What we Americans picture when we hear “pancakes” is probably pretty clear: A fluffy stack of breakfast food, drizzled with maple syrup. Mmm, yes.
What you might not know is that pancakes are one of the earliest everyday recipes, with versions dating back to the Stone Age. Over the last 30,000 years or so, the pancake has crossed many borders and changed quite a bit. For one, it is no longer cooked on a rock nor tastes like a rock. However, the basic principles of pancakes have remained the same—simple batter + hot surface = flat, tasty food.
Pancakes Around the World
Ancient Greeks and Romans ate pancakes with honey. In many areas of Europe, people used to (and still do) fill up on pancakes the day before Lent—so much so that Fat Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada.
In France, they use a thin, unleavened batter to make crepes. The Dutch make heftier pannekoeken, which is a great dessert or breakfast. In Russia, they make them miniature, top them with caviar and call them blinis. In India, they use a savory fermented batter made with rice and lentil flour to make giant, crispy dosas. In Japan, they make savory okonomiyaki with fillings like cabbage, shrimp and green onions.
Native Americans had been making pancakes with cornmeal long before European settlers landed, and they shared their recipes with the new arrivals. Today johnnycakes are still a staple of southern soul food.
Honestly, pancakes are eaten in so many areas of the world and have such a long, diverse history that we’d keep you here all day if we could… but we won’t. Because we’re hungry.