Is there any day in the kid-approved festival calendar that creeps up more suddenly than Shrove Tuesday? The day itself might stay the same, but the date changes every year so one minute you’re half-heartedly registering the introduction of ready-made pancake batter to the end aisles in M&S and the next running to Londis in a flour-and-eggs sourcing frenzy. That said, as calendar events go, it’s one of the better ones (I’ll take batter whisking over World Book Day costumes any day) – you just have to be prepared. Here’s how not to do it.
Early February: Vaguely register shelves stacked with Aunt Bessie’s pancake mix as you charge round Sainsbury’s before school pick up. Like I said, this is where it all starts to go wrong.
A few days later: Have a pancake batter flashback on the way to work. Google Shrove Tuesday, making careful note of the fact that it is the day before Ash Wednesday and seven weeks before Easter but not the actual date it’s occurring in 2017.
Tuesday the following week: Send panic text to your other half demanding the purchase of emergency milk, eggs, flour and a large jar of Nutella on the way home.
Five minutes later: Retract request. Add the actual date to your phone calendar. With multiple reminders. Repeat after me: 13 February 2018. Forget all about it.
The week before: Stop by Tesco Express on the way home from the pub on Thursday night. Buy a Jif lemon for old times’ sake. Decide to purchase all other ingredients from the farmers’ market on Sunday morning to imbue said gluten-dairy-fat mixture with some fresh-from-the-farm wholesomeness.
The Sunday before: Sack off the farmers’ market in favour of a nap on the sofa. Get woken up by a small child running a truck over your face.
Shrove Tuesday morning: Strange sense there’s something you’ve forgotten. Check pockets for school trip forms and car keys.
That afternoon approx 3.45pm: Join throng of seventeen other parents, multiple pushchairs and manic toddlers at the nearest supermarket. Send your eldest child in search of Golden Syrup and Nutella while you nip in front of an unwitting reception class parent and score the last box of eggs. Assume the flour you have in the vastly underused ‘baking cupboard’ will do fine.
4.15pm: Flour, last used approximately 365 days ago, appears to be covered in a faint grey mould. Not enough milk. Head back out to the shops with the kids in tow. Find eggs, flour and milk have taken on a desirable limited-edition quality in your mind. Treat yourself to three different kinds of milk, two packs of flour and all the eggs they have left. Forget whether you’ve already bought a Jif lemon. Get another to be on the safe side.
5pm: Seat children at the table and attempt to manufacture a wholesome scene in which you stir the batter together, discuss the meaning of Lent and take turns to flip perfect golden-hued rounds high into the air above your pristine range cooker. In reality, repeatedly pick eggshell out of the batter and mediate turn-taking wars while wishing you had a decent non-stick pan and an actual pristine range cooker. Consider crying over spilt milk.
5.10pm: First pancake is ready. First pancake is crap. Decide to palm it off on the youngest. Start sentence about how ‘we’re all going to have at least one delicious savoury pancake before we start on the sweet ones’ before deciding this whole ordeal will be over more quickly if the Nutella steps up to the plate.
5.12pm: First chocolate-spread slathered pancake is consumed. Youngest wants another. Explain you can only make one at a time in the voice of a children’s TV presenter who’s just inhaled the contents of a helium balloon.
5.13pm-5.45pm: Put your hair in a bun, roll up your sleeves and dig deep, assuming the role of a slightly sweaty underpaid short-order chef trying to impress Gordon Ramsay. Eat a spoonful of Golden Syrup for energy. Mix, flip, serve, repeat until someone says they feel sick. Ensure no one leaves the table without removing their top layer of clothing and a good going over with a wet wipe.
5.50pm: Decide the only answer for the youngest is straight into the bath.
5.55pm: Eldest asks what’s for pudding. Mouth obscenities behind the bathroom door.
6pm: Youngest says he’s hungry. Dish out a round of bananas and consider fast forwarding bedtime.
6.30pm: Yes, darling, it’s definitely 7.30pm. Now, shush, and go to sleep while mummy googles M&S pre-made pancakes and whether they’ll freeze until 2019.
6.45pm: Dettol wipe entire kitchen including floors, windows and the cat. Early evening amuse-bouche of mauled syrup pancake washed down with gin.
7pm: Like four idyllic family pancake shots taken by people you’ve never met on Instagram. Hate them all. Text husband to say pancakes are on your list of banned conversation topics until at least 2020 and that he also needs to pick up a Thai takeaway on his way home. Pour another gin – add a squeeze of Jif lemon.