Who Invented The Pancake?

While at a grade school promoting my book, a student asked me a hard-hitting question:

“What is your favorite food?”

Without much debate, I quickly answered “pancakes.” I then asked what his favorite food was. He smiled and said, “mine is pancakes too!” I replied, “did we just become best friend?” — a reference from Step Brothers that he clearly did not get, which makes sense given that the movie might have been made before this kid was born.

Despite both of our love for pancakes, the breakfast food is not often thought about when listing one’s favorite food. In one CNN report, pancakes didn’t even crack the top 50 greatest dishes in America. Somehow it was beaten out by green chili stew, grits and whatever GORP is.

If Trump really wants to make America great again, I know where he can start.

As I thought about pancakes recently (something I am often doing), I realized I do not know much about them. Let’s see if I can change that in today’s Wonder Why Wednesday…

Who Invented Pancakes?

A National Geographic article found that pancakes may date all the way back to the Stone Age. Analysis of a 30,000-year-old grinding tool leads researchers to believe that Stone Age cooks were making flour out of cattails and ferns, mixing it with water and baking it on a hot greased rock. Not quite IHOP, but the idea of a fried and flattened cake made from batter, is much the same.

It is hard to tell how prevalent pancake-ish items were 30,000 years ago, but it is likely that 5,300 years ago the food became a common part of ones diet. In 1991, a mummy, later named Otzi the Iceman, was found in the Italian Alps. Otzi was believed to have lived between 3359 and 3105 BCE, and he too is a proud member of Team Pancake. Tests on his remains were able to show that one of his last meals contained bits of charcoal he may have eaten in the form of a pancake cooked over an open fire.

Fast forward a bit and the pancake popularity begins to climb. Ancient Greeks and Roman enjoyed them sweetened with honey. Elizabethans preferred them spices, rosewater, sherry and apples.

When America became a thing, you better believe pancakes were around to see the growth of the nation. The first all-American cookbook, published in 1796 and written by Amelia Simmons, featured two recipes for pancakes, one for “Johny Cake, or Hoe Cake,” which included milk, “Indian meal,” and molasses, the other for “Indian Slapjack,” which got rid of the molasses, and added four eggs.

So while it doesn’t appear that one person is solely responsible to the greatness that is the pancake, we do have many people to thank for the rise of this great food.

 

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