The Last Family Recipe From Poland
Shared by Jenn Louis
Recipe Roots: Poland > New York City > Phoenix, AZ > Upland, California > Portland, OR
“Food isn’t right or wrong,” proclaims Jenn Louis, the chef and owner of the Israeli restaurant Ray in Portland, Oregon. As a chef, she understands that there are culinary techniques that benefit recipes, but at times, she says, that isn’t what’s most important.
That’s particularly true for family recipes like her savory cheese pancakes lidnivikis, the last remaining Polish recipe in her family. Likely brought to New York by her mother’s, mother’s, mother, Ella Daduk, Jenn says, it was a staple dish for three generations of women in her family. In her childhood home, her mother served them alongside tuna, a green salad, and sometimes pickles. “We didn’t have a lot of Polish culture in our lives,” she explains. A few recipes, like blintzes and pierogies were the exception, but over the years, they faded, with just the lidnivikis remaining.
Today, Jenn makes the pancakes (which her family nicknames “lids”) on occasion, including at a Polish dinner at the restaurant earlier this year. When she did, she encountered two types of diners who knew the dish, those who said it reminded them of them of their family — and those who made comments like: “We make them [in our family] and they’re much lighter.”
“With foods that are so specific to memory and sense, it’s not about right or wrong... or culinary correct,” she says. “It’s about how you know how it’s supposed to be.” For her, that means a looser batter and a little chew to the pancakes. To make them lighter, you might beat the egg whites separately. But, as Jenn says: “Why would you do that? My grandmother didn’t do that.”
*Note from the Society: While potato latkes are the best known Hanukkah dish, there’s a long tradition of eating dairy foods, particularly cheese pancakes, for the holiday, which you can read about here. While Jenn’s family doesn’t make lidnivikis for Hanukkah, we know they would be a welcome addition to any holiday table.