I was due to provide R J with a blog post on love, an appropriate emotion for the month in question. Valentine’s Day is not a holiday I embrace with any enthusiasm, too commercial for my tastes, but since True Love is definitely a factor in my latest novel, Lovers Entwined, I figured I would be able to scrape a post together.
Except… I’ve driven past an advert for Pancake Day outside my local supermarket every day this week. And each time I’ve got a little more irate.
“Why?” I hear you cry. What could be more innocuous than a batter made of eggs, milk and flour?
The stack of pancakes in question are fat and fluffy, artfully arranged with plump, purple blueberries. Nothing wrong with that, they look very tasty. If you want American breakfast pancakes.
However, they are NOT the sort of pancakes traditionally eaten in England on Shrove Tuesday. Those pancakes should be thin, flat, even lacy creations, running with lemon and sugar. They should be cooked in a frying pan, not on a griddle. They need no raising agent. You should be able to TOSS them!
Calm down, dear. It’s only a pancake.
No, it’s more than that, it’s a part of my history. Pancakes have been made in this traditional way on Shrove Tuesday for a thousand years or more. How hard can it be for a huge chain of supermarkets to take a photograph of the type of pancakes that reflect the heritage of the country I live in, and they are trading in?
Time to provide some background information to my tirade.
Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, is the day before Lent starts. It's a day of penitence, to clean the soul, and a day of celebration as the last chance to feast before Lent begins.
Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the ritual of shriving that Christians used to undergo in the past. In shriving, a person confesses their sins and receives absolution for them. This tradition is over a thousand years old.
Lent is a time of abstinence, so Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren't allowed in Lent. Historically this meant meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods.
So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat all the foods that wouldn't last the forty days of Lent without going off.
Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday as they were a dish that could use up all the eggs, fats and milk in the house with just the addition of flour.
Another tradition of the day are Pancake races. The origin of the pancake race is rumoured to date back to 1445. History would have it that a woman had lost track of the time on Shrove Tuesday, and was busy cooking pancakes in her kitchen. When she heard the church bell ringing to call the faithful to church for confession, she raced out of her house and ran all the way to church. Still holding her frying pan and wearing her apron!
There are people who stick religiously to the tradition, only eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. These are the same people that only eat sprouts with their Turkey dinner ‘because it’s Christmas’. Yeah, because the baby Jesus stuffed himself with Brussels. Nothing to eat in that stable but a small, green , barely edible vegetable!
Anyhow, I digress. In our house even an overabundance of eggs is sufficient celebratory excuse to scrap dinner plans and overindulge on dairy and carbs drowned in lemon and dredged with sugar. I’ve been known to consume 12 in one sitting.
And now I’m stuck, how can I tie this blog post in to the book I’m planning on bombarding you with information on now. Well, I can’t, not really. Although, food is something I touch on briefly in Lovers Entwined. The tradition of Gingerbread at Christmas or Pie at Thanksgiving. How food can offer comfort or a connection.
Enough of trying to link what amounted to a rant to my latest publication, instead I’ll just give you an excerpt.
The insistent buzz of his intercom broke him from his reverie. Closing his folder, he depressed the button connecting him to his middle-aged assistant. “Barbara.”
“Your ten o’clock is here, Mr. Matthews.”
“Give me two minutes and then send him in. Thanks.” Releasing the button, Ewan pushed his ergonomic computer chair away from the solid oak desk and stood up. He wheeled it over to a dark-stained wooden door in the corner, which he opened to reveal a larger, more imposing chair in black leather.
“It’s all about the perception,” he muttered to himself as he swapped the chairs and wheeled the leather recliner back to the desk.
People expected a certain air of the old and antiquated when they researched their past and that was what Ewan’s office was designed to provide. From the oak paneling in reception, the row upon row of leather-bound books which were never opened—most of his research was done online and the books he did use were old and treasured and safely stored at home—to the solid antique—secondhand—furniture in dark woods, the company screamed “trust me with your past”.
If Ewan could have aged himself to look older than his twenty-eight years, he would have, but despite the glasses and the somber suit, with vest, Ewan could do nothing to disguise the quiff at his forehead. It pinged back into place however he cut his hair, making him look similar to a dark-haired Tintin and giving him a look of perpetual youth.
The knock on the door came at the same time as his computer blipped a notification that a search had yielded results.
