Brittany is a Celtic region of France located on a ragged-edged peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. The mainstays of the rural region's economy are fishing, farming, and tourism. Long isolated from the rest of France, over the past two centuries Brittany has gradually absorbed some French customs, and most Bretons today speak French and wear modern Western clothing.
Still, traditional Breton customs remain strong. People still eat the traditional very thin pancakes called galettes and crêpes by themselves or stuffed with fillings. Traditionally, these simple breads contained only flour, water, and salt. Today people usually add butter, milk, and eggs to the batter.
These pancakes differ in two ways. First, galettes contain buckwheat flour, whereas crêpes contain wheat flour. Second, galettes usually have savory fillings, whereas crêpes usually have sweet fillings.
Buckwheat does not contain gluten and thus is safe for people with gluten allergies or intolerance to eat. (However, before ordering a galette in a restaurant, ask your waiter about its preparation. Sometimes white wheat flour is added to lighten the galette. Also, the chef may use the same equipment to make both galettes and crêpes.)
Galettes date back to the 1100s, when Crusaders coming home from fighting the Saracens introduced buckwheat to Brittany. Even today, sarrasin remains a French word for buckwheat. Crêpes first appeared in the early 20th century, when the price of white flour first dropped low enough that poor people could afford it.
Although cultural transmission has historically been from the dominant culture of France to the isolated culture of Brittany, Gallic France has adopted the Breton custom of eating galettes and crêpes. Crêperies (restaurants that serve these pancakes) can be found in places throughout France. Also, the French celebrate the Roman Catholic holiday Candlemas (2 February) by eating galettes and crêpes.
Many food cultures include flat pancakes made of ground grain and water. These include blinis (Russian), blintzes (Eastern Europe), sopes (Mexican), and dosas (Asian Indian).