Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

A Memoir of Love and Longing

Book - 2013
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A James Beard Award-winning writer captures life under the Red socialist banner in this wildly inventive, tragicomic memoir of feasts, famines, and three generations  
 
     Born in 1963, in an era of bread shortages, Anya grew up in a communal Moscow apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen. She sang odes to Lenin, black-marketeered Juicy Fruit gum at school, watched her father brew moonshine, and, like most Soviet citizens, longed for a taste of the mythical West. It was a life by turns absurd, naively joyous, and melancholy--and ultimately intolerable to her anti-Soviet mother, Larisa. When Anya was ten, she and Larisa fled the political repression of Brezhnev-era Russia, arriving in Philadelphia with no winter coats and no right of return.
     Now Anya occupies two parallel food universes: one where she writes about four-star restaurants, the other where a taste of humble kolbasa transports her back to her scarlet-blazed socialist past. To bring that past to life, Anya and her mother decide to eat and cook their way through every decade of the Soviet experience. Through these meals, and through the tales of three generations of her family, Anya tells the intimate yet epic story of life in the USSR. Wildly inventive and slyly witty, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is that rare book that stirs our souls and our senses.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2013]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780307886811
0307886816
Characteristics: viii, 338 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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sgcf
Jun 08, 2018

A good memoir that started slow for non-foodie me, but piqued my interest as I began to see how the political situation and changes in the USSR each decade influenced their food culture and eating habits. And I learned a great deal about their history in a palatable way. Bonus – the gourmet cook in our book club made a magnificent meal for us entirely from the recipes in the appendix.

i
Indoorcamping
Dec 26, 2017

Hearing a beautiful original, heart-wrenching author being interviewed on some random podcast is the way to best learn about books you'll want to read. Books like these are the ones you'll finish in a few days, being unable to think of anything else. They're written so honestly, so uniquely, and so original that you're easily able to live within the voice of the author, reliving a life filled with overcoming struggle and embarrassing adventures, enjoying the journey, surprised by the twists and turns along the way.

Amazing books and incredible authors take you through situations that you don't have to go through yourself, that you wouldn't want to live through, that you would rather hear about and learn lessons in this manner. This is one of those books that gets you to appreciate your life, even if you've been homeless, abandoned, unloved, poor, starving and hungry, unable to see how you're going to make it to the end of the day. In fact, if you find yourself in an awful time of your life, this is one of those books that gives you the grit to keep going. If someone can come through this, you can do what you have to do.

It's a book to remind you why you read memoirs in the first place. And one of the best things I've read in a long, long, time.

j
JBarringer
Jan 02, 2016

This is an excellent book, with some interesting recipes (some I actually might try soon) and a fascinating perspective on Russian/Soviet culture over the past century.

bibliotechnocrat Dec 31, 2014

This is only sort of a memoir. And it's only sort of about food. Bremzen is a food critic living in New York, but she grew up in Brezhnev's Russia and as an adult, decides to try make sense of her heritage. She and her mother cook their way through the Russian decades of the 20th century starting with a Tsarist feast (wow) so that food becomes a lens through which the culture - and the economic/social/political lurches of the Soviet system - are explored. The author's family history is investigated at the same time giving a personal context to the frequently violent upheavals that took place. The last part of the book covers her return to Russia to film a television show after the collapse of Communism. For me, the results are a bit uneven, but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

m
Markus_10
Mar 09, 2014

A thoroughly enjoyable read. Von Bremzen very cleverly weaves together broader Soviet history with her family's personal history, as well as a few recipes representing different historical periods. She has an excellent sense of the ironic and the absurd. Her recounting of her grandmother's and mother's experiences growing up in the USSR is somehow more fascinating than her own, perhaps because they take place principally in that country rather than in the United States.

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