast”) in Germany.

For those where Pancake Day is not celebrated, we can also see an incredible array of pancakes in local diets.

From the sweet Ukrainian Syrniki (cheese pancakes), Beghrirs from Morocco and Palatschinken from Austria, to the savoury Banh Xeo from Vietnam, Chapatis from India and Okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) from Japan, there is global variation on this one simple food. (And if all of this is making you hungry, have a look at these recipes.)

The global issue of food security

The idea that the globe is connected to issues of food, and people’s relationship with food, is at the heart of our free online course, “Our Hungry Planet: Agriculture, People and Food Security.”

Despite the fact that the world is no longer short of food, roughly 842 million people remain chronically hungry, because they cannot afford to eat. The world is also seeing rising rates of obesity around the world. How do such contrasts exist simultaneously – often within the same country?

Learners on the course have already started keeping a diary of the food they buy and waste – something to help them reflect on their own consumption patterns, their beliefs about food and how they can shape a more food-secure global future.

So as we tuck into our pancakes today, let’s think about Shrove Tuesday’s origins. In the spirit of using up foods that would be discarded, can we find ways to reduce our food waste? Can we find ways to use food that would otherwise get thrown away? Should everyday be a Pancake Day?

You can join “Our Hungry Planet: Agriculture, People and Food Security” now or join the conversation using #FLhungryplanet.

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