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A celebrated food writer captures the flavors of the Soviet experience in a sweeping, tragicomic, multi-generational memoir that brilliantly illuminates the history and culture of a vanished empire. Proust had his madeleine; Narnia's Edmund had his Turkish delight. Anya von Bremzen has vobla-rock-hard, salt-cured dried Caspian roach fish. Lovers of vobla risk breaking a too A celebrated food writer captures the flavors of the Soviet experience in a sweeping, tragicomic, multi-generational memoir that brilliantly illuminates the history and culture of a vanished empire. Proust had his madeleine; Narnia's Edmund had his Turkish delight. Anya von Bremzen has vobla-rock-hard, salt-cured dried Caspian roach fish. Lovers of vobla risk breaking a tooth or puncturing a gum on the once-popular snack, but for Anya it's transporting. Like kotleti (Soviet burgers) or the festive Salat Olivier, it summons up the complex, bittersweet flavors of life in that vanished Atlantis called the USSR. There, born in 1963 in a Kafkaesque communal apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen, Anya grew up singing odes to Lenin, black-marketeering Juicy Fruit gum at her school, and, like most Soviet citizens, longing for a taste of the mythical West. It was a life by turns absurd, drab, naively joyous, melancholy-and, finally, intolerable to her anti-Soviet mother. When she was ten, the two of them fled the political repression of Brezhnev-era Russia, arriving in Philadelphia with no winter coats and no right of return. These days Anya lives in two parallel food universes: one in which she writes about four-star restaurants, the other in which a simple banana-a once a year treat back in the USSR-still holds an almost talismanic sway over her psyche. To make sense of that past, she and her mother decided to eat and cook their way through seven decades of the Soviet experience. Through the meals she and her mother re-create, Anya tells the story of three generations-her grandparents', her mother's, and her own. Her family's stories are embedded in a larger historical epic: of Lenin's bloody grain requisitioning, World War II hunger and survival, Stalin's table manners, Khrushchev's kitchen debates, Gorbachev's anti-alcohol policies, and the ultimate collapse of the USSR. And all of it is bound together by Anya's sardonic wit, passionate nostalgia, and piercing observations. This is that rare book that stirs our souls and our senses.


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A celebrated food writer captures the flavors of the Soviet experience in a sweeping, tragicomic, multi-generational memoir that brilliantly illuminates the history and culture of a vanished empire. Proust had his madeleine; Narnia's Edmund had his Turkish delight. Anya von Bremzen has vobla-rock-hard, salt-cured dried Caspian roach fish. Lovers of vobla risk breaking a too A celebrated food writer captures the flavors of the Soviet experience in a sweeping, tragicomic, multi-generational memoir that brilliantly illuminates the history and culture of a vanished empire. Proust had his madeleine; Narnia's Edmund had his Turkish delight. Anya von Bremzen has vobla-rock-hard, salt-cured dried Caspian roach fish. Lovers of vobla risk breaking a tooth or puncturing a gum on the once-popular snack, but for Anya it's transporting. Like kotleti (Soviet burgers) or the festive Salat Olivier, it summons up the complex, bittersweet flavors of life in that vanished Atlantis called the USSR. There, born in 1963 in a Kafkaesque communal apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen, Anya grew up singing odes to Lenin, black-marketeering Juicy Fruit gum at her school, and, like most Soviet citizens, longing for a taste of the mythical West. It was a life by turns absurd, drab, naively joyous, melancholy-and, finally, intolerable to her anti-Soviet mother. When she was ten, the two of them fled the political repression of Brezhnev-era Russia, arriving in Philadelphia with no winter coats and no right of return. These days Anya lives in two parallel food universes: one in which she writes about four-star restaurants, the other in which a simple banana-a once a year treat back in the USSR-still holds an almost talismanic sway over her psyche. To make sense of that past, she and her mother decided to eat and cook their way through seven decades of the Soviet experience. Through the meals she and her mother re-create, Anya tells the story of three generations-her grandparents', her mother's, and her own. Her family's stories are embedded in a larger historical epic: of Lenin's bloody grain requisitioning, World War II hunger and survival, Stalin's table manners, Khrushchev's kitchen debates, Gorbachev's anti-alcohol policies, and the ultimate collapse of the USSR. And all of it is bound together by Anya's sardonic wit, passionate nostalgia, and piercing observations. This is that rare book that stirs our souls and our senses.

