Litvak vs. Galitzianer.

December 30th, 2011 § 13 comments

There was an important schism in the immigrant Eastern European Jewish cooking that HG relished in his youth. Litvak vs. Galitzianer. Litvaks hailed from Belorussia and East Poland. Galitzianers were from historic Galicia (now part of the Ukraine) that bordered German-speaking regions. (HG was always vague about precise Galitzianer geography because geography was not a discipline in which HG’s parents specialized).

Litvak Kugel (the good one!)

The HG Family was totally Litvak and this was expressed in its cuisine. It was based on chicken fat, garlic, onions and plentiful salt and pepper. Here’s an example — lukshen kugel (noodle pudding), an HG favorite. As HG’s Mom prepared it, the kugel had something in common with Italian baked ziti. Mom’s kugel was simple. Wide noodles prepared al dente and piled into a casserole with abundant chicken fat and grated garlic. When removed from the oven it had a crisp, golden top and a soft, lush, fatty interior. The perfect accompaniment to braised beef. HG once had a lukshen kugel at the home of a Galitzianer friend. It was suffused with sugar, honey and cinnamon. This was a travesty of a kugel, more like an inferior dessert than a decent companion to robust meat. HG looked at his friend with understanding compassion.

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§ 13 Responses to Litvak vs. Galitzianer."

  • carol payne says:

    oh yes! try this to the noodles,butter,sour cream and cottage cheese and one egg beaten add gently softened(in butter of course) leeks, scallions and chives. bake until golden.

    • Gerry says:

      Hey, Carol Payne, HG is talking about Litvak soul food. Your recipe is a great breakfast/lunch/brunch dish. But, HG’s chicken fat drenched kugel is the correct
      companion for brisket.

  • Jonathan Balk says:

    Grandma Sarah must have been Litvak, if recipes can be used to detect origins. She devised “peer blintzeh” a blintz filled with a pea/potato mash, sautéed in schmaltz, and topped with sautéed garlic slice in a teaspoon of schmaltz-yum. Also, her potato kugel was similarly flavored. And she made incredible gefilte fish, kreplach, cholopses, chicken fricassee, chopped liver, and cheesecake. And kasha varnaskes. Litvak?

  • judy g. says:

    OH, Yes! We like to call our delicious kugel (not sweet) “Slam the Arteries Shut Kugel” It was all I ever knew, until I met other Jewish people who considered their kugels to be dessert. Perhaps just one of the many differences. I am researching the subject and decided to start here. Thanks Judy G.

  • joan Carroll says:

    Never had a noodle kugel that was made with schmaltz and onions and
    served with meat.
    Ours was made with eggs, sugar, white raisins and
    cinnamon and served as desert.

  • June says:

    I just came across this because I didn’t know the difference between Litvak and Galitzaner. My grandparents came from Odessa, Russia, now Ukraine, and the other side came from Romania. So what does that make me? I really don’t care because we are all mongrels anyway, but I remember hearing these terms as a kid. I though Litvaks came from Lithuania anyway, so what do I know? I also remember my mother saying that you can’t trust a Hungarian, haha.
    What I do know is that I like any kind of noodle pudding! But I don’t eat it because im always watching my weight and it has lots of carbs and fat. Oh well. We can’t eat these old-world foods and stay svelte, can we?

    • Gerry says:

      Odessa was a great polyglot city (birthplace of Isaac Babel). Your grandparents were, simply, Russian Jews. My late father, a Litvak from Belorussia, said ice cream in Odessa was incomparable. Yes, kugel, blintzes, chopped liver with chicken fat, cholent, etc. are not on the recommended foods list of cardiologists and nutritionists. But, at age 88, I savor these good things and revel in my svelte masculine good looks.

  • Robert says:

    One side of my family was Galitzianer. The other side was from Russia. At big family gatherings we had both lukshen kugel and potato kugel..very important to make the crust hard!! Definitely cinnamon and raisins inside the lokshen kugel. Would have eaten just the top if I could..On the Russian side, some settled in Brooklyn while others went to Ottawa. The families in the two countries rarely kept in touch. Made a huge mistake when I was about 8 and asked my Bubbie for a soda…she gave me a celery soda and I will never forget it


    My family were all LItvaks. We always had chicken fat on hand to make the chopped liver, potato kugel, fried veal cutlets..
    During passover we made fried eggs with chicken fat, because butter was not allowed during Passover. My mother also made during Passover matzoh meal pancakes fried in chicken fat.
    Food cooked with chicken fat still tastes the best today.

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