A massive anthropological tome could be written on the subject of pancakes, as they were in all likelihood one of mankind’s first prepared foods. Hunter-gatherers have been cooking gruels of mashed grain on hot rocks for millennia. When they invented the first Stone Age IHOP is unknown, though remains of paleolithic policemen have been found huddled over platters of what look like Pick-A-Pancake double blueberry stacks. Experts are still debating the evidence, of course. They might be Rooty Tooty Fresh n’ Fruity combos.
But I digress. Pre-modern proto-pancakes evolved in all sorts of interesting directions. In northern Europe they evolved in the direction of what we now know as pancakes. And in the region of what is now Brittany, France, they evolved into crêpes. Crêpes are of course quite thin as pancakes go, and were originally made with buckwheat flour. In fact until about 100 years ago the buckwheat crêpe was the norm in France. They’re still quite common, especially for savory entrée crêpes.
Crêpes probably arrived in America in the 30’s, mostly in fine dining establishments, mostly as desserts. The French food crazy of the early 60’s brought crêpes to the forefront of American popular consciousness where they remained for roughly 15 years. By the 70’s they were on every brunch table in the lower 48. But that largely ended by the early 80’s, and crêpes went the way of French onion soup and quiche Lorraine. Exactly why is a bit of a mystery, though my guess is that too many people associated them with mauve tights and platform shoes.