30 review for Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is not a cookbook, though it does have a couple recipes. Think "Julie and Julia" with Stalin and Brezhnev in place of Julia Child. Sort of. What Anya von Bremzen has written here is an insider's look at daily life in the Soviet Union as expressed in food. I grew up believing that life in the Soviet Union must have been terrible, and this book mostly confirms that it was. von Bremzen traces how, as the Soviet Union left its imperial past and transformed itself into a (mythical) socialist work This is not a cookbook, though it does have a couple recipes. Think "Julie and Julia" with Stalin and Brezhnev in place of Julia Child. Sort of. What Anya von Bremzen has written here is an insider's look at daily life in the Soviet Union as expressed in food. I grew up believing that life in the Soviet Union must have been terrible, and this book mostly confirms that it was. von Bremzen traces how, as the Soviet Union left its imperial past and transformed itself into a (mythical) socialist worker's paradise, the food the Soviet people ate gradually deteriorated, improved a bit, then completely fell apart as the Union itself began to crumble. von Bremzen tells the story mostly through the experiences of her mother Larisa and grandparents Naum and Liza. There is humor and heartbreak in their stories. The account of the siege of Leningrad and what the Soviet people were reduced to eating during World War II left me wondering how anyone survived. The stories of the different classes of citizens in the USSR and the wildly disparate quality of food available to them would be heartbreaking if it wasn't clear that the Soviet people knew they were being lied to about the fundamental nature of their society. The account of the infamous "kitchen debate" between then vice-president Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev at a Moscow international expo illustrates how Soviet citizens didn't trust their own economic system but also doubted that people in America actually had all the shiny automated gadgets on display. (Spoiler alert: of course they didn't, and still don't.) The book really comes alive, though, when von Bremzen describes her own experiences. In a land of false abundance and real scarcity, small pleasures like little pieces of jam-filled candy take on incredible significance. Hearing how Soviet kids craved those candies so much that they ate them as slowly as possible and even shared them among one another -- as in "shared the same piece of candy" -- made the sense of longing seem very real to me. I grew up a block away from a convenience store and usually had a buck or two; I don't know what it's like to not have candy very often. von Bremzen also describes being fed caviar at school in kindergarten and how it took everything she had not to throw it up. I am glad to know there is at least one other person in the world who thinks caviar is gross and is happy to leave it to the plutocrats. Eventually von Bremzen and her mother emigrated to America, where her first encounters with American food left her disappointed. Those encounters were with Wonder Bread and Pop-Tarts. I really wish the rest of the world realized most Americans don't eat those products. The book closes with the collapse of the Soviet Union and a return trip to a completely different Moscow, except for one aspect. There are still a lot of foodstuffs unavailable to the average Muscovite, but now it's only because they can't afford to buy them rather than not being allowed to. As an American child of the 1970s and 1980s I treasured this book not so much because it affirmed my way of life but rather because it let me see things I hadn't seen before. We remember Khrushchev as the stubborn man who pounded a podium with his shoe and swore that the Soviet Union would bury us. The Russians remember him as a corn-obsessed lunatic. We think of Gorbachev as the reformer who brought us perestroika and glasnost. The Russians think of him as a wishy-washy leader whose unsteady hand wrecked the fragile economy and led to the destruction of the Soviet Union. (It's helpful to know that both Russians and the West think of Boris Yeltsin as essentially a drunken doofus.) For all this and more, I loved this book. It was a compelling read that took me to somewhere I thought was a nice place to visit but I sure as heck wouldn't want to live there. Now, if you actually want a book about food from the former Soviet Union, von Bremzen has written that as well. It's called Please to the Table and it's out of print but available for a king's ransom from the usual suspects. Maybe if this book sells well (which it deserves to) then Please to the Table will go back in print.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Ever since I read the starred review of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking in the 24 June issue of Publishers Weekly, I knew I had to get my hands on this book! I was lucky to come across it in NetGalley, which gave me a copy for review. "Inevitably, a story about Soviet food is a chronicle of longing, of unrequited desire." Anya Von Bremzen was born in the USSR and later emigrated to the United States with her mother. Her James Beard award winning cookbook, Please To The Table: The Russian Cook Ever since I read the starred review of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking in the 24 June issue of Publishers Weekly, I knew I had to get my hands on this book! I was lucky to come across it in NetGalley, which gave me a copy for review. "Inevitably, a story about Soviet food is a chronicle of longing, of unrequited desire." Anya Von Bremzen was born in the USSR and later emigrated to the United States with her mother. Her James Beard award winning cookbook, Please To The Table: The Russian Cookbook, was published in 1990, so her knowledge of the food of Russia is not to be disputed. Instead of the regional focus that her cookbook had, this memoir is divided into decades of Soviet Russia. Each chapter takes a decade and discusses the historical events, the food, and how each impacted her personal story - her family, her ancestors, her memories - from 1910s into the twenty-first century. When I got to the end of the chapter on the Czars and there were no recipes, I panicked. Surely I couldn't move on from this book without a chance to make Kulebiaka! She quotes Chekhov's description of the dish from "The Siren" and then goes on to talk about the significance of the dish in her own family. I wanted to try it immediately! Thankfully, Part V of the book features recipes from each chapter, removed to the end for the sake of a continual narrative. Even the decades of Communism-driven scarcity create a sort of nostalgia for Soviet sausages and dense bread that I was surprised to be feeling along with her. The comparison she makes between those foods and the only food they could afford right after entering the country - hot dogs and Wonderbread - I had to wonder if they really are so different? From reading how Lenin had a fondness for apple cake to the puzzling "luxury" of Salat Olivier, I enjoyed reading about the very Russian foods and stories. Highly recommended! Here is a bit that made me giggle - a poster from the 1920s when housewives were being encouraged to stop cooking for their families, and families were being forced to live communally. The translation is "Down with Kitchen Slavery!"

