As a Jewish archivist at the Center for Michigan Jewish Heritage (CMJH), based in Metro-Detroit, I’ve found endless hidden gems in our local Jewish archives. Archivists collect, maintain, and make accessible historic materials relating to their area or subject, which does not sound as exciting as it really is. Being an archivist at a Jewish archive means that I get to look through amazing Purim photographs, letters from rabbis writing to each other about congregational drama, film reels with old timey dancing; the list goes on. But among the most fun finds are congregational cookbooks. The CMJH has cookbooks that are over 100 years old, with recipes from generations of Jewish Detroiters. While skimming a cookbook for a social media post, a fellow archivist and I came across a recipe called “mock blintzes” from 1947. You might be familiar with the classic blintz, often a sweet cheese filled crepe topped with sour cream or jam. Upon looking at the ingredients of mock blintzes (which included salted crackers and dry cottage cheese), it looked…subpar to the classic blintz; unappealing, even. So, of course, we decided there was only one thing to do: make them.
After posting a picture of my results online, I was surprised to find that people knew about this recipe and had fond memories of “mock blintzes.” Perhaps it is generational, but the idea sounded so far from the blintzes I knew. Once I received that comment, it pushed me to do a little digging about the “mock blintz” and see what I could learn about this (mostly) forgotten recipe.
So, let’s take a look at the history of this, well, historical recipe. Though it seems to have lost popularity in the 2020’s, the “mock blintz” can be found mentioned in many places in the mid 20th century, including Jewish cookbooks and newspapers from the era. It appears that the “mock blintz” with salted crackers, a cream cheese/cottage cheese filling, dipped in an egg mixture and fried was a common choice in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Another “mock blintz” option, which sounds a little more enticing, used a similar concept for filling and frying but rather than using crackers, the recipe called for rolled thin white bread. Crackers or bread, this recipe could be found in newspapers throughout the country. In one paper, published in 1988, it was listed under the “Unusual Breakfast Ideas,” which gives us a clue on its popularity by that time.
As we can see, the “mock blintz” can take on many forms and in ways, mocks the typical crepe. Whether the reason is for ease, diet, or availability, these “mock blintzes” offer a super quick alternative to patiently standing over your stove making each thin crepe by hand. They are easy, to the point, and you probably have the ingredients at home already.
With all this great information about the history of the “mock blintz” you must be wondering, are they actually good? Well, when we made them, the expectations were incredibly low, which helped. The reason we even attempted to make them is because they sounded unappetizing (take a look at the picture of the recipe to see what I mean). Saltine crackers with dry cottage cheese? Not exactly my top combination. However, with the addition of the egg and butter (lots of butter) it actually turned out okay. The taste reminds me of something closer to French toast made with salty crackers. Although our expectations were already low, the result truly did exceed them. I can absolutely see how the people who use matzah to make a “mock blintz” during Passover are doing something right. But would I choose this over a frozen blintz or French toast? Probably not.
Whether or not my description sounds appealing, the recipe is definitely intriguing and tells a story about the way people were trying to balance tradition, and modern lives at the time the recipe was popular. Today, there are various online recipes for the “mock blintz.” If you want to try them, I recommend channeling your grandmother (or great-grandmother) and attempting to recreate the 1940’s version. It’s…not bad.