Fast Track: Fastfood - A penchant for pancakes? Then the time is right to flip out

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The Independent Culture
To the uninitiated, next Tuesday may seem like any other day of the week, but what you should really be doing is rushing out after work to eat pancakes, or rushing home to mix up some batter. Because it will, of course, be Shrove Tuesday.

Britain is not known for its consumption of pancakes, although they are slowly creeping into the brunch menus of some of the more with-it restaurants.

You can spot a trend a mile off when it originates in west London. Crushingly trendy locals at Dakota, a newly opened, American-inspired eatery on Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, tuck into platefuls of blueberry pancakes smothered with maple syrup at its popular weekend brunch. If Dakota is full Londoners can always take themselves around the corner to Coins Coffee Store, or further afield to Montana in Fulham.

The blini, the pancake's little sister, arrived so long ago that packets of them are available at Sainsbury's, all ready to smother with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and fresh dill, for the ultimate canape.

For an oriental alternative, head to a Japanese restaurant and order okono miyaki. These savoury crepes usually contain seafood and are served up with soy sauce; they offer the exciting challenge of trying your hand at eating a pancake with chopsticks.

Otherwise referred to as crepes, pancakes have traditionally been eaten on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It was a way for penitents to make merry and, at the same time, use up ingredients like butter, eggs and fat, which were forbidden fare during Lent.

In France, the home of the crepe, it is customary on Shrove Tuesday to touch the handle of the frying pan as the pancake is being turned, while holding a coin in your hand and making a wish.

Pancakes are incredibly versatile, they can be sweet or savoury and filled with anything - a bit like a continental sandwich. In America, pancakes are almost obligatory breakfast fare, stacked up and drenched in maple syrup.

The International House of Pancakes, with branches dotted all the way across the USA, is dedicated to serving just that.

But if you're set on making your own and are feeling competitive, the pancake-tossing record is held by Dean Gould, who flipped a pancake 349 times in two minutes in 1995.

It's also worth knowing that pancakes are considered a symbol of allegiance. Traditionally, farmers offered them to their landlords.

They may be just the right peace offering for your downstairs neighbours who complained about the noise over the weekend.