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Monday 23 February 2009

Fasching, Karnival, Mardi gras,Shrove Tuesday or Faschingsmontag

No-calorie Krapfen, by Susie Mallett 21st February 2009

Krapfen (doughnuts), king cakes or pancakes

All over the world there are so many different customs that comes down to one thing – Lent – which is about to begin, on Ash Wednesday.

How do you finish off all the fat in the house?

In England we make pancakes, and usually eat them with sugar and lemon. Some crazy people even race down the streets with them still in the pan.

In Germany, the bakeries are full with doughnuts that each year become more outrageously decorated than in the year before.

In New Orleans hundreds of thousands of the traditional King Cakes are eaten.

What do you eat, wherever you are, on Rose Monday or Shrove Tuesday?

The German way

On Rosenmontag in Nürnberg there will be the usual carnival procession, but this will be nothing to compare with the celebrations in the north of the country. In Köln, Dusseldorf and Bonn, and in many other, smaller towns, things get started each year at precisely 11.11 o’clock. This is always the official start to the fifth season of the year, when the world goes crazy for fancy dress and silly parties! The partying will stop on Shrove Tuesday and all will thenremain quiet until Lent is over.

Last year at carnival time I was up north working, just as I have been for many of the past ten years. The family I was with were delighted when at long last I succumbed and joined in the crazy procession. I allowed myself to be dressed up in green dungarees and Wellie boots with sunflowers stuck all over me, I am not sure now whether I was a gardener or the flowers! About fifty layers of thermal clothes were hidden below the costume because, as always at this time of year, it was snowing! I don’t know why I hadn’t participated before, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Tomorrow and on Tuesday I will be working with a family here in Bavaria. There may be a small carnival procession in the village where they live and perhaps a few doughnuts for breakfast, but here in Bavaria the people are not so wild about carnival and don’t go quite so crazy.

On Shrove Tuesday in my flat there will be the unmistakable smell of making pancakes. I love doing this but not because I like eating them, I don’t very much but because they always have such individual patterns, like the maps and satellite pictures on Google Earth!. These patterns can be influenced by the temperature of the pan, the amount of oil used or the thickness of the batter, by how soon you turn the pancake over (or toss it), and by adding a tiny knob of butter to the pan. No two pancakes look the same.

Whether you are having doughnuts, pancakes or king cakes, whether you are celebrating, Fasching, Karnival, carnival or Mardi Gras, I hope you all have lots of fun. I will be, by painting faces, feet and hands and by eating both Krapfen and pancakes.

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