Tag Archives: pancakes

Æbleskivers (Danish Pancakes)


Informant JA was a current undergraduate student at the University of Southern California at the time of this collection. Though JA was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, their mom’s maternal side of the family originates from Denmark. When speaking with JA, they mentioned that only one particular Danish food item seemed to have any familial importance growing up. Even though JA admits that their family simplifies the traditional Danish recipe, they said that the importance of this folk food tradition lies in the special pans that are used to cook it.


“Æbleskivers are like Danish pancakes.” JA described Æbleskivers as “pancake balls” and added that their family’s version is the same as regular pancakes compositionally—just in a different shape. They disclosed that their family’s batter recipe only involved generic pancake mix and water. To attain the ball shape of Æbleskivers, JA uses a pan with seven half-sphere indentations over a stove, and that pan is one from their late great-grandparents who have passed the pan down. Each indentation is buttered, filled with batter, and eventually flipped over once bubbles become visible after cooking for some time. A special fork with a handle resembling a banana is used to flip these pancake balls until they are spherical and golden brown. Upon serving, JA’s family only ever has strawberry jam and powdered sugar to dip the Æbleskivers in. JA learned from their maternal grandmother to dip the Æbleskiver in the jam first to coat it with stickiness and then the sugar to follow so it does not fall off.

Since his grandmother’s passing, JA makes Æbleskivers and said that they remind them of her and their childhood meals together. JA also mentioned that Æbleskivers often accompany special meals like birthday breakfasts or other celebratory breakfasts. The tradition of making Æbleskivers extends beyond the family, JA says. They have shown their friends how to make Æbleskivers and have had many others taste them. 


After speaking with JA, they described how their family particularly cherishes breakfast since their family values quality time and beginning each day with one another. In the process of making this modern adaptation/variation of a Danish folk foodway, not only does it allow for the family to showcase their shared familial value of quality time, but it also demonstrates a reverence for their family’s history. Historically, foodways have allowed folk to distinguish and partake in their national identity. This contemporized foodway functions in that same way even though commercially bought goods are incorporated into its recipe. In utilizing pans that are passed down generationally, JA’s family is able to succeed in their efforts of maintaining familial values and remembering facets of their cultural identity


Æbleskivers are mentioned in another entry in the USC Digital Folklore archive. See here:

Egoian, Sonya, and Sonya Egoian. “University of Southern California.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, 14 May 2013, folklore.usc.edu/danish-birthday-song/.

Shrove Day


Coming from my Jewish background, I had minimal knowledge of Christian holidays besides Christmas. My informant taught me about Shrove Tuesday and the special treat associated with it.

Main Piece

So, Shrove Tuesday — S-H-R-O-V-E Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day, is a religious holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom, mostly by Christians, um, but sometimes Catholics, Lutherans, etcetera etcetera. Um, basically, it’s, it’s before Lent, so it’s, it’s a holiday of self-reflection and, uh, y’know, like Thanksgiving, I guess. But basically, the whole country goes nuts, they make these pancakes, which are more like crepes, with the traditional toppings of lemon and sugar. You would drizzle, uh, lemon juice on top and then dust it with sugar, and then you would wrap it up and eat it. It’s actually really f__king good. But basically at school, every Shrove Tuesday we would get… it was like, an exciting day because you could eat something sweet that didn’t taste like wet cardboard. So that was just a fun thing that we’d all get very excited for… of course, it being school lunch it wasn’t really that yummy, anyway… but that was just a fun thing to look forward to in the school year.




While I had not heard of Shrove Tuesday, the interesting thing to me about this piece, as with the Guy Fawkes Day entry, was how removed the informant’s celebration of the holiday is from its origin and meaning. My informant does not come from a religious background, but looked forward to Shrove Tuesday solely because of its association with pancakes — the day was even known by the alternate name “Pancake Tuesday.” To him, the holiday had little to do with Christianity. Worldwide, particularly in the United States, Christmas has become secularized and fairly non-denominational. I would be interested to know how many children who grow up participating in festive, secular versions of these holidays end up continuing to practice the religion.


Godlewski, Nina. “What Is the Meaning of Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday?” Newsweek, Newsweek, 5 Mar. 2019, www.newsweek.com/fat-shrove-tuesday-what-meaning-tradition-1351332.

Canadian Pancake Breakfasts

*Note: the informant, Kate, grew up in Canada, Alberta specifically.

INFORMANT: “Well, in Canada we do a lot of pancake breakfasts, I’m not sure if this qualifies as folklore per se, but every time there’s a festival in the summertime, people cook up a ton of pancakes, and I mean a lot of pancakes, and they give them away for free! Or sometimes they charge a small fee to raise money for something. In Edmonton specifically, where I grew up, pancake breakfasts were huge, especially on K-days, which is a giant exhibition for 10 days in the end of July. Also in Edmonton we had the Calgary Stampede, Canada’s biggest rodeo, and pancakes were a huge thing there. Because in like the 20s or something, when the rodeo first began, some rancher started cooking up free pancakes on his camp stove and giving them away to whoever came by the festivities. Pancake breakfasts are even tied to politics, a lot of Canadian politicians will hold pancake breakfasts or make appearances or even be the volunteers making the pancakes. Also football. Lots of pancake breakfasts for football events.”

This is a food-related tradition that seems pretty specific to Canada, even though America has started doing similar pancake breakfasts as fundraisers. The concept of free pancakes is great, as everyone knows free food is extremely bonding. I think it’s interesting that politicians are capitalizing on this tradition and making it political, using pancake breakfasts as public events at which to make appearances or make themselves seem approachable or folksy by cooking pancakes.


“Maslenitsa is basically like a pre-fast to Lent, where you just…you give up meat that week, dairy…so it’s meant to work you off of it. Blini are sweet, so you’re not so depressed, uh…that’s…that’s my take on it. Then you just don’t eat meat or fish or dairy for forty days. Not just Wednesday, Friday–every day.”

Most Christian cultures have their own version of the famous Brazilian Carnival, the blowing off of steam before the fasting that comes with Lent. In Russian Orthodox culture, it is called Maslenitsa. During the week-long holiday, the faithful partake in a pre-fast, as noted by my informant. They give up meat and dairy in preparation for the intense fasting of Lent. In addition, the celebration of Maslenitsa originated in Slavic mythology and was a celebration of the end of winter. Because it still persists to this day, we can see how pagan rituals have been absorbed into Christian holidays. Obviously, this is common across cultures; however, it is especially obvious in this Russian holiday because of the pagan folk elements such as bonfires and the burning of effigies.

Blini, essentially the Russian version of crepes, are the most popular food during this time. They are a traditional Russian dish and are wildly popular; as my informant notes, the fact that blini are everywhere during the week leading up to the Lenten fast makes it easier on everyone.