Archeologists have discovered evidence in tombs as old as 8000 B.C. that pancakes were a significant component of the ancient Egyptian diet. In fact, the cakes of the Old Testament were really pancakes. The basic pancake recipe in use today can be traced back to a Roman gourmet.
Though an ancient IHOP has yet to be discovered, it's clear that pancakes are one of the oldest forms of bread known to human kind. And consequently, as food writer Dorian Leigh Parker reminds us, "they are steeped in tradition." As she notes, ancient cultures often celebrated the harvest with religious ceremonies associated with pancakes.
For example, to the Slavonic tribes, pancakes were symbolic of the sun god. Still today in France, the second of February is a Lenten holiday called Pancake Day. In England there are pancake races held on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. And in Finland and Russia, neighbors vie with each other in pancake eating contests.
Many of us have pancake traditions of our own. At our house for example, Sunday was always pancake day and it was the custom for the men in the family to make them. Thus, as soon as he was able, my son was introduced to the pancake ritual and when he went off to college he took his dad's recipe with him.
It shouldn't be surprising that there's not a cuisine known that doesn't have its pancake specialty. Whether the crepes of France, the blini of Russia, or the palacsinta of Hungary. My personal favorites are the pancakes served at what I think is the greatest pancake house in all the world -- a tiny restaurant in a 16th century brick building on a side street in romantic Bruges, Belgium. The friendly staff there serves nothing but appetizer, main course, and dessert pancakes in an atmosphere that is positively enchanting.
Yes, at any meal from breakfast to dinner and whatever the time of day, pancakes are food to flip over.