James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Thankfully, Grandma Didn’t Discriminate When it Came to Swine

Thankfully, Grandma Didn’t Discriminate When it Came to Swine

Lašinėčiai in Lithuania

To my grandmother, who fled Lithuania during World War II, food was everything, and about so much more than taste. Food was the connection between grandma and the home she left behind as a young woman.

While rebuilding her life in Dayton, Ohio, my grandma became known for her signature Lašinėčiai recipe—small rolls with a fatty bacon filling. Her bacon buns were so popular, in fact, that our local paper wrote an article about her story and these small, crispy tastes of home.

In April 2018, three years after my grandma passed away, my family and I took a trip to find our roots and explore the Lithuanian cities she knew, loved, and reminisced about until the day she died. We also knew sampling Lašinėčiai deserved a spot on our itinerary. We didn’t anticipate just how difficult that would be.

[Read: This is what life is like in Lithuania’s “appendix”—a forgotten corner of Europe]

Prior to our arrival, I Facebook-messaged café after café in Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius, but came up empty-handed. Most never responded. Others returned my note to let me know grandma’s go-to dish was way outdated.

But my grandma never took no for an answer, and neither did we. I switched gears to focus on cafes in the smaller town of Kaunas, where she was from. While our options were significantly limited, I stumbled upon one little bakery—the husband-and-wife owned Cukrinis šaukštas—that confirmed they not only made bacon buns, but were willing to exclusively open their doors on a holiday weekend just so we could try them.

Dozens of Facebook messages and an overseas flight later, the planning finally paid off.

We were having the Lithuanian breakfast experience of a lifetime, watching Cukrinis šaukštas’ baker, Silvestra, sprinkle the finishing touches on eight plump, ham-filled buns.

[Read: Welcome to the land of pork and honey]

Cukrinis šaukštas’ co-owner, Antanas, told us how Lithuania’s food culture was changing, even in smaller towns like Kaunas. Unlike grandma, who believed no dish was complete without five dollops of sour cream, today’s locals opt for healthier options such as ham, or switch it up with cherry-filled buns, one of Cukrinis šaukštas’ most popular dishes.

Thankfully, grandma didn’t discriminate when it came to swine, neither do we. The ham substitute did nothing to diminish this successful food heritage expedition. As my family and I shared the breakfast of our upbringing, we nostalgically swapped “grandma stories,” telling Antanas and Silvestra all about the strong, powerful and hilarious woman who brought us here in the first place: Stefania Raštikis.

Cukrinis šaukštas
Kalniečių g. 172,
Kaunas, Lithuania 50138
Mon-Fri 10:00 AM – 6:00 p.m

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