British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Feb. 3.]                        shrove Tuesday.                                 63
" Always before Lent there comes waddling a fat, grosse groome, called Shrove Tuesday, one whose manners show he is better fed than taught, and indeed he is the only monster for feeding amongst all the dayes of the yeere, for he devoures more flesh in fourteene houres than this old kingdom doth (or at least should doe) in sixe weekes after. Such boyling and broyling, such roasting and toasting, such stewing and brewing, such baking, frying, mincing, cutting, carving, devouring, and gorbellied gurmondizing, that a man would thinke people did take in two months' provision at once. Moreover it is a goodly sight to see bow the cookes in great men's kitchins doe frye in their master's suet, that if ever a cooke be worth the eating, it is when Shrove Tuesday is in towne, for he is so stued and larded, basted, and almost over-roasted, that a man may eate every bit of him and never take a surfet. In a word, they are that day extreme cholerike, and too hot for any man to meddle with, being monarchs of the marrow-bones, marquesses of the mutton, lords bigh regents of the spit and kettle, barons of the gridiron, and sole commanders of the frying-pan. And all this hurly burly is for no other purpose than to stop the mouth of the land-wheale, Shrove-Tuesday, at whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdome is in quiet, but by the time the clocke strikes eleven—which by the help of a knavish sexton is commonly before nine,— then there is a bell rung called the Pancake-Bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted and forgetful either of manner or humanitie. Then there is a thing cal'd wheat'n flowre, which the sulphory, necromanticke cookes doe mingle with water, eggs, spice, and other tragicall, magicall inchant-ments, and then they put it little by little into a frying-pan of boyling suet, where it makes a confused dismal hissing— like the Lernean snakes in the reeds of Acheron, Stix, or Phlegeton—until at last by the skill of the cooke it is trans­formed into the forme of a flap-jack, which in our transla­tion is call'd a pancake, which ominous incantation the ignorant people doe devoure very greedily—having for the most part well dined before —but they have no sooner swal­lowed that sweet candied baite, but straight their wits forsake them, and they runne starke mad, assembling in
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