On the Jewish food scene: Mourning the blintz

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

My mother and I used to make blintzes* for Shavuot when I was young. She manned the pan and I helped fill them. The first blintz shell never came out well: we usually used it to make a mini-blintz. Sometimes my mom would use two pans for the shells, which she carefully laid out on cloth towels. Then, when we had enough shells, we would fill the blintz shells with a mixture that contained cottage cheese, farmer cheese or a combination of both. I think the filling included sugar, but I don’t remember what the other ingredients were. The blintzes would then sit in the refrigerator until we were ready to fry them for dinner. Our regular toppings were defrosted frozen strawberries and/or sour cream. 

Between my dietary restrictions and my mom’s lack of desire to cook, we stopped making blintzes a long time ago. In fact, most people I know no longer make blintzes. They might buy frozen ones and make a blintz casserole of them, but I haven’t seen an individual blintz in more years than I want to remember. I understand because making blintzes is a time consuming task and we’ve found other dairy products to use for the celebration.

My synagogue started using ice cream to celebrate Shavuot when Rabbi Lance Sussman was the rabbi. He would invite the congregation to join the confirmation class for one last night of study on the evening of Shavuot. We talked about doing something, but never finalized plans. Then one year, I just picked up several half gallons of ice cream for the gathering, which we ate while we were studying. When Rabbi Michele Medwin was here, I brought the ice cream and she made mini-cheesecakes. During Rabbi Barbara Goldman-Wartell’s tenure, we began having ice cream sundae celebrations, which proved very successful. 

All through this, no one openly complained about our not having blintzes for the holiday. That included me because I know that until I’m willing to volunteer to help make them, it’s better to keep my mouth shut. As for my mom’s recipe for blintzes, I have no idea where it is. She used to have a notebook filled with recipes (including a ton she cut out from newspapers and never made), but I don’t know if it’s included there or if it was something passed down through the generations of her family. 

I actually like having ice cream and ice cream sundaes: both the shopping and the clean-up is far easier than if we were making blintzes. Since it is the custom to eat dairy on Shavuot, they fulfil that requirement. (By the way, eating dairy is not a legal requirement like eating matzah on Passover. We only say a general blessing, not one that notes this was commanded by God.) But when I am feeling nostalgic, I remember making blintzes with my mom. Keeping that memory alive is far more important to me than the food we ate.

*For those who are unfamiliar with blintzes: the shells of a blintz resemble those of crepes, but they are folded to form small, closed rectangles around a filling like the one described above. Some people put fruit in their fillings, but we never did.