Growing up in Denver in the 1950s and ‘60s, Shavuot was one of those holidays that only existed in my Hebrew school books. Sure, we celebrated all the “headliners” of the Jewish calendar—Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Purim and Hanukkah. My reform-affiliated family even had Friday night dinner together nearly every week complete with blessings, challah and roast beef. (After all, Colorado is cattle country!)
Sukkot? Didn’t know anyone who put one up at their own home; just the synagogue’s small one squeezed into a corner of the parking lot. And Shavuot? Another one for the Orthodox on the city’s west side, but not for us modern, east side Jews.
It wasn’t until my own now-teenage son attended Jewish day school here in DC that I started to tune into some of these other holidays as more than just a day off from our school routine.
Along with my growing understanding and appreciation of Shavuot as a holiday marking one of the most significant turning points in Jewish history is my appreciation of the food. I admit it. An excuse to eat cheesecake, blintzes and ice cream? Sign me up!
There are various explanations about why dairy products are eaten on Shavuot. Two of my favorites: because the Torah is like nourishing milk for the Jewish people, and because of the promise of Israel as the land “flowing with milk and honey.”
Whatever the reasons, it is traditional to eat dairy on Shavuot, and that brings me to blintzes.
While mass-produced blintzes that go from freezer to frying pan are one answer when desperate for that special taste quickly (and I confess to having relied on them more than once), nearly any homemade version is infinitely better. And not as hard to make as you think.
The dough has just a few ingredients and there are no special tools, just a good crepe pan or 9-inch cast iron skillet. I love using the very well-seasoned one I have one from my childhood. Don’t put in too much dough to cook, and then it’s all in the wrist, as they say, as you quickly turn the pan to coat it with the dough, pouring the extra back into the bowl for more crepes. Try making more blintzes than you’ll need and freezing the extra to prepare later as you would the mass-produced ones…although it’s rare that I’ve ever had any leftover!
By the way, Shavuot is also known as the Festival of the First Fruits, a time when the first fruits of the season were harvested and brought as offerings to the Temple. This makes it extra meaningful—and more nutritious—to include fresh fruits with your dairy meals and desserts. And what goes better with dairy than fresh strawberries, blueberries, kiwis and all their fruit friends?.
I know that once we were given the Torah, we not only took on all of the responsibilities and moral standards it set out, but we were also that much closer to our last meal of manna and the beginning of the creation of the incredible heritage of Jewish food that we enjoy and celebrate on holidays and every day.