History of Crepes
What are Crepes?
Crêpes are an ultra-thin pancake. The specialty is served in crêperies, as street food and even in elegant settings as dessert, such as the most famous presentation, crêpes Suzette. Buckwheat flour is most often used to make savory crepes. Mushrooms, leeks, caramelized onions, spinach, ham, eggs, and Gruyere are some of the ingredients for the traditional savory fillings of buckwheat crepes.
Nearly every cultural cuisine on earth lays claim to some kind of pancake, made from a liquid batter on a hot, flat surface served with maple syrup and powdered sugar. Those we know well from hearty American breakfasts have near and distant cousins: Dutch poffertjes, Indian dosas, Russian blini, Japanese hirayachi, Chinese jianbing and French crêpes, among others.
Origins of French Crêpes
According to French folklore, crêpes were born of a “happy accident.” One tale tells that a 13th-century housewife in Brittany accidentally spilled some buckwheat porridge from a kettle in the fireplace onto a flat cooking stone.
Other sources date crepes much earlier though. Le Jour des Crêpes (“the day of crêpes”), February 2, is believed to have begun in 472 with pope Gelasio I serving crêpes French Catholic pilgrims visiting Rome for Candlemas. Nowadays, Le Jour des Crêpes and Candlemas are interchangeable celebrations in France and Belgium.
On these days, crêpes take on a deeper meaning as their circular shape symbolizes either a coin or the sun.*1
Crêpes in European culture
In Norwegian, crêpes are called pannekake, in most German regions Crêpes (referring to a wide and flat crêpe, as opposed to the smaller and thicker native Pfannkuchen pancakes). In Swedish, a crêpe is called pannkaka in southern regions while being called plättar in the north, in Danish, pandekager (“pancakes”), in Icelandic it is called pönnukaka, in Finnish a crêpe is called either ohukainen or lettu or räiskäle, in Greek it is krepa (Κρέπα), in Dutch it is a pannenkoek or flensje, and in Afrikaans a pannekoek, which is usually served with cinnamon and sugar. In the Spanish regions of Galicia and Asturias, they are traditionally served at carnivals. In Galicia, they’re called filloas, and may also be made with pork blood instead of milk. In Asturias, they are called fayueles or frixuelos, and in Turkey, akıtma.
In areas of central Europe, formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire, there is a thin pancake comparable to a sweet crêpes that in Austro-Bavarian is called Palatschinken; in Hungarian: palacsinta; and in Bulgarian, Macedonian, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, and Slovene: palačinka; in Slovak: palacinka. In the Balkan countries, palačinka or pallaçinka may be eaten with fruit jam, quark cheese, sugar, honey, or the hazelnut-chocolate cream Nutella, while there is also a breaded variant which is mostly filled with meat. Restaurants which are specialized in palačinci are called “Palačinkara” in the region.
In Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, there is a similar dish known as the blintz. The Oxford English Dictionary derives the German and Slavic words from the Hungarians palacsinta, which it derives from the Romanian plăcintă, which comes in turn from classical Latin placenta (“small flat cake”), even though the Romanian plăcintă is more similar to a pie, and the crêpes are actually called clătită.
During the Russian celebration of Maslenitsa (Russian Butter Week), one of the most popular foods are blini, or crêpes. Since they are made from butter, eggs, and milk, crêpes are allowed to be consumed during the celebration by the Orthodox church.*2
White flour can be replaced with buckwheat flour and milk can be switched for kefir, and oils can be added or substituted. Blini are served with a piece of butter and topped with caviar, cheese, meat, potatoes, mushrooms, honey, berry jam, or often a dollop of sour cream. The dish is supposed to represent the sun since the holiday is about the beginning of the spring.
I fell in love with crepes when I was very young it was customary in our family to have a hearty brunch on Sunday after church and it was when my mom cooked the crepes or pirogy for the brunch.
The idea of introducing the French influence of sweet and savory crêpes to the community was always my dream. Me and my husband were searching to change something in our life and do some sort of a job where you see the result of your work right away.
That is how we came to the idea of opening the restaurant with my dream of introducing tasty delicious crepes to our community and to the millions of tourist that come into the town. That is how the Old Town Crepes restaurant was born and establish in 2018.
In our restaurant you will find all sorts of crepes – savory and sweet, and also the famous classic Crepe Suzette, as well as Japanese soufflé pancakes.
Old Town Crepes owners
Roman & Tetyana Romanenko
*1 January 13, 2022 by Pamela Vachon — Food and Travel Writer (Culinary, ‘11)
*2 Wikipedia Crepe.