Fania Lewando was a master chef of Jewish, vegetarian culinary art of pre-war Vilnius. Even Marc Chagall appreciated her dishes.
She was born in Włocławek as a daughter of Haim Fiszelewicz and Esther Malka. She married a Vilnius merchant, Lazar Lewando, and settled there. At the prestigious Niemiecka 14 Str. she founded and ran a vegetarian restaurant “Dietojarska Jadłodajnia” which was famous in Poland. The cream of only of Jewish community dined there. It was trendy to visit Fania, and to taste her delicious dishes guests came from abroad, even from Moscow. Fania’s vegetarian cuisine was healthy and practical, as kosher meat was an expensive and scarce commodity. Above all, however, Fania was guided throughout her life by the Judaic principle of Tikkun Olam – making the world better. This also applied to her kitchen. Thanks to her culinary talents, for several years she managed the kosher kitchen on the legendary Polish ocean liner “Batory”. It helped her gain recognition and a large group of supporters. She also opened a cooking school and offered there lectures.
Just before the war, Fania published a cookbook in Yiddish, containing 400 recipes for vegetarian dishes, including unique challah, cymes, latkes, a cheesecake – almost impossible to recreate, vegetarian “fish” dishes, carrot schnitzels, and many others. Everything is heavily “sprinkled” with butter and whipped cream, she liked these ingredients very much. Fania Lewando was not spared by the war, in 1941 she disappeared. Her book seemed to be lost, too.
After the war, Fania was forgotten, but the world got her back in 1995 thanks to an accidental discovery of her iconic cookbook. It was published in America in 2015 as “The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook: Garden-Fresh Recipes Rediscovered and Adapted for Today’s Kitchen”, and became a bestseller. In late 2020 it was also published in Polish under the title „Dietojarska kuchnia żydowska” (Jewish Dietary Vegetarian Cuisine”). Fania’s culinary artistry has found a devoted promoter in Poland in the person of Sabina Francuz and her collective „Mecyje”. Sabina, who herself also has Jewish roots, recreates and adapts Fania’s recipes to the 21st century without losing any of the perfection of the original.