Staffordshire Oatcakes are a type of pancake made from oatmeal, flour and yeast. They are a regional speciality of the Potteries, around Stoke-upon-Trent and would have most certainly been eaten by my Grandparents, Stephen, Sarah and their families. Oatcakes have been a North Staffordshire bread substitute since the 18th century to the present day.
Legend holds it that soldiers from the Nortth Staffordshire Regiment posted to British India acquired a taste for Indian flatbreads -chapatis and papadums. When they returned home from the subcontinent they (or more likely their wives and mothers) tried to replicate these culinary curiosities using the most commonly available local grain, oats. The North Staffordshire Oatcake, sometimes called Potteries Papadum was the result.
For miners and potters alike the oatcake was a useful staple, eaten hot at breakfast and cold as part of the midday ’snappin’. During good times, they might have been spread with ’dripping’, jam or syrup or filled (rolled) with bacon and cheese. Oats are a great source of slow-release energy, and the oatcakes would have been appreciated by those who had long days of physical labour.
Since most members of the Peers Upton households worked in the potteries or the mines, they wouldn’t have had much time or energy for meal preparation. My ancestors, would likely have bought oatcakes as take away or fast food from a near-by neighbourhood shop; probably through a sash window in one of the many red brick terrace houses that opened right onto the sidewalks or pavements along Normacott Road.
In an attempt to get in touch with my ’Stokie’ culinary roots I have experimented with making Staffordshire Oatcakes at home. What can I say… they’re stick to your ribs, hearty, healthy food that owe most of their appeal to their making and the toppings and stuffings you put on or in them. If you want to give them a try, here is a link to the recipe I used http://ur1.ca/chenj and this YouTube video shows how to make them http://ur1.ca/cheib There is lots of information about Staffordshire Oatcakes on the internet including another YouTube video which documents the closing of the last window-front oatcake shop in Stoke in March 2012. http://ur1.ca/chej9