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In search of pancakes past

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We may have to go back to that technology again if Eskom breaks down completely.

I slipped through Shrove Tuesday without enjoying a single pancake. This day before Ash Wednesday is known in many parts of the world as Pancake Tuesday, and represents the last chance to feast before the austere Lent period, which is traditionally a time of fasting.

It is also known in some parts as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. Down in our corner of the Cape Peninsula, Pancake Tuesday tends to pass unnoticed, unlike Easter and Christmas, when the shops are awash with chocolate bunnies, hot cross buns and tinsel-wrapped chocolates.

There was no queue at the only pancake vendor in my little local shopping centre on Tuesday. I suppose I could have bought a chocolate crêpe from him as a nod to the occasion, but I settled for a packet of crisps from the supermarket instead.

Pancakes have played a significant role in my life. Back in my Karoo childhood, every social gathering was marked by the hiss of paraffin-fuelled Primus pressure stoves as farmers’ wives turned out an endless stream of pancakes.

They were handed over on paper plates, drizzled with lemon juice and liberally sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Looking back now, I simply cannot imagine a stock auction or farmers’ meeting, agricultural show or cricket match (all of which took place on the town showgrounds) that didn’t smell of cinnamon sugar.

This could be the reason I managed to resist buying myself a pancake on Shrove Tuesday. Chocolate crêpes are all very well in a soft city way, but once you’ve experienced a proper Karoo country pancake, rich with cinnamon and lemon, served on paper under giant blue gum trees filled with pooping pigeons, only the real thing satisfies the soul.

There must be many former Karoo people who remember those heady days of Primus-fried pancakes under the gumtrees.

Maybe we should form a new religious movement and get together once a year on Shrove Tuesday and make a holy pilgrimage to some Karoo dorp where we could feast on cinnamon pancakes cooked over Primus stoves in the committee enclosure of the local showground.

It’s about time Shrove Tuesday was elevated to its former religious glory.

Come to think of it, I wonder how many modern people remember Primus stoves? We’ve become spoiled by convenient gas-fired camping stoves that require no skill at all to operate.

I’ll bet half the readers have never seen a Primus pricker or used one to clear a blocked jet. So much technology has been lost. We shouldn’t allow it to be forgotten.

We may have to go back to that technology again if Eskom breaks down completely.

Last Laugh

The prosecutor gave the defendant a stern glare and asked: “Madam, could you explain to this court why you stabbed your late husband 236 times?

“That seems to be an unusually violent thing to do.”

“I didn’t mean to do it,” replied the accused, “but I couldn’t switch off the electric carving knife.”