Home » History on a plate: The complicated history behind the beloved pancake

History on a plate: The complicated history behind the beloved pancake

by The Grio

I love pancakes. 

Eggs and omelets (those are eggs, people) remain America’s favorite breakfast foods, but pancakes are a close third, according to one survey. 

Forget that survey. Homemade pancakes are number one for me.

As much as I love pancakes, I detest the racist history associated with America’s No. 1 pancake brand. While food can bring us together, it can also highlight painful cultural divides that society ignored for too long. In this case, the stereotypes weren’t fully addressed until 2020. That’s amazing — and not in a good way.

Each year, we celebrate Black History Month, which recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of Black people. Through food, we can take these lessons one step further. All the foods Black people love — from mac and cheese to potato salad to sweet potatoes — have roots in other cultures. Exploring those commonalities — and stereotypes — can help us learn a little more about each other.   

Pancakes go back to at least 500 B.C., when the Greek poet Cratinus mentioned the Greek pancake “tiganites” in one of his works, of which The Encyclopedia Britannica says only fragments remain. 

In another book, On the Properties of Food Stuffs, the Greek physician Galean wrote of  “girdle-cakes,” and “griddle-cakes” made of wheaten flour soaked in water in the publication, written around the second century C.E. Scholars translated the book from the original Greek, and you can find the early mention under the “pastries” section. 

In America, the “johnnycake” may have been the first pancake. Native Americans used cornmeal to make these flat cakes, according to the Native Heritage Project. Johnnycakes took on several different names, including flapjacks, griddle cakes, and hotcakes.

The Betty Crocker brand, in its Unofficial Happy History of Pancakes, said cooks once used brandy and wine to make their pancake…

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