18th Century Pancakes Were Weird and Slightly Racist

The unfortunate truth of peering into our collective past is that eventually, something intolerant rears its head. For example, this pancake recipe found and cooked by 18th century cooking aficionado Jonathan Townsend doesn’t call the griddle treats pancakes at all—they’re “Indian slapjacks.”


Their vaguely racist name is derived from the presence of one of the ingredients that makes them distinct from traditional pancakes: corn. Which is not to say pancakes as we known them didn’t exist at the time. They did. But for many Americans of the time, corn was cheaper easier to come by, which led to this variant.

Slapjacks in 1796, it seems, were flat, small, and not at all fluffy—thinner even then hoe cakes, which tend to be closer to a cornbread. Townsend claims that it wouldn’t be another 50 years before any sort of leavening would appear in similar recipes. No clarification on the etymology and usage of slapjack vs flapjack, but either one does just fine with butter and maple syrup.


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Are German pancakes slightly racist? French toast? White bread? Or are we just hypersensitive, taking offense where none was intended?