Shrove Tuesday is a day to reflect upon past indiscretions and seek pancakepenance in preparation for Lent which can be counted on to follow one day later. Shrove Tuesday is also Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, a day on which some folks, far from reflecting on past indiscretions, seek to find new ones in a wild last blast before Lent. In a few places it’s also International Pancake Day, a day to run through the streets flipping pancakes. It remains to be seen whether this is penance or a wild last blast.

Since February 21, 1950, the International Pancake Day Race has been a rock solid institution in Liberal, Kansas. How this town in oh-so-conservative western Kansas (the last liberal was spotted in 1964) got its name is anyone ‘s guess. Liberal’s pancake race was modeled after the pancake race in Olney, England. The Olney tradition dates back more than 500 years to 1445, when the last liberal was spotted there. She was using up cooking fats (forbidden during Lent) by making pancakes. Hearing the church bells ring, calling everyone to the shriving service, she grabbed her head scarf and ran to the church, forgetting that she was still carrying her skillet and a pancake. This so amused the townspeople that they made it an annual event, women bearing skillets of pancakes racing to see who could get to the church first (There wasn’t a whole lot happening in England at the time.) The fastest would win a kiss from the church bellringer. The contest, which continues today in both Olney and Liberal, requires runners to wear a traditional apron and scarf and carry a frying pan in which they toss a pancake at the beginning and ending of the race.

Evidently there isn’t a whole lot happening in Kansas either.

The Grass Is Always Greener . . .

ermaErma Bombeck took her humorous observations on suburban life from her weekly hometown paper to 900 newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Born on February 21, 1927, she also published 15 books, many of which became bestsellers.  She died in 1996.

“My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first one being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”

“If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.”

“In general, my children refused to eat anything that hadn’t danced on TV.”

“Never loan your car to anyone to whom you’ve given birth.”

“I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian”

“Ironed sheets are a health hazard.”

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”


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