When Shrove Tuesday dawned, the bells were set a ringing, and everybody abandoned himself to amusement and good humour. All through the day, there was a preparing and devouring pancakes, as if some profoundly important religious principle were involved in it. The pancake and Shrove Tuesday are inextricably associated in the popular mind and in old literature. Before being eaten, there was always a great deal of contention among the eaters, to see which could most adroitly toss them in the pan. Shakespeare makes his clown in All’s Will that Ends Well speak of something being ‘as fit as a pancake from Shrove Tuesday. It will be recollected that the parishioners of the Vicar of Wakefield ‘religiously ate pancakes at Shrovetide.’ Hear also our quaint old friend, the Water Poet-‘Shrove Tuesday, at whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdom is in quiet, but by that time the clock strikes 11, which (by the help of knavish sexton) is commonly before 9, there is a bell rung called Pancake Bell, the sounds whereof makes thousands of people distracted, and forgetful either of manners or humanity. Then there is a thing called wheaten flour, which the cooks do mingle with water, eggs, spice, and other tragical, magical, enchantments, and then they put it by little and little into a frying pan of boiling suet, where it makes a confused dismal hissing (like the Lernian snakes in the reeds of Acheron), until at last, by the skill of the cook, it is transformed into the form of a flip-jack, called a pancake, which ominous incantation the ignorant people do devour very greedily.’
It was customary to present the first pancake to the greatest slut or lie-a-bed of the party, ‘which commonly falls to the dos share at last for no one will own it their due.’ Some allusion is probably made to the latter custom in a couplet placed opposite Shrove Tuesday in Poor Robins
Almanack for 1677:
‘Pancakes are eat by greedy gut, And Hob and Madge run for the slut.’
Kicked Out of Heaven Vol. I
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Fox News: Connecticut college blames late student’s actions in own choking death during pancake-eating contest.