Every year, in late February in England, the last hurrah before the 40 days of Lent comes in the form of pancakes.
Historically, eggs and milk that wouldn’t keep over Lent had to be used up, so pancakes became the traditional food of the day. According to lore, back in 1445, a baker had to rush to church while her frying pan was still on the stove. She had no choice but to run there, juggling the hot pan and flipping the pancake as she went. This whimsical sprint is now recreated every Shrove Tuesday across England. Pancake races spring up in traditional old towns and central London alike, in backyards and courtyards, and around the college quads at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.
Some races require participants to dress in women’s skirts and blouses, while others demand the runners don chefs’ toques. Some races allow only women to participate, while others allow both men and women (either racing together or in separate heats). Sometimes, high-profile people, such as Members of Parliament, wield skillets to raise money for charity. The rules are simple: Run as fast as you can while flipping your pancake, without falling or dropping either pancake or pan.
Need to Know
Some races supply pans, but most recommend you bring your own. The Hertford College website notes, "We have found that woks offer a substantial aerodynamic disadvantage in this sport."
Where to Try It
Hertford College, University of OxfordOxford, England, OX1 3AZ, United Kingdom
Show up to Hertford College early on Shrove Tuesday for the best seats in the house!