Dutch Blitz is a card game. It is not Dutch. It hails from the Mennonites of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the title refers to Pennsylvania Dutch, the dialect spoken there. Which also isn’t Dutch but is properly known as Pennsylvania Deutsch, or Pennsylvania German (though, the provenance of the term is under some dispute). That, however, would make you think that these Mennonites originally came from Germany. Some of them did come from South Germany but in Mennonite circles all of these ethnic Mennonites are considered the Swiss Mennonites. There are other Mennonites who came from the North and actually do have Dutch lineage but the Dutch ones didn’t make the Dutch Blitz game. Though they will play it now.
Blitz, of course, is German for lightning. The title of the game is not a reference to Nazi bombing tactics. You could be forgiven for the confusion. But that would be a very different game. And Mennonites wouldn’t play it. I suppose it could be a reference to the Rotterdam Blitz but, like I said, it’s not really a war game. And it’s not Dutch. According to the game’s website, Dutch Blitz was created as an educational game to help teach children numbers and colours. Yes, we aim high in our educational aspirations (mind you, given that colour blindness isn’t all that uncommon among Amish and Swiss Mennonites, it was, perhaps, a very high aspiration after all).
Dutch Blitz is named after lightning because you need to be lightning fast to win the game. You need to be able to count to 10, to distinguish between red, yellow, green and blue, and move quickly. That’s it. Ok – you also need to be observant and multitask. Played with special cards, it is very much like a sort of group solitaire in which the participants compete to be the quickest. Group solitaire might sound like an oxymoron but if you think about it, it makes some sense that Group Solitaire would become the Mennonite National Game.* As Mennonite sociologist Leo Driedger has observed, the Mennonite faith is intrinsically individualistic (largely because of the insistence that membership to the Church is based on an individual, adult decision). But, then, we’ve also spent a couple of centuries thinking of ourselves as communitarian – often living in little communities set apart both from each other and from “the world.” So, what better symbol than a game that functions as a groupified version of solitaire? I’m not quite sure why it has to be lightning fast; if it suggests that we as a people move quickly in any way whatsoever, than it is misrepresenting us terribly.
This cocktail is my own creation and I’m quite proud of it. A slammer came to mind, since this is a game where cards are often slammed, and the pack of cards needs to be replaced every couple of years as a result of damage. The only slammer I’ve ever had before was the tequila slammer, introduced to me in my 20s by the epic French film, Betty Blue. There’s nothing particularly Mennonite about that film or about tequila and soda water, for that matter. But the idea of a slammer can easily be adapted. For the alcohol, I chose the Dutch Ginever Gin. I know I just spent a paragraph explaining that Dutch Blitz wasn’t Dutch but why stop the confusion when it’s going so well? Ginever really is Dutch and it’s quite nice. For the fizz, I use a rhubarb soda. I found a can of this in my local artisanal soda pop shop but you could also make your own by poaching rhubarb with apple juice and a couple pounds of sugar (then drain and mix with sparkling water). Mennonites LOVE rhubarb. Hell, we even have a literary magazine named after it. How many bitter fruits can claim that?
The Dutch Blitz
1 ounce of Dutch Ginever Gin
1 ounce of rhubarb soda pop (at room temperature)
- Pour Ginever into a shot glass.
- Fill with the soda pop
- Quickly put your hand over the shot glass, lift up and slam down hard on the table
- Drink while still fizzing
This drink encapsulate the sense of triumph upon finishing your deck and yelling “Blitz!” It has bite but also good humour. It’s not a game of bitterness; the next round will begin again soon enough. I do not suggest that you drink this while playing Dutch Blitz. There’s only so much slamming that should happen on one table at any one time. Drinks spill, glasses break, and cards are destroyed before a winner can be declared. Please blitz responsibly.
*note that the decision to name Dutch Blitz the official Mennonite National Game caused a large group of Rook-loving Mennonites to split from the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. The group in favour of Crokinole has so far remained within the conference but has complained loudly about their elder status being mocked by this decision. **
**Not, really. I’ve said this before: Mennonites are not a nation. We have no official Mennonite National anything.