“Come in,” he called out, his attention distracted by the list of available marriage certificates that met his criteria, and without looking up, he waved in the direction of the comfortable high-backed chair on the other side of his desk. “Take a seat, Mr. Capell.”
With several strokes across the keyboard, Ewan narrowed the search, already speaking as he depressed the enter key. “Sorry, I had a result on the search for your sister’s…” His gaze finally fell on the subject of his latest project, and he looked nothing like the provided photograph.
A casual three-button polo shirt in turquoise-blue covered broad shoulders and was tucked into navy slacks. Light ginger hair, almost a golden copper in color, flopped in a mess across his forehead, just long enough to irritate piercing blue eyes. Tanned skin flashed in his vision as Mr. Capell raised a hand to push the hair from his face.
Ewan was struck by a blinding sense of recognition, and even though he was certain he had never seen this man before, it was strong enough to suck all the air from his lungs. He gasped in a ragged breath and couldn’t stop his gaze from roaming the length of his new client. Berating himself for his unprofessional attitude, however unintentional it had been, Ewan attempted to collect his scattered composure and get the appointment back on track. What had he been saying? Oh yes, work. “Um, yes, I just got a hit on your sister’s marriage certificate.”
“I get that reaction a lot,” Trey Capell said, drawing attention back to Ewan’s faux pas in the most inappropriate way. He dropped into the chair Ewan had indicated, his limbs splayed languidly, thighs spread almost as if in invitation.
“I—” Ewan was struggling to regain his composure, partly because he almost choked on his tongue at the blatant display from his new client, but mainly due to the perplexingly familiar blue eyes that watched him from the body of a stranger.
Talking over Ewan’s attempt to come up with a reasonable excuse for his unethical behavior, Trey Capell continued to extol his virtues. “Admittedly it’s normally from girls these days. Guys just assume—”
“That you’re a prat,” Ewan said, muttering angrily under his breath.
“Eh.” Trey Capell actually did a double take before obviously deciding he’d misheard. “Guys just assume I’m straight since I’m with Paige. You being gay isn’t a problem. I’ve been known to surf that side of the beach on occasions myself.”
“I was going to apologize,” Ewan said, interrupting Trey Capell before he had the chance to insult Ewan further. The inane chatter coupled with his embarrassment at being caught ogling his client already had Ewan fighting the temptation to lean across the desk and slap that condescending pretty face.
He straightened his pen on his blotter and attempted to regain some semblance of control. His “Oxford” English accent became more pronounced, adding an aloof edge to his voice in the process. “I simply had the most overwhelming feeling of déjà vu when you walked into the office. But since you have unnecessarily brought my sexuality into question, let me assure you that you are perfectly safe with me. I certainly wouldn’t associate with such a self-centered idiot, even if you were the last man on Earth.”
Okay, so much for regaining control. That wasn’t quite where he’d intended to go when he’d started speaking. What the hell was the matter with him today?
“I— What?” Wide-eyed, Trey blustered, huffing out a breath and pushing himself up straighter in the chair. “You can’t talk to me like that. I’m your client. Don’t forget who is paying your wages.”
The retainer check was still in among the documents in front of him. Dragging the check across the blotter on his desk, Ewan picked it up and studied it.
“Not you, it appears,” he said, keeping a straight face. “The initial consultation has been paid for by a Ms. P. Black.”
Gripping the check between the thumb and forefinger of both hands, Ewan held it out over the desk between them. He’d already made an awful impression on this client, and quite frankly, he didn’t care, the man was insufferable.
“I don’t need your business. I have clients lining up around the block. Yes, I’m gay. I’ll be asking you lots of question to which I will expect direct and informative answers. I don’t have the time to deal with an arsehole. If any of these points are going to be a problem for you, then I can tear this check up now and we can both get on with the rest of our lives. Without ever meeting again.” And if those last words coincided with Ewan’s stomach clenching in a painful cramp, well, he put it down to the two cups of coffee he’d had since breakfast.
“No.” Trey Capell looked almost panicked at this proposition. “That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with any of that. Could we start again?” He stood and extended a hand. “Trey Capell. Nice to meet you.”
Ewan pushed himself to his feet and took the offered hand. It was firm and strong, and awareness prickled at his palm.
“Ewan Matthews,” he said with a brief nod of acknowledgement.
He resolutely ignored the sensation of relief that swept over him as the tight band relaxed its grip on his stomach.