Just in time for the end of National Breakfast Month, September 26 is National Pancake Day.
Stacked and soaking up butter and syrup, spread out and covered with a fruit compote, pancakes are the ultimate comfort food. It's no surprise this breakfast staple has a long history, dating back to the ancient Greeks. But, depending on where you are, pancakes will look vastly different.
In Germany, they're made out of potatoes; in France and Belgium, they'll be thin and light; in South Africa, they're filled with lemon juice and sugar; and in Mexico, you might find a hotcake (a pancake made with cornmeal instead of wheat flour).
Depending on your batter, you can either end up with a crêpe, a pancake, a crumpet or a flapjack. All use the same technique: A batter of flour, eggs, milk and, in some cases, a leavening agent is beaten, left to rest and then poured in batches onto a hot griddle or pan. Typically, when bubbles form on the uncooked side of the pancake, it's ready to flip.
Pancakes don't necessarily stick to the sweet side of things either. In some parts of the world they're served for dinner, filled with savory ingredients such as ground meat, onions and cheese. Because the American-style pancake is hard to roll up, and therefore hard to fill with ingredients, any additional flavors are added to the batter. Common preferences include fruit, nuts, chocolate chips and even granola.
Most Western countries celebrate what's called Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday. In America, this day is called Fat Tuesday. It's the day before Lent starts, a day most Christians use to indulge in the things they'll be giving up until Easter. Back in the day, most people gave up eggs, sugar, fat and flour - all things found in pancake batter. The tradition has stuck, and now most English-speaking Christians eat pancakes the night before Ash Wednesday.