Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Of Pancakes...and Penitence!

Whoo hoo, it's Mardi Gras! Around our house, that signifies several things--none of which involve Hurricanes, plastic bead necklaces, or nudity of any kind. (Ah, the good old days...) First, there's the annual discussion of "what to give up for Lent". As has become his custom over the last several years, Derek tried his standard response of "tofu!" This generally earns him a glare and a sharp "take this seriously, smart-aleck". Riley, however, answered almost immediately, firmly vowing that for the 40 days until Easter, he would cease eating meat. Jaws dropped all around, for various reasons. Husband can't imagine voluntarily choosing to become a vegetarian--even temporarily. I wondered how much I'd have to step up my cooking game to accommodate another non-carnivore in the family, and to make sure he'd get all the nutrition a growing boy needs. As for Derek, he threw his hands up in astonishment and cried, "Bacon! Dude, how will you survive for 6 weeks without bacon!" But Riley has stuck to his guns, and claims that starting tomorrow, he fully intends to shun the consumption of creatures for 40 days. (Except...then I explained about Catholics' Meatless Fridays, when they often substitute fish instead, and he loved this plan. So we'll institute Fishy Fridays for Team WestEnders...omnivores, Lenten pescetarians...minus the ACTUAL vegetarian, of course...) This must have inspired Derek to finally consider the question more thoughtfully, since he decided to sacrifice...cereal. What? My initial response was something along the lines of "is that really such a hardship?" (Delivered in a suitably stern tone.) But he indignantly assured me that "it's my favorite snack food, Mom; I eat it every day after school!" (Okay, then! Jeesh! Memo to me: stock up on alternative carbs to satisfy the ravenous 3 p.m. beast...)

Although he's the only one in the household who actually was raised Catholic, Husband generally declines to participate in these proceedings. This year, however, he wasn't allowed a pass. During the dinnertime discussion, Riley suggested that Dad cut out...hot sauce. This might sound ridiculous, but if you saw Husband sitting there almost hidden behind an industrial-sized bottle of Frank's, you'd understand what sparked the idea. (Yes, he literally "puts that s...tuff...on everything!") Husband spared a wistful glance at his beloved condiment-of-choice before manfully agreeing that he would, in fact, live red-pepper-free for Lent. And as for me? Chocolate. Since I cut down pretty drastically on sweets last year, I don't really have cravings, per se...but if there's dark chocolate around, it sends out some sort of Siren call to me and I can't resist eating it, more out of habit than anything else. With a stupid genetic tendency toward diabetes, it's (unfortunately) not in my best interests. So that one was really a no-brainer, and hopefully this will lead to it becoming an ingrained lifestyle change rather than just a short-term fix.

Well, with all that difficult decision-making aside, it was clearly time for some Fat Tuesday feasting. In our family, we go with the Pancake Supper theme. (Although in lieu of the male appetites, it also incorporates eggs--and of course the aforementioned bacon--as well.) I don't know why it never occurred to me before, but suddenly we all wondered "just what on earth do pancakes have to do with the day before Ash Wednesday?" I mean, even churches--in a number of denominations--follow this tradition. So naturally...I Googled it. According to my research, some sources believe the practice began in the Middle Ages, as a way for devout Christians to use up the "rich foods" they weren't supposed to enjoy during the fasting period of Lent. These included eggs, milk, butter, and sugar--none of which would remain fresh or even edible over time, before the invention of preservatives or refrigeration. Thus the delicious pancakes helped them to not only enjoy a last decadent meal before self-deprivation, but also to avoid wasting perishable foodstuffs. Brilliant! Obviously in the modern age we don't face the same challenges with food storage...or strict adherence to dietary restrictions, for that matter. But who cares! Bring on the flapjacks, and laizzez les bon temps rouler! (That's French for "pass the syrup", right?)

Speaking of which, in the spirit of "living it up" tonight, perhaps I should go savor just one last mini Special Dark bar...for old times sake...(and incidentally, one less tiny treat to tempt me. Here we go, 40 days and counting!)

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