Today was blini day at my host family’s apartment or as Valentina (my host mom) likes to call it “Our own little maslenitsa.” What is maslenitsa? Why it’s the Russian butter festival of course, held each year the week before Lent. Everyone gorges themselves on the foods banned during lent like meat, eggs, cheese and of course, butter and then dance around a burning “Lady Maslenitsa.” (See below)
Valentina prepares for blini day at her home by buying six sticks of butter. What does she do with all the butter? Well, there is butter in the batter, butter in the pan and butter to grease the blinis so they don’t stick when stacked on a plate. She clarifies butter and adds half a bottle of salt for dipping and mixes butter with honey for a tasty spread. I think I went through sixteen napkins in an attempt to keep my fingers clean. In addition to the butter, Valentina laid out caviar, trout liver (I didn’t know trouts had livers that big…they are huge and come in a can), ham, cheese, jam, sour cream, kielbasa and meatballs….all just for me.
I decided to try my first blini in the classic style with a little bit of sour cream and some red caviar. The first bite was fine, the second ok, and then the third I hit the epicenter of caviar nested in my blini roll. And let me tell you it was not for the weak of stomach. The fishiness of it was tolerable but it was so salty that my lips are still chapping six hours later…I do not know how anyone can eat something so salty! After that attempt I stuck to what I knew I liked mainly the ham, cheese and sour cream. I avoided the clarified butter though– that is simply too decadent.
Soon, my host brother Eino came to my rescue. I had already eaten 7 or 8 blinis at Valentinas behest and felt like I was about to die. I desperately needed someone to take the blini-eating pressure off of me. Did I mention that Eino is 6’2″ and weighs about 220? Homeboy can put back some blinis. So while I nibbled at my last blini of the day, he cleaned up the table and made it look like both of us had made a considerable dent in the foot high and growing stack of blinis Valentina was making.
While we were both sitting around the table drinking tea and using lye to cut through the grease on our hands, I asked Eino in jest how many blinis he thought he could eat. Eino, in his thick, guttural Russian replied, “Kristina, I don’t know how many blinis I can eat. What a silly question. I really don’t know how many blinis.” He clearly did not find the prospect of him eating 100 blini as entertaining as I did.
Me in my blini day costume!