"I use Mrs. Brickner's recipe"

"I use Mrs. Brickner's recipe"
Ruth, Miriam and Mother 1925 Cleveland. Frontispiece, Mother's Table © 1989 / NM Jewish Journal

by Diane Joy Schmidt

Coming up to Shavuot this year, we asked the community for blintz recipes. Since none arrived, I offer mine. This is the recipe from a family cookbook my sisters Barbara, Janet and I made for my mother's birthday. Putting together the cookbook was Barbara's idea and she drew the pictures.

I sat down with my mother one afternoon on the living room couch and asked her to tell me her recipes. It went quickly – I made a tape recording that was probably no more than an hour. I typed them on my Royal manual typewriter, pasted it up, and took it over to the Kinko's on Halsted where I printed the pages out on card stock.

My mother cried when we presented it to her.

Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, syndicated at that time in over 100 newspapers, saw a copy of Mother's Table and wrote a column about it, "An extra helping of love," published September 25, 1990.

As summarized in public library archives, the column starts out "Photojournalist Diane Schmidt has had her work appear in front of millions of people around the world; her photographs have been featured in prominent newspapers and on the pages of such magazines as Time, Forbes and Town & Country." He goes on to report that I made only thirty copies of the cookbook, but that, in a way I felt it was the most important project I had ever done. Much of the column is then text copied verbatim from the cookbook, with the observation that you could almost hear a mother talking to her daughter.

Indeed. I am certainly glad that I made the decision to write down what she said the way she said it. As my mother dictated the blintzes recipes to me from memory, she said, "I use Mrs. Brickner's recipe from the Fairmount Cookbook. She was the rabbi's wife. She makes it exactly the way my mother did."

Many Jews emigrated from Europe to Cleveland, and some of you may have heard of Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner. He was rabbi from 1925 to 1955 at the reform Euclid Avenue Temple, which became Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, commonly called Fairmount Temple, and is the oldest Jewish congregation in the Cleveland area.

I inherited my mother's Fairmount Temple Cookbook, produced by their Sisterhood, published in 1958. Excavating it from a bookshelf, I found in the introduction by Rabbi Brickner, he explains that it is a re-issue of the Euclid Avenue Temple Cookbook. Here below are pages from both Mother's Table and then The Fairmount Cookbook. As my mother mentions, in Mrs. Brickner's recipe she uses creamed cottage cheese.

My sister Barbara adds now, she learned the recipe differently, and that the tradition has been carried forward: "In my small circle of friends I am famous for my Blintzes, which I often make for brunches. I was taught by my mother, who was taught by her mother. It is funny though, that I use slightly different proportions, which I swear my mother taught me– 1/2 cup flour and 2/3 cup milk. My daughter now makes Blintzes for her daughters. From generation to generation. L'dor v'dor."

Another unexpected bonus is the re-connection made with the Women of Fairmount Temple today as explained below.

 "Mother's Table" family Cookbook with recipes as told by by Miriam Friedman Schmidt to her daughters Diane, Barbara and Janet. Edited by Diane Joy Schmidt, Drawings by Barbara Ann Schmidt and daughter Sarah, published Sept. 19, 1989, Chicago
Blintzes recipe as told by Miriam Friedman Schmidt for Mother's Table family cookbook
Drawing by Barbara Ann Schmidt of her daughter Sarah for "Mother's Table"

In a letter received from Ronna Kaplan, co-president of the Women of Fairmount Temple granting permission to use the pages below, she adds some unexpected news: "We would be delighted to allow you to use the recipe as well as the intro page of the Fairmount Temple cookbook, as you requested. Thanks also for sharing the story. You have contacted us at a most interesting time in our history, because, as of July 1st, Fairmount Temple will be merging, or as some say, reunifying, with The Temple Tifereth Israel (also in Beachwood, but formerly known as Silver’s Temple). The new congregation will be named Congregation Mishkan Or, meaning "a dwelling place of light." She adds that there is now a 25th anniversary edition of the Fairmount Cookbook, and that details of the temples' merger are related on the pages of the Cleveland Jewish News in an article titled: "REFORM-ING HISTORY, Fairmount Temple + The Temple = Congregation Mishkan Or," by Abigail Preiszig, 3/14/24.
6/29/24 Update: Ronna has kindly posted this article on the Women of Fairmount Temple's Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/WomenFT?mibextid=LQQJ4d)

1958 edition of the Fairmount Cookbook, updated from the Euclid Avenue Temple Cookbook
Introduction page to the 1958 edition of the Fairmount Cookbook, by Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner
Blintzes by Mrs. Barnett R. Brickner

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