History of the Crêpe

The word Crêpe is French for pancake, from the Latin crispus, meaning crisp.  In France, crêpes were originally called galettes crepes, meaning flat cakes.  The French pronunciation of the word is with a short e, as in bed.
Crêpes originated in Brittany, the northwest region of France, where they rarely had fillings and were used as bread.  Until about one hundred years ago, all crêpes were made of buckwheat flour.
Today, crêperies that specialize in serving sweet and savory crêpes are found throughout France.  The savory pancake, served as a main course, are usually made of buckwheat flour and called galettes, or galettes sarrasines, while dessert crêpes are made with wheat flour.
Until recently, crêpes were cooked on large cast-iron hot plates heated over wood fire and a fireplace.  The hot plates are now gas or electric heated, and the batter is spread with a wooden spreader and flipped with a wooden spatula.

In France, crêpes are traditionally offered on Candlemas and Shrove Tuesday to celebrate renewal, family life, and hope for good fortune and happiness ahead.  It is customary to touch the handle of the frying pan and make a wish while the pancake is turned, holding a coin in the hand.  In earlier times, in French rural society, farmers offered crepes to their landowners as a symbol of allegiance.
Crêpes are popular not only throughout France, but elsewhere in Europe, where the pancakes go by other names and adaptations, including Italian crespelle, Hungarian palacsintas, Jewish blintzes, Scandinavian plattars, Russian blini, and Greek kreps.

(from Crêpes, Sweet & Savory recipes for the Home Cook by Lou Seibert Pappas. By Chronicle Books)

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