It's National Pancake Day: Celebrate the softer side of Mardi Gras

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Today Mardi Gras is a celebration of overindulgence, cheap plastic beads -- and the obligatory flashing that comes along with them. But Fat Tuesday was not always such a morally bankrupt holiday. Its roots lie in eating lots of rich and fatty foods that were prohibited during Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. To use up all the foods, mostly dairy, that couldn't be eaten during Lent and therefore might go bad, diners would create meals that incorporated the soon-to-verboten ingredients. Pancakes were one of those meals, so Fat Tuesday is also often known as pancake day. Here in Denver, National Pancake Day offers people a way to celebrate without having to lose their tops for some crappy string of plastic purple beads. For more on the softer side of Mardi Gras and pancake day deals, keep reading.

See also: Fat Tuesday, free pancakes, free Champagne and more on this week's culinary calendar

IHOP is shoveling out free short stacks of its buttermilk pancakes in honor of pancake day. Each guest will receive one free short stack today and Miss Colorado's Outstanding Teen, Caitlin Quisenberry, will even stop by the IHOP at 1595 South Colorado Boulevard to help serve pancakes for the occasion from 7 to 11 a.m. In lieu of payment for the pancakes, IHOP is accepting donations that will benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children and other local charities. Last year IHOP raised nearly $3 million for charities with the pancake=day fundraiser, and it's hoping to break that mark this year. To learn more or to find a participating IHOP near you, visit http://www.ihoppancakeday.com/

IHOP isn't the only restaurant celebrating National Pancake Day. Snooze in SouthGlenn will celebrate National Pancake Day with a special pancake menu, and donate proceeds of sales of those special pancakes to the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center, whose goal is to integrate market gardens into schools curriculum. Whole Foods in SouthGlenn will also be donating 5 percent of its sales for the entire day to Schoolyard Crop. So if you're looking to give out more than just beads today, you can enjoy some hotcakes and still give back to some great causes.

And up in Boulder, Snooze on the Pearl Street Mall will also offer a special menu today, with all proceeds from pancake sales supporting the Growe Foundation's Garden to Table program in the Boulder Valley School District.

For information on dozens of culinary events around town, visit our online Food & Drink listings -- and if you have information for a culinary event you'd like included in our online calendar, send it to cafe@westword.com.

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