The Vil­na Veg­e­tar­i­an Cookbook

Fania Lewan­do; Eve Jochnowitz trans.
  • Review
By – March 19, 2015

Joan Nathan writes in her fore­word that when she saw the Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Fania Lewando’s book, The Vil­na Veg­e­tar­i­an Cook­book, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Yid­dish in 1938, she was amazed by the vivid col­or illus­tra­tions as well as by the wide range of deli­cious veg­e­tar­i­an recipes on offer to read­ers of those days in Vil­na. Like a con­tem­po­rary nutri­tion­ist, Lewan­do explains why fruits and veg­eta­bles are so impor­tant, dis­cussing car­bo­hy­drates, water con­tent, min­er­als, and chloro­phyll. She writes that veg­e­tar­i­an­ism is a Jew­ish move­ment as she reminds us that in the Bible the first per­mit­ted foods were plants.

The book offers an ample choice of stewed dish­es, blintzes, omelets, por­ridges, kugels, pud­dings, latkes, stuffed foods, sauces, baked goods, vit­a­min drinks, and Passover foods. The chap­ter called Cut­lets con­tains var­i­ous recipes that call for nuts, cab­bage, beans, buck­wheat kasha, oats, and spinach. There are vari­a­tions of cholent recipes, borscht soups, and many sal­ads that include sliced or diced lemons.The trans­la­tor explains in her pref­ace how she select­ed the Eng­lish spelling of Yid­dish expres­sions and hints at using some updat­ed kitchen equip­ment for today’s read­ers. Although writ­ten in 1938, con­tem­po­rary cooks will be pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by how cur­rent her recipes are. But be fore­warned: The prepa­ra­tions, although very delec­table, often call for large quan­ti­ties of butter.

Trag­i­cal­ly, Fania Lewan­do was killed while flee­ing from the Nazis, and over the years most copies of her cook­book were lost. The book is ded­i­cat­ed to the mem­o­ry of Fania Lewan­do, a pio­neer­ing thinker and cook and a pas­sion­ate edu­ca­tor, who devot­ed her life to pro­mot­ing health and vitality.”

Relat­ed Content:

Danièle Gor­lin Lass­ner (wife, moth­er, grand­moth­er) retired after 35 years at Ramaz where she served as Dean of Admis­sions, For­eign Lan­guage Depart­ment chair and teacher of French and Span­ish. She owns hun­dreds of cook­books. She has trans­lat­ed sev­er­al chil­dren’s books from French into Eng­lish. She has recent­ly trans­lat­ed “ A Mem­oir of Sanc­ti­ty “ by May­er Moskowitz (Mazo Pub­lish­ers, Jerusalem, Israel) from Hebrew into Eng­lish. No mat­ter the lan­guage, food is a con­stant.”

Discussion Questions