You say potato, I say…

Actually, it’s you (Brits) say “Pancake” and I say “Crepe.” I had seen so many pancakes and pancake stories floating around here this week, and when staring uninspiredly at a package of asparagus in my fridge tonight, decided to confirm my suspicions. I googled “English pancake recipe” and came up with Delia’s, which I noted looked remarkably familiar in all ways but one. The ingredients list is identical to what’s in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (well, once you’ve converted all the metric into amounts to mix my measuring cups) except for the method: in America we mix dry (flour and salt) and wet (milk and egg) ingredients separately, then combine, while here apparently the flour with salt gets slowly mixed into the beaten egg then the milk added. Regardless, it was a classic crepe recipe, and I filled mine with crispy asparagus spears and drizzled hollandaise sauce over the top. (No, not caster sugar, I don’t like sweet things and besides that always makes me think of actually eating crepes in Paris, which are still thinner than anything I have managed at home no matter how hard I swirl the pan.) But totally yummy for an easy dinner. But why the name? Is it because there is so much animosity between the Brits and the French? I will still call these “English pancakes” crepes, as for me a pancake has buttermilk and is thick and stacked.

15 responses to “You say potato, I say…

  1. Have you ever noticed that in England we speak English? That’s why we use the english work ‘pancake’ rather than the poncy french one ‘crepe’. Easy, really!

  2. I suppose we call them pancakes because they are cakes in a pan?

    It’s possible that both ours and yours are pancakes, but just of a different size and thickness. I mean, a person is still a person whether they are tall and thin or short and fat.

  3. Suzy Q, are we being as protectionist about English as the French are about French? Seems a shame.

    Iota, in what way do skinny crepes represent cakes? American pancakes actually DO represent cakes, thick and fluffy in texture, but I just don’t see it with these thin eggy things!

  4. Well at any rate this post and discussion has prompted me to make some American pancakes this morning. I still have some Bisquick mix and Mrs. Butterworth left.
    Bon Appétit!

  5. I imagine they’ve been called pancakes in these misty islands since long, long before French cuisine had any influence on our cooking. Suddenly to substitute a French culinary term for a perfectly ordinary English food item would seem to us to be pretentious. Whatever next: should we now start calling the humble Melton Mowbray pork pie, ‘Galantine de porc en croûte’ or some such frippery?!!

  6. > in what way do skinny crepes represent cakes

    Your puzzlement, NFAH, is possibly due to the fact that the word cake has changed its meaning. According to the OED: “a. orig. A comparatively small flattened sort of bread, round, oval, or otherwise regularly shaped”. Notice “flattened”.

    Later in the OED definition: ” c. In England, cakes (in sense a) have long been treated as fancy bread, and sweetened or flavoured; hence, the current sense: A composition having a basis of bread, but containing additional ingredients, as butter, sugar, spices, currants, raisins, etc. At first, this was a cake also in form, but it is no longer necessarily so, being now made of any serviceable, ornamental, or fanciful shape; e.g. a tea-, plum-, wedding-cake, etc.”

  7. Further news from the OED: the word ‘pancake’ is documented back to 1400; the word ‘crêpe’ doesn’t appear in English literature until 1877.

    Do Americans use the expression ‘as flat as a pancake’?

  8. Notfromroundhere, the reason I am protectionist about English is that it is my language, and get rather tired of americans starting from the default position that their dialect is the correct one and English English is the oddity. As Howard points out, pancake is the correct term, crepe simply a bit of american nonsense, rather like calling chips ‘french fries’! What is it with you Yanks that so many food terms have to be given a fancy french make-over?

  9. > What is it with you Yanks that so many food terms have to be given a fancy french make-over?

    In two words, Suzy Q: ignorance and arrogance, bless ’em.

  10. Howard, I hope you understand that in America, we have many nationalities that make up our population. With this comes the celebration of other cultures’ food. To spend angry hours mulling over who is right and who is wrong is sad, I choose to learn as much as possible from representatives of as many cultures as possible. As for the “pancake” v. “crepe” debate, here in the U. S. we call your pancakes crepes. Not because we are “ignorant or arrogant” but because, here, this recipe is more widely used in the French style of cooking. What we call a pancake (a light, fluffy 4″-8″ round cake cooked on a hot griddle) goes by different names based on culture and region. Other names include flapjacks and silver dollars. The American pancake is most often served for breakfast with maple syrup and butter with a side of sausage or bacon, but can also be found sporting a fruit topping and powdered sugar. Crepes tend to be a Sunday Brunch item filled with sweetened cream, fruit and dusted with powdered sugar.

  11. NFAH,
    I am new to your blog and am really enjoying reading it– but the debates that result afterwards are disconcerting.
    Lance said: “To spend angry hours mulling over who is right and who is wrong is sad, I choose to learn as much as possible from representatives of as many cultures as possible.”

    Well said in response to Howard– !

  12. Julia and Lance, well-said, and I could not agree more. I love living abroad in part because I love learning about different cultures; I was teased in the US for going out of my way to collect friends from interesting and different backgrounds! I’m never sure what to do about the level of animosity that occasionally appears here in the comments, but in the interest of free speech I have only ever deleted one that was downright mean. We’ll all understand each other better in the end if we try to engage in active dialog and try to see the points that everyone makes, no matter what the tone!

  13. > To spend angry hours mulling over who is right and who is wrong is sad

    I couldn’t agree more, which is why I didn’t spend them. A minute or two of amused chuckling was about all.

  14. > But why the name?

    To summarize: it’s because that’s what we have always called them. Just because Americans started to use the word crêpe sometime after 1877 doesn’t seem to us to be a particularly good reason to change.

    > Is it because there is so much animosity between the Brits and the French?

    Obviously I can’t speak for the French, but I don’t think so. As far as I know there was less of the “Freedom Fries” and “Cheese-eating Surrender-Monkey” nonsense in this country than there was in the U.S. (always struck me as a strange gratitude to the country who gifted the Statue of Liberty to the U.S!)

  15. Pingback: Biscuits, American Style « Not From Around Here

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