I don’t care for grocery shopping. There are too many temptations, and some of the stuff may go bad before I can enjoy it. I make a list and then venture off the list in the candy, ice cream, and chips sections. When I check out, the cashier politely asks me if I found everything I need. I reply that I found numerous things I didn’t need but bought anyway.
A few years ago, I decided to eat everything already in my refrigerator or cabinets and not shop until they were empty. When I came down to only having a cake mix and a can of cream of mushroom soup, I decided this plan wasn’t all that smart. I went shopping at that point.
The idea of getting rid of things already in possession is not new to me. There is a tradition of doing just that in what we know as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, which is the holiday that always happens the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season.
Lent never was emphasized during my faith upbringing. My limited understanding of the Lenten Season was it was a time people gave up a bad habit. I jokingly say it’s because, being a good Southern Baptist during those years, I would never volunteer to give up anything enjoyable. I never connected the idea of adding prayer, fasting, or giving up a good habit to spend more time with God or adding something like compassion for the poor to my life. I understood Fat Tuesday as the day to do what you wanted before repenting of it during Lent.
So, forgive me for being this old today before realizing that today is also known as Pancake Tuesday. It’s worse than me just now learning this fact. I purchased a book over thirty years ago, which told Pancake Tuesday’s story beginning in the fifteenth century. It benefits education if I read the book after the purchase. Being a lover of the fried treat, I might have paid more attention to the day before Ash Wednesday. When I dine on the delicacy in a famous country-style restaurant, the crispy crust reminds me of the one in Grandma’s pancakes. Other favorite pancake restaurants feature the picturesque golden-brown finish.
Recently some of my grandchildren visited. For breakfast, we made pancakes. The kids told me they wanted to help. I was concerned about how well they’d flip the pancake, but they were more proficient at it than I was. Pancakes are a traditional treat I enjoy with all of my grandkids.
My pancake recipe book tells me that pancakes are also known as Johnnycakes, Flannel Cakes, Hoe Cakes, Flapjacks, Griddle Cakes, and in other countries Palacsinta (Hungarian), Pfannkuchen (German), Crepe (French), Platter (Swedish), Po-ping (Chinese), Blini (Russian), and Pannekoeke (Dutch). I look forward to traveling and experiencing pancakes around the world.
I tell one of my favorite childhood stories about pancakes in my first book, Characters of the Bible, where my dad cooked a golden-brown pancake on a church-sponsored camping trip for boys. The normal color of pancakes on these campouts would make you call them “Blackened Pancakes.” In the book, I compared the golden-brown pancake of my father to Aaron’s golden idol. It was admired equally as much. While my dad was bragging about his featured flapjack to the other leaders, my older brother stole it and ate it.
The day’s celebration began when Pope St. Gregory, in or around 600 A.D., prohibited the eating of meat and animal products during Lent. People would make pancakes to use up their supply of eggs, milk, and butter. In my thinking, that’s forty days without grocery shopping.
Of course, this day is not about getting rid of supplies or getting in as much sin as one can before forty days of purity. Instead, this day is a day about preparation. Abraham Lincoln said, “I will get ready and then, perhaps my chance will come.” John Wooden, the most successful college basketball coach in history, said it this way, “Once the opportunity arrives, it’s too late to prepare.”
So, on this Pancake Tuesday, what preparations will you make for not only the next forty days but for the next forty years? What part of your life will you “flip” to sense God’s presence in a stronger way your life? Our preparations are not just to give up something for Lent or add a benefit to others but also to prove that God is sufficient for all we need.
I hope and pray you’ll enjoy some hotcakes today and that the idea of using up supplies to prepare for a lifelong spiritual journey doesn’t “crepe” anyone out.
Stevens, D. )1992). Waffles, Flapjacks, Pancakes, Blitzes, Crepes, Frybread from Scandinavia and Around the World. Penfield Press.