For many people, Fat Tuesday anticipates the Lenten season.
Hannah Crowther celebrated a maple Tuesday instead. The 7-year-old smiled as she poured maple syrup over pancakes — and kept pouring — at Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam Tuesday night.
“You cut them up,” advised Hannah’s mother, Tammi. “You can put more on in a minute.”
Rotterdam’s Crowther family participated in the Shrove Tuesday tradition at Messiah for the first time. Dozens of other church members visited for pancakes, butter, sausage and applesauce and prepared for the Easter holiday by symbolically cleaning out pantry shelves of rich foods.
Shrove Tuesday, observed by several religious denominations, also meant pancake parties at other local churches.
According to Messiah church members, Shrove Tuesday comes from the term “shriving,” a period of confession and absolution. Feasting on foods such as eggs and milk — at first prohibited during Lent — was once part of Shrove Tuesday tradition. People had to use up supplies of eggs and milk before Ash Wednesday — the official beginning of Lent — and hot cakes were one way to use foods before they spoiled.
“Shrove Tuesday is the time before Ash Wednesday, it’s been a tradition through the years to clean out the pantry and get rid of anything that’s fat,” said Bill Becker, one of the Messiah pancake coordinators. “It’s also known in some places as Fat Tuesday; you get rid of all the shortening and all sorts of things that are required in cooking that are fatty.”
Sheri Lamb of Rotterdam, dressed in light green sweater, brown slacks and a tall chef’s hat, poured saucer-sized
pancakes on the church kitchen grill. Blackened cakes were stored in a pan next to the grill. “That was a test batch,” Lamb said, quickly flipping golden brown cakes and placing them on a plate. “Now here’s a stack of pancakes.”
The free supper, which the church has conducted for the past dozen years, was open to the public.
“I love the fellowship you get from the public, out in the community,” said Judy Becker, Bill’s wife. “It’s nice for them to know we’re a friendly church and welcome everybody. Every year, we get a few more.”
Messiah hosts annual parish food gatherings, such as a ziti dinner, Easter breakfast and Christmas Eve potluck supper. “Lutherans like to eat,” said Tina Bascom of Altamont, the parish administrator. “When we meet, we eat.”
Tammi Crowther appreciated the history associated with the Shrove Tuesday observance. Maple fan Hannah appreciated the flavor connected to the night. “It’s sweet,” she said of her maple syrup supper.
Pancakes also were on the menu at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Scotia.
“It’s a poor excuse for decadence,” said Rev. Michael Neufeld, the church pastor. “It’s the last hurrah before Ash Wednesday.”
Neufeld did not expect Mardi Gras-style revelry from the 60 people expected for pancakes and sausage. Like the folks at Messiah Lutheran, Neufeld said conversation would be the chief entertainment.
“It’s a good time for fellowship,” he said.
At All Saints Episcopal Church in Round Lake, pancakes were served with blueberries and syrup.
Church member Nancy Bellamy, who was helping out at the supper, believes elimination of sweets is part of the Shrove Tuesday game plan.
“It’s so we won’t have them to tempt us during Lent,” she said.
People didn’t seem to mind eating breakfast foods at 6 p.m. “It’s a good meal and it’s good company,” said Neal Fisher of Rotterdam, seated with friends at Messiah Lutheran. “And it’s good to get together not only with friends but with friends of the church. … It’s good to see everybody talking.”
“When I was growing up, sometimes we had pancakes for supper,” added Beth Waugh of Schenectady.
“I still do,” said Fisher. “Sometimes pancakes, sometimes waffles.”