Gomolkes ken men nit fun shney.
This proverb is a prime example of Yiddish expressions putting all other cultural expressions to shame. Take its more inexplicably prevalent equivalent, “You can’t get blood from a stone,” and its G-rated cousin, “You can’t get water from a stone.” Laughable! Irrelevant and shoddy! Let’s dissect, shall we?
In the case of the first: Who are these blood enthusiasts?! Was this proverb intended to serve the vampires of the world?! Who else in their right mind lies awake in bed at night fantasizing about that last quart of blood they passed up at dinner? There’s a reason why there’s no chain operating 162 restaurants in 36 states called The Blood Factory! And what hypothetical schmendrik or blood-thirsty undead in search of the sanguine substance would look to the stone of all things?! Nonsense! Our Jewish version is far more logical. It’s a common scenario: snowed in one evening, desperately seeking something sweet, mind racing and creative culinary juices flowing, and, facing this hopeless situation, you stoop to embarrassing lows. Who hasn’t attempted to satiate their craving by nuking a combination of their pantry’s dregs and hoping for the best? The last ancient squares of unsweetened baker’s chocolate and some applesauce? Instant coffee crystals, a couple pulverized packets of Sweet ‘n Low you found at the bottom of your bag, and a half dozen shpritzes of cooking spray? Expired pancake mix and the last of the O.J.? We’ve all been there.
And when our MacGyver-esque cooking concoctions fail, isn’t it only natural that we look out to the very powdery substance that stranded us to begin with? Anyone, especially in a state of sweets-starved hallucination, may think it possible to make cheesecakes out of snow. After all, in this case, it’s the most abundant ingredient we have available, and the two substances share so many properties! Both are pillowy, white, inviting. A layer of icy flecks can so easily be mistaken for a dusting of sugary crystals: The frozen earth below, a crumbly graham cracker crust. The dome of a fire hydrant peeking out from a drift, a luscious cherry on top. The similarities are endless. (Notice I’ve spared us the obvious canine-inspired pineapple gelée and chocolate fudge comparison. You’re welcome.) By contrast, what qualities does the stone possess that would lead someone to believe that it could produce even a drop of blood?
I rest my case.
Now, on to the kiddie version: “You can’t get water from a stone.” This one is dangerously open to debate. If the human body (something that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be a solid) is made up of 70% of the liquid stuff, perhaps getting water from a stone isn’t a totally hopeless endeavor after all. I’m no geologist (thank G-d), but it seems that expression, apart from its obvious banality, has some major holes. We Jews couldn’t take that risk! We can leave no room for optimism! Again, by contrast, our expression successfully drives home the point that, no matter what struggle has prompted the use of this proverb, said struggle is futile and should be abandoned immediately—no matter how hungry you are. Relevant and effective? It doesn’t get better than that…well, except of course a world in which one could make cheesecakes out of snow.
Gloria is kvetching to Ilene about her nishtgutnik excuse for a son-in-law. ...
Gloria: “Three years they’ve been married and he still doesn’t have a job! My Marnie said he just started taking these classes. Take a guess who’s paying for these classes! Anyway, maybe if he can learn a trade, G-d willing, I’ll live long enough, G-d willing, to see him become a decent husband to my Marnie!”
Ilene: “I hate to say it, Glor, but you know what they say: You can’t make cheesecakes out of snow.”
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