March 01, 1996

Hold the Maple Syrup: These are Bliny

At first glance, there is nothing remarkable about bliny, the pancake-like Russian delicacy. After all, they’re only fried batter. But like that proverbial first flapjack, one must cast aside such first impressions in order to discover the refined subtleties of one of Russia’s most beloved and soulful repasts.

The origins of bliny are obscured in mystery and legend, but we do know that the ancient Slavic tribes were well acquainted with them. These pagan ancestors of the Russians attributed magical properties to bliny and used them in their rituals. The round crisp blin was for them a symbol of the sun and warm days, of health and happiness. They were served both to expectant mothers to insure a healthy baby, and at funerals to fortify the next of kin.

Bliny are integrally linked with one of the eastern Slavs’ most lively festivals — Maslenitsa — an exuberant late-February farewell to winter, where Russians make merry and gorge themselves on bliny.

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