Soon after my family and I left Russia and moved to Brooklyn in 1990, my language arts teacher asked our sixth-grade class to practice writing instructions. When I went to my mom for advice, she suggested a recipe for syrniki, literally "little cheeses." These tangy, tender pancakes made with tvorog (a type of quark), sugar, eggs, and flour were a staple of my childhood in St. Petersburg, where Mom would make them in our cozy kitchen on frigid winter mornings. I was excited to write my own recipe—even more so when Mom suggested we make some pancakes for the class. The day the assignment was due, I proudly marched in with my syrniki on a dish, where they sat untouched—too strange, I suppose, when compared with American flapjacks. Finally, a few minutes before the bell rang, a girl named Amy walked over to them and popped one into her mouth. As she chewed, her face broke into a smile. My syrniki had earned their first American fan, and I had made my first American friend.