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Celebrating Spring in Slavic Cultures

4
Mar

While IHOP in the USA has national Pancake Day, people in Russia and the Ukraine celebrate a pancake week! Maslinitsa or Blini (Ма́сленица) are ultra-thin, slightly tart pancakes more akin to the French crepes or German blintz. The week-long pancake holiday, also known as Maslinitsa, is the oldest surviving Russian holiday. Evidence suggests it may have been celebrated as early as the 2nd century A.D. The week-long celebration marks the beginning of spring and was an elaborate and important celebration in the pagan culture.  The Maslinitsa is eaten as a symbol of the sun and a method of purification as it was associated with an abstention from meat, which pagans associated with lust and aggression. With the arrival of Christianity into the Slavic regions, the holiday was combined with elements of Mardi Gras for the Orthodox Church. To make your own Maslinitsa, see below for a recipe!

I'm so hungry, pancakes!!!

In Romania, a different spring holiday begins March 1st every year. The celebration of Martisor is very old tradition. The holiday is named for the month of March (Martie in Romanian) and it is believed that a person that wears a red and white string will have a prosperous and healthy year.  The Martisor tradition is similar to many people wearing green on St. Patrick’s day to have good luck. According to archaeologists, the Martisor can be traced back more than 8,000 years. In more recent history, Romanians have put these strings on gates, windows, cattle horns, and businesses to protect against evil spirits and invoke nature’s renewing power. Some believe this tradition may have come from ancient Rome, were March “Martius” was named for the god of war and agriculture which contributes to the rebirth of vegetables and life. Today the red and white strings are incorporated into jewelry and are offered to family or friends to show friendship, respect, or admiration. Spring is certainly a time for celebration and rejuvenation with many cultures celebrating at this time of year.  

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For more information on the Maslinitsa holiday visit: http://www.sras.org/maslenitsa_blin

Maslinitsa Recipe

Ingredients:

2/3 cup warm milk
½ tsp honey
1 packet dry yeast
2 Tbl melted butter, cooled
½ cup flour, plus 2 Tbl flour
1/4-cup-buckwheat flour
1 pinch salt
2 eggs, whisked together
vegetable oil or butter for frying 

Preparation: Combine milk, honey, and yeast in a medium bowl. Whisk together and let stand until foamy. Stir in cooled butter. In a separate bowl combine the flours and salt. Make an indentation in the center of the dry mixture and stir in liquid mixture, slowly, until blended. Without stirring vigorously, blend in whisked eggs just until combined. Cover and let rise at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Cooking: Heat a thick-bottomed skillet (or a blini, crepe, or plett pan) over medium-high heat and grease the pan lightly. Pour some batter in the pan. Some chefs use a special “blini roller” to spread the batter evenly and paper-thin, otherwise, move the pan while pouring to help spread the batter or make very small bliny, which will be able to spread themselves (use about 1 tbl.).  When the blin is golden brown on its underside (should happen in under 1 minute), flip over and brown the other side. Repeat.

Presentation: Blini are remarkably versatile and may be served with nearly anything from caviar to salmon to cottage cheese to sour cream to jam to honey. Place your filling in the center of the blin.  For larger blin, fold once in half, then thrice lengthwise to form a small triangle.