In our family, as a child growing up, I remember the chart that my mother would hang over my father’s armoire. It was her annual sefirah chart. If we would each remember to count sefirah each day our reward would be an individual cheesecake. Interestingly, perhaps a sign of the way things used to be, my mother never counted sefirah. It was the man’s job together with his children. Three cheesecakes in a family one might think is excessive; then again, none of you have ever tasted my mother’s cheesecake. I taste it in my mouth to this day. It was sweet and tart and had an amazing, soft crust, and regrettably she never passed on her recipe to me. I still wonder what ingredients were used to make the memory of it so indelible in my mind. I think that she used regular cottage cheese but, again, I will never know. From this lack of knowledge I realize the importance of passing on special family recipes to our children.
In our family, one of our daughters has taken it upon herself to collect all of our favorite recipes and compile them into individual cookbooks with family pictures and anecdotes. Each time a new member enters the family, she is presented with a copy of this book, which is constantly being updated.
Another memory I have of our family celebrating Shavuot was my mother making blintzes for all of us. She would take a bed sheet and drape it across the kitchen table. She would then prepare the cheese mixture, which I do remember had “pot cheese” in it. Today I think the equivalent of pot cheese is farmer’s cheese. There was always a tang of cinnamon in the mixture and I relished the task of licking the beaters and wiping up the bowl with a spoon. Another memory is my mother taking out her prized tiny frying pan, which was used only for her to make the blintz outer layer (sort of like crepes). I still own her blintz frying pan, although rarely if ever does it get used. It has become much easier to buy Golden Blintzes, I am ashamed to say. We were definitely a family that relished dairy meals. Shavuot was a welcome change. Since those days we have learned of families who insist on having meat meals throughout the chag. Some have a dairy treat, wait some time and then indulge in a large meat meal. As they say in French, chacun a son gout—each to his own.
The custom of staying up to learn for the entire night was unheard of in our surroundings. Over the years I have watched what once seemed to be totally abnormal turn into what today is considered de rigueur. Often I wonder what could be next on the horizon.
Although I do not have the recipe for my mother’s cheesecake, I do have her easy-to-make, always delicious baked macaroni and cheese recipe. I guarantee that everyone will love it—especially your children.
By Nina Glick