Tuesday, November 16, 2021


A friend posted a picture of the back of a little tin of Gentleman's Relish. Which is a spiced anchovy paste that, according to the label, is perfect spread on toast, crackers or blinis.
At one point in time British gentlemen were aquainted with blinis.
This is not the case any longer.

Someone asked "what are blinis?"

Little Russian pancakes fried in butter, served with sour cream (smetana) or fruit preserves. If you're Ashkenazi, you call them 'blintzim' and serve them on Shavuos. Which won't be good, because, sadly, you have a lactose intolerance thing going on ... you also stayed up all night studying Talmud, so what with stomach cramps, a headache from all the letters jumbling together, and not enough sleep, you regret eating blinis. Shavuos (pentecost) is all about dairy. Cheesecake is also part of the program. Gentleman's Relish does NOT go on cheesecake.

An entire holiday in which dairy plays an important part. Celebrated by people many of whom have lactose intolerance.

The other thing to note is that depending on your religion, your Pentecost falls on different dates. For Jewish people, it's fifty days after Pesach (Passover), and for Christians it's fifty days after Easter, because they changed the date of Easter to show the Romans that they weren't Jews. Eastern Orthodox Christians still use the Julian Calendar to show everyone that they aren't Romans. Mormons don't celebrate Pentecost, because they aren't Christian. Everyone else thinks all of the people above are out of their minds.

Pentecost (Pinksteren) is very important in the Netherlands, but their main celebration of that doesn't always fall on the right day because of the weather; sometimes it's shifted closer to June so that everyone can go outside and listen to rock music (Pinkpop, a three day festival). Religious people go to church on the traditional day (where there is central heating, unless you are severely Calvinist and disapprove of fleshly pleasures), and yet others perform rituals connected to their unmarried state.

Dairy is ALWAYS part of the programme in the Netherlands.
Butter and cheese isn't necessarily Pentecostal.

Perhaps they eat Gentleman's Relish?

A fine way to celebrate warm weather.

Note further that the Dutch use sour cream (zure room) on cold dishes when they use it at all (it wasn't a traditional part of their cuisine), and crème fraîche on warm dishes. Crème fraîche is also not historically part of their diet.

If you are wondering why I am mentioning the Dutch in connection with blinis, it's because although I am Dutch (New Amsterdam descent), I was raised by Edwardians. Buckwheat blinis, much a rarity in our house, were part of our intellectual world. Which would be with a savoury topping augmented with sour cream (at that time nearly impossible to find in the Netherlands, but mentioned fondly by my parents as something remembered from civilized life).
And that completes the link to Gentleman's Relish.

Gentleman's Relish is a smooth mildly spiced anchovy paste preparation for which more than reasonable substitutes can easily be made at home. It is an oddment from the Regency Era, still made today. Anchovies, butter, with mere touches of garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and black pepper. Plus some thyme.

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