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The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook PDF Print E-mail

By Fania Lewando, Schocken Press (a division of Random House)
Translated from the Yiddish and annotated by Eve Jochnowitz.

fania_restaurant_sm_titled_arrow How we treasure our vintage cookbooks – a reflection of culinary history and food tradition. The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook is such a treasure, and now holds a special place in our cookbook library. From Joan Nathan: "Fania Lewando was a trailblazer, she had style. Everything you read gives you a sense of the life that was, and the life that was lost, and the life we should all live."

The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook was written in 1938, in Yiddish by Fania Lewando, the proprietor of a popular vegetarian restaurant in Vilna, Lithuania. Born in Poland in 1887, Fania and her husband, Lazar, settled in Vilna. She spent much time holding cooking classes to educate Jewish women about cooking nutritiously and with fresh flavors.

The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook,or as it was known in Yiddish "Vegetarisher Dietetisher Kokhbukh" (Vegetarian-Dietetic Cookbook), was a trailblazer. Written over 75 years ago, and sold throughout Europe, it has now been translated into English by Yiddish scholar, Jewish culinary historian and food lecturer Eve Jochnowitz.

From The Jewish Daily Forward - watch an interview with Eve Jochnowitz in Yiddish and English:


At its publication in 1938, this cookbook was unlike any that had come before. Its 400 vegetarian recipes ranged from traditional Jewish dishes (kugel, blintzes, fruit compote, borscht) to vegetarian versions of  holiday staples (cholent, kishke, schnitzel). It introduced vegetables and fruits that had not been familiar to the Jewish homemaker (Chickpea Cutlets, Jerusalem Artichoke Soup; Leek Frittata; Apple Charlotte with Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs). Lewando was a cooking pioneer; her book did not include any meat recipes. Not even one. When we read her chapter on cutlets, all we could think is that these are now called veggie burgers. The photos in the book are also unique. Accompanying many of the recipes are beautiful full-color drawings of vegetables and fruits that had originally appeared on bilingual (Yiddish and English) seed packets.

Fania_Lewando_400wLewando and her husband died during World War II, and it was assumed that most copies of her cookbook had vanished along with European Jewry. However, a beautiful story has emerged about the rediscovery of the manuscript. A couple attending an antiquarian book fair in England in 1995 found a copy and donated it to YIVO, the New York-based center for the study of Yiddish-speaking Jewry. And then, YIVO supporters Barbara Mazur and Wendy Waxman were taking a class at the Institute. After an instructor showed them the book, the two launched a campaign to have it republished. Jewish Cooking historian and cookbook Joan Nathan assisted the pair in making this happen. YIVO commissioned a translation of the book, making Lewando's "charming, delicious, and practical recipes available to an audience beyond the wildest dreams of the visionary woman who created them".

The cookbook is instructive, creative and touching. Reading and cooking these innovative recipes written for "a time gone by" stirs emotion. To picture the visitors who signed the restaurant guestbook, is also stirring, – Many of the diners were celebrities of the time, including photographer, Alter Kacyzne, Yiddish poet, Itzik Manger, and artist Marc Chagall. Lewando's intelligence, foresight, knowledge and confidence come across in her book. She was a forward thinking vegetarian cook, a nutrition advocate and a fresh flavor chef way ahead of her time. Her recipes and insights have transcended the years. As we said, think veggie burger!

Click here to explore some recipes and for cooking wisdom from Fania Lewando.


Cookbook Giveaway - Three readers will be randomly chosen to win
The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook 

Giveaway limited to continental U.S. only. If not living in continental U.S, you can still enter and, if selected, "gift" your prize to a continental U.S. friend or relative. The winners will be notified by email. Once notified, the winners must respond within 48 hours or the prize will be awarded to the runner-up. This giveaway ended at 11:59PM, June 28, 2015. The 3 lucky winners are: Judy Shoobe, New York, NY; Anna Harkey, Albemarle, NC; and Deborah Krupnik, New York, NY.

If you can't wait to see if you have won this book, you may purchase it here:The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook: Garden-Fresh Recipes Rediscovered and Adapted for Today's Kitchen  

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