Sunday, March 17, 2013

BlinFest 2013

Kustodiyev, Maslenitsa
This week is Cheesefare Week, known in Russian as Maslenitsa. As the week before the beginning of the Orthodox Great Lent, we do not eat animal flesh, but are allowed to eat fish and dairy products. It’s comparable to Carnival or Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday in the West. In fact, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day because Catholics used to also abstain from dairy products like the Orthodox, and thus had to get rid of their butter and milk somehow.

Russians also enjoy pancakes, or rather rich crepes called blini. I first read about blini when I was an elementary school student studying to compete in the Geography Bee. “The Russians can eat pancakes at any time of day!” I was amazed. After becoming Orthodox, I soon got to enjoy blini, though for a while I could not pronounce the word correctly.

Last year, I got to prepare blini that our Russian Literature teacher Fr. Victor had made. But this year I got to make the blini! A couple of us used our free hours and went to the kitchen across the way from the monastery refectory. Fr. Victor was already flipping four pans of blini. My compatriot and I relieved him, each taking two pans.

Making blini is relatively simple. Since they’re crepes, the batter is somewhat more watery than regular pancake batter. Just pour some batter into the pan and spread it out a bit. when it looks like it’s getting a little dry, add some melted butter and flip it over. Add copious amounts of butter on the other side as well. After a minute on each side, you’re done. A properly-made blin should slide out of the pan. My first attempts were of course rather clumsy (but at least they weren’t lumpy!) but after a while I got the hang of it.

They matched my hoodie.
Fr. Victor took a few blini and fed the monastery cats. “Good, the cats are eating the blini…that means it’s edible. If they weren’t eating…I would be concerned.”

I guess they liked it.
The blini were ultimately destined for the festal meal after the fifth anniversary of Vladika Lavr’s repose, which was yesterday. Metropolitan Hilarion and a number of priests came to celebrate the liturgy. I think the blini was a hot commodity. With good turnover, if you will. Okay, enough of that.

Tomorrow is the first day of Great Lent. They’ve already changed the colors in the church from gold to black. I hope that your Lent is spiritually productive, and that you have a joyous Pascha. Forgive me, a sinner!

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