Despite the fact that pancakes are among the easiest and cheapest sweet treats around, and we could literally have them any day of the year, Pancake Tuesday remains one of the most cherished holidays in Ireland. For weeks before, supermarkets have a display of pancake mix, lemons, sugar, fruit and anything that can be rolled up or spread on a crepe. Nutella had a campaign marketing the hazelnut spread for Pancake Tuesday, billing it as a perfect accompaniment (a valid point – it went on three of mine).
So in the days leading up to Pancake Tuesday, everyone I know was discussing what we were going to have on our pancakes. And on Pancake Tuesday, they are called pancakes. Not crepes, which are similar except that you buy them from a van or a cafe at outrageous cost.
Being atheistic and a big fan of eating, I had obviously forgotten that Pancake Tuesday is not just for stuffing ourselves full of butter, sugar, strawberries, lemon, chocolate, cream, marshmallows, golden syrup, maple syrup, jam… Have I missed any?
The idea of Pancake day was to use up the eggs and fat before embarking on the Lenten fast. A word I have always tried to steer clear of. Even as a child I thought the whole Lent thing was a bit of a lark. I went to a Catholic school, so it was very important that we give something up, in sympathy with Jesus fasting in the desert. I wasn’t a particularly contrary child, I wish I could say that I spent my youth challenging the ideas of Catholicism foisted upon me, but I didn’t. Women couldn’t be priests and Mary was born without original sin because Bible. But I definitely called bullshit on the whole 40 days and 40 nights thing.
So even when it was trendy to give things up for lent, I didn’t. I didn’t give up sugar when my dentist told me all my teeth would fall out, or when t.v. told me I was fat, I’m not going to give it up for a messiah I don’t believe in.
On Pancake Tuesday, I was discussing toppings with my friend (nutella and strawberries would be my first, then maybe a classic lemon, butter, sugar and then… freestyle). She mentioned she was going off sweet treats for lent. Cakes, crisps, soft drinks, sweets, chocolate, ice cream, all that good stuff.
“I could never do that!” I told her, rejecting even the notion.
But as I went about my day, I thought about it. Why couldn’t I do that? It’s 40 days (47 actually) and I would still be eating, just avoiding these things that are bad for me. Am I such an addict that I couldn’t go cold turkey? It’s just food, why am I so obsessed with it? It wasn’t like I could never eat chocolate again, I only had to last until Easter Sunday, when I could go right back to my life of over-indulgence if I wanted.
So I decided to do it. Just for these few weeks, I’ll go off the sugary crap. This may be the hardest thing I ever have to do. I have not had a very hard life.