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.”