Pancake Tuesday

Confusing Easter Holidays

I always found the church holidays leading up to Easter a bit confusing. There was Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday, then there was Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. To make it even more complicated some of my friends also celebrated Holy Thursday, so they had an extra day to remember.

Calvin United Church, built in 1896, and Cameron Hall – built in 1947, Bathurst Township, Lanark County

Mrs. Dixon and Mrs. Miller

tried their best…

Our Sunday School teachers at Calvin United Church, in Bathurst Township, did their best to explain all of the spring holidays. In the primary grades, Mrs. Frances Dixon used a Farmer’s Almanac calendar laid out on one of the wooden tables in our Sunday School class, in Cameron Hall, the building attached to the church. She went through all of special holidays, and explained the importance of each one. Eventually, I grasped the concept of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but the rest remained a mystery in my young mind.

As we moved ahead in years, Mrs. Betty Miller was our next Sunday School teacher. By this time, I had figured out what Lent was. Lent was the 40 days before Easter when our mother gave up eating ice cream. We were each supposed to give up something, and I always chose broccoli. The other holidays were still confusing.

Pancake Supper

Sometimes the ladies’ auxiliary, the Calvinettes, organized a Pancake Supper for Shrove Tuesday. It wasn’t always easy to plan a time on a weeknight that suited everyone, especially the local farmers who had to do their milking and their chores at specific times during the evening.

One year, Mother was busy in the old kitchen, preparing a batch of her famous Sourdough Pancakes. She would bring the dry ingredients already mixed, and add the wet ingredients once we were at the church hall. Sourdough was her ‘secret’ addition to the recipe that gave the pancakes a distinctive rich flavour. She kept a jar of this strange concoction on a shelf in the pantry and it bubbled, climbed up the sides of the jar, and even shrank and grew in size without warning. Sourdough was strange indeed!

Running short on flour, Mother sent me to our local general store, Cavanagh’s, where I ran into another one of the ladies from the church and told her we were preparing the pancakes.

Cavanagh’s general store, DeWitt’s Corners, Bathurst Township, Lanark County

She said that when she was growing up, Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday was called Fat Tuesday, and was the last big feast before Lent began. I lingered at the store for a few minutes longer to chat with Mrs. Cavanagh, then headed back home with the flour.

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, at the Stafford House, 3rd line of Bathurst, Lanark County

When I got back home I told Mother that Shrove Tuesday was also called Fat Tuesday, and she remarked that it was also known as Mardis Gras, and Pancake Day, depending on where you’re from. She said it was the last day to enjoy rich food before Lent began, and it was also a day to use up any sugar, eggs, milk, and flour before the time of plainer foods. The ingredients represent the four pillars of the Christian faith – eggs for creation, flour as the mainstay of the human diet, salt for wholesomeness, and milk for purity. She also said that ‘shrove’ was the past tense of the word ‘shrive’ which means to present one’s self for penance and absolution.

Well, at this point I had a bit of an understanding of four of the spring holidays: Shrove Tuesday, Lent, Good Friday, and Easter. The others would have to wait, and I’d learn about them all in good time.

Who were the Calvinettes?

The Calvinettes, the ladies’ auxiliary at Calvin United Church, hosted many Pancake Suppers at Cameron Hall. Some of the members throughout the years: Maxine Jordan, Jean Jordan, Wilma Munro, Agnes Stiller, Doris Popplewell, Carmel Jordan, Frances Dixon, Betty Miller, Marion Majaury, Barbara Jordan, Marilyn Jordan, Ona Closs, Eleanor Conboy, Margery Conboy, Merle Korry, Betty Johnston, Audrey Jordan, Laura Milne, Kathy Patton, Wilma (Scott) Peckett, and Audry Stafford.

…Here’s the recipe for Mother’s famous Sourdough, and have a Happy Pancake Tuesday!

Sourdough Starter

2 c. all purpose flour

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 c warm water

Mix in a non-metallic bowl, cover with a tea towel and let stand at room temperature for two days. This becomes a spongy, bubbly mass and develops a yeasty aroma. Pour into a glass jar. Feed the sour dough at least once a week to keep it active with 1 c flour, 1 c milk and for sweet recipes add 1/4 c sugar. Add to dough and stir well. Wait 24 hours before using after a feed. Cover and refrigerate if desired.

Sourdough Pancakes

1 c sourdough

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 c vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 c flour

1/2 to 1 c milk

Mix well into a thin batter. Ladle into a hot buttered pan. Flip over when bubbling. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

For more of Audry Stafford’s prize-winning recipes:

“Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen

Available at the Book Nook in Perth, Spark Books & Curios in Perth, and Mill Street Books, Almonte, Ontario

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

For other stories set in Lanark County:

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