Pancakes – Historical Context

Comments Off on Pancakes – Historical Context | November 29, 2015

Although pancakes are seen as an American icon, the concept of pancakes can be traced back as far as prehistoric people. Evidence suggests that Stone Age chefs created a flour out by grinding cattails and ferns which they mixed with water and baked on a hot rock. Although these creations likely did not resemble the modern take on pancakes, many cultures throughout history have created some combination of milk, flour, eggs, and spices that would have more closely resembled the modern day pancake. The actual term pancake appeared as early as 1611, when the phrase “flat as a pancake” became popular.

Pancakes became increasingly common with the emergence of the Pancake Day tradition. Since the Catholic Church forbid the use of perishable ingredients like eggs, butter, and milk during lent, members of the Catholic Church developed Pancake Day to use all of their reserves of these ingredients the day before lent began. English settlers who came to the Americas brought this tradition and the tradition of pancakes with them.

In the American colonies, pancakes appeared as hoe cakes, johnnycakes and flapjacks. Amelia Simmon’s American Cookery is considered the first All-American cookbook and was published in 1796. Her cookbook includes recipes for hoe cakes, johnnycakes, and the Indian slapjack. All three recipes are variations that resemble the modern pancake. Hoe cakes were called such as they were cooked on a flat hoe surface over an open flame. Indian flapjacks replaced the molasses in hoe cakes and johnnycakes with eggs. By the time Lydia Maria Child published her pancake recipe in 1829, the pancake was a common staple in the average American household.


» Rupp, Rebecca. “Hot off the Griddle, Here’s the History of Pancakes.” The Plate Hot off the Griddle Heres the History of Pancakes Comments. National Geographic, 21 May 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2015. <>

» The History of the Pancake. Perf. Jim O. The History of the Pancake Video : Food Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015. <>


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