It is Mardi Gras as I write this. A quiet one. The kids are asleep and I am hard at work on my computer. No parades or balls here, though we did celebrate in our own way. But as you are reading it, the day is probably Ash Wednesday.
I try to take seriously both the feast and the fasting occasions of the church and so my children and I celebrated Mardi Gras together this evening. Today after a last stop at the doughnut shop – guess what I’m giving up for Lent – we made a pancake supper. I was glad to be able to use the occasion as a cookbook project meal. I had already decided to use this recipe from the Bass Family Cookbook, when I realized it was a perfect fit for the day. (Here is how I know I belong in this family. Blueberry pancakes are in the Main Dish section. Oh Happy Day!)
Today was very hectic. Todd was called in to work at the last minute, giving me little time to prepare. Along with the blueberry pancakes, I made the Hashbrown Casserole. As I stopped by the store with the kids on my way home, I simply had to guess at the ingredients. Needless to say, I ended up substituting a lot. In the end, it didn’t matter. I enjoyed the casserole, and neither child would try it. Fortunately, they weren’t frightened off by their blue pancakes. After thawing the blueberries, I added them to the pancake batter along with their “juice.” The result was the artistic creation you see above. Not bad for Mardi Gras.
As we ate, I tried to explain to my kids the meaning of the Mardi Gras, though they were far more interested in their pancakes than my lesson in church tradition. This holiday, also called Fat Tuesday (the English translation), doesn't exist by itself. The celebration is the last hoorah before the long and serious season of Lent.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, tomorrow. Ashes have traditionally been a sign of mortality and humility. Once worn in mourning, they are a symbol of repentance and sorrow. In modern times, Christians wear ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday as a sign of our faith and our commitment to the Christian life. Many Christians will receive the ashes in the morning to wear them throughout the day. It becomes a discipline for ourselves and a witness for others to a life that is centered on something greater than what we can see. With this sign of our devotion, we begin our Lenten journey.
Lent can be a hard sell. We pastors tread around it lightly. The season of Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, not including the Sundays along the way. It is a special time, but not a frivolous one. Lent is a somber season of fasting, repentance, prayer and simplicity. We are called to set aside extravagances and spend our time reflecting solemnly on our lives, our mortality. Not blatantly cheerful stuff and not always high in public appeal.
In many traditions, the faithful will give up something for Lent. This is a modern form of fasting in a time when we are less likely to renounce our meals. The thing that is relinquished is supposed to be something important that will be missed. As we miss it we pray; we remember our frail and imperfect state, and we work to grow closer to God.
Lent isn’t so bad, if even if it is something of an acquired taste. While it may seem like a downer when looked at from the outside, there is more to it than meets the eye. It offers a wonderful opportunity for an inward focus that is sorely missed in our normal frenzied lives. It gives us the chance to slow down and examine what really matters. For many Christians, it gives meaning to the last weeks of winter before we experience the joy of spring. And there is joy at the end, when Easter reminds us that new life is always possible, in every season.
May you celebrate (in every sense of the word) the season of Lent. I pray that these weeks are filled with prayer and reflection so that you may better know the God who gives us life.
1 egg 1 c. flour
¾ cup milk 1 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil 1 T baking powder
½ c. fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
Beat egg until fluffy; beat in remaining ingredients except blueberries just until smooth. Stir in blueberries. Grease heated griddle. For each pancake, pour about 3 tablespoons of batter from a large spoon or from pitcher onto hot griddle. Cook pancakes until puffed and dry around edges. Turn and cook other side until golden brown. – Lisa Wade
1 bag froz shred hashbrowns (2 lbs) 1 carton sour cream (8-16 oz)
1 can cream chicken soup 1 ½ c. chopped onion
1 can cream mushroom soup 1 c. grated cheddar (I use 2 cups)
1 c. chicken broth (make w/water and bullion)
2 c. Ritz crackers or corn flakes, crushed
2 c. Ritz crackers or corn flakes, crushed
Defrost potatoes. Combine all ingredients (except crackers/corn flakes) ina greased casserole dish. Cover w/crushed crackers or corn flakes. Can drizzle the top w/melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. – Gena Jernigan
Note: What DIDN’T I substitute? I had neither the cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup. So I made more chicken broth and added some milk and some flour to thicken. I also used all the cheddar cheese I could get my hands on. I didn’t have either Ritz crackers or corn flakes, and found that Special K worked just fine.