Much of the wisdom passed down from my Dad’s family is only of the most practical nature: make sure you have cash when you travel and remember whatever is wrong could always be worse.
But there are two actual proverbs my Dad handed down. This one floated up this weekend. A clutch of Russian peasants are gathering after a long day scything barley or being exploited in some other way. One peasant says to the others, “Blintzes! I keep hearing about blintzes all the princes eat all day. I just wish I could eat one blintz.”
“Let us make some,” says the another peasant. “What could be so difficult? We’ll have our own blintzes in no time.” So the peasants [in the tale they are genderless with work and grief] get their hands on a recipe and find someone who can read it to them.
“This says ‘fine white pastry flour.’ We don’t have that.”
“We’ll just use rye.”
“The next ingredient is sweet butter.”
“We’ll just used chicken smaltz [this is chicken fat- we could call it lard but that would make it sounds disproportionately artisanal].”
“The recipe asks 3 eggs.”
“Skip that part.”
And so forth and so on the peasants make what substitutions they can to cobble together the recipe for blintzes.
Finally they sit down to taste the fabled dish. The result? “Ouch, this is foul stuff.” “Mine is not so great either.” “Who needs these blintzes anyway?” “The princes can have their stupid blintzes.” And the peasants return happily to their kasha.
The moral? Up for debate.
This weekend, however, I decided to take part in the centuries-old tradition of blintz-lusting and make my own. My dad found me his mother’s recipe, which was based on her own mother’s. My mother typed up my grandmother’s lean instructions and emailed them to me. My grandmother was an extremely disciplined and professional home cook. I am not. Typically empathetic, my mom also sent Mark Bittman’s more supportive recipe along via a snazzy Mark Bittman app I didn’t know she had. Bittman asked me to keep in mind during the frying stage that the first blintz almost never looks good. This is not the kind of comment my Grandmother’s notes included.
My first sally, with the help of a Kitchenaid portable mixer older than I am, went fine.
My blintz-taster-in-chief deemed them a great success. We feasted with copious peach preserve. He asked whether I felt connected to my fore-mothers. I said yes, but I also said that next time I made them I thought I could do better. The blintz-taster-in-chief correctly identified this self-depreciation as the kind of vital connection to my foremothers at which he was hinting.
But try it yourself. If it doesn’t work out… at least you won’t know what you are missing.
Grandma Marion’s Blintzes (typed and annotated by my mother)
Dad thinks his Grandma fried the blintz again after filling. That makes them really crispy. (He still remembers….) Also could bake,
–Posted by Julia Berick