The Food Timeline website is written by Lynne Oliver, a reference librarian with “a passion for culinary history.” Here is a tiny taste of what Oliver has to tell us about pancakes.
"Pancakes, as we Americans know them today, were "invented" in Medieval Europe. Throughout history, pancake ingredients (finest available wheat flour, buckwheat, cornmeal, potatoes), cooking implements (ancient bakestones, medieval hearths, pioneer griddles perched on campfire embers, microwave ovens), social rituals (Shrove Tuesday crepes, Chanukah latkes, mass quantities for community fundraisers) and final product (thick or thin, savory or sweet, slathered with butter and smothered with syrup, or gently rolled around delicate fruit) have reflected regional cuisine and local customs. Cake-like galettes [France], thick potato pancakes [Germany], Boxty [Ireland], paper thin crepes [France], palascinta [Hungary] drop scones [Scotland], coarse cornmeal Indian cakes [colonial America], flapjacks[19th century America], rich blini [Russia], poori [India], qata'if (Middle East) dadar gutung [Indonesia], bao bing [China] and simply-add-water instant mixes [late 20th century] are all members of the pancake family."
To learn more about pancakes and how they are cooked, the place of pancakes in cultures around the world, and for a sampler of historic pancake recipes, go to the Pancakes & Crepes section of the Food Timeline.