  3. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    Food memoirs are usually among my favorite books. Not this one. I toiled and pushed, really pushed to get to 35%, trying to give it a chance. Anya failed miserably in her attempt to articulate her genuine experiences and feelings. Her writing was all over the place. I’d pick up a tidbit of where she was going with her story and did everything in my power as a reader to stay engaged with where she was going, but then she’d veer off in another direction and would fall away from the through-line. I Food memoirs are usually among my favorite books. Not this one. I toiled and pushed, really pushed to get to 35%, trying to give it a chance. Anya failed miserably in her attempt to articulate her genuine experiences and feelings. Her writing was all over the place. I’d pick up a tidbit of where she was going with her story and did everything in my power as a reader to stay engaged with where she was going, but then she’d veer off in another direction and would fall away from the through-line. It never felt like she was speaking to me. When she’s writing about food, history or family, she lacks real emotion. She seemed more conscious about sounding literary rather than actually sharing her true feelings with her reader. This book, for me, was hugely disappointing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Daisy

    This book should be taught in school history courses. It is an exceptional resource for Soviet history, it's well-written and well-researched. But most of all, it's accessible, nostalgic without being cloying or overly-sentimental, and it's touching. It happens to cover some of the subjects that interest me most: food, Russian/Soviet history, mother-daughter relationships. This book could've been written for me. I first took it out from the library, but I saw immediately I wanted to own it. Each This book should be taught in school history courses. It is an exceptional resource for Soviet history, it's well-written and well-researched. But most of all, it's accessible, nostalgic without being cloying or overly-sentimental, and it's touching. It happens to cover some of the subjects that interest me most: food, Russian/Soviet history, mother-daughter relationships. This book could've been written for me. I first took it out from the library, but I saw immediately I wanted to own it. Each chapter takes on a decade in the Soviet Union. Von Bremzen (where does the "von" come from?) chooses a dish that sort of symbolizes the events of that decade. Actually, there is less food-talk than I expected. I guess I thought it would be sprinkled with more recipes like Like Water for Chocolate or something. The recipes are instead collected at the end of the book before the (very valuable) bibliography. I learned so much. I've already checked out from my library one of the first books Von Bremzen mentions: Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets' a Gift to Young Housewives and there are many more I'd like to read. Some things that stuck out: the Immortalization Commission--the group concerned with embalming Lenin's corpse or Object No. 1, as it became known "toska"--a word for which there is no English equivalent. "At its deepest and most painful," explains Vladimir Nabokov, "toska is a sensation of great spiritual anguish ... At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul." This reminds me of a conversation I once had with the beautiful Lana W. when we were novices on a Soviet/American film production and she was trying to explain her childhood. "mass song"--a vital tool in molding the new Soviet consciousness 1930s more 1930s--Karl Schlögel sums up the atmosphere of the times in his description of Red Square. "Everything converges: a ticker-tape parade and a plebiscite on killing, the atmosphere of a folk festival and the thirst for revenge, a rollicking carnival and orgies of hate. Red Square ... at once fairground and gallows." "non-sober" "co-bottling" 1960s--Anna, Annushka, Anya, Anechka, the irreverent An'ka. The peasant-vernacular Anyuta and Anyutochka. Nyura and Nyurochka. Or Anetta, in a self-consciously ironic Russified French. Or the lovely and formal Anna Sergeevna (my name and patronymic)--straight out of Chekhov's "The Lady with the Dog." The inexhaustible stream of diminutive permutations of Anna, each with its own subtle semiotics, rolled sweetly off my mother's lips during pregnancy. Larisa hoped for one thing now: a half-basement room of her own where she and I would have tea from folkloric cups she'd once seen at a farm market. Happiness to her was those cups, those artisanal cups of her own. Humpty Dumpty translates as "Shaltai Baltai." In case you're curious. Anna Akmatova's years at the Fountain House living in the same rooms as her lover's ex-wife and the new lovers he continued to bring through... On Sundays Mom invariably ran out of money, which is when she cracked eggs into the skillet over cubes of fried black sourdough bread. It was, I think, the most delicious and eloquent expression of pauperism. I would like to know, if I can find Provansal Mayonnaise here, if it tastes the same as she remembers it tasting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    Rare is the book that hits so many different intellectual and emotional notes.... Rare is the book that can discuss the ideologies of food at all, never mind its semiotics and psychoemotional registers, too, all while critiquing not one but two economic-political systems. This book is masterly. My only reservation with it is that its attention to emotional detail makes it at times a heavy read. I find this point quite interesting because I own one of her cookbooks, and part of what I appreciate Rare is the book that hits so many different intellectual and emotional notes.... Rare is the book that can discuss the ideologies of food at all, never mind its semiotics and psychoemotional registers, too, all while critiquing not one but two economic-political systems. This book is masterly. My only reservation with it is that its attention to emotional detail makes it at times a heavy read. I find this point quite interesting because I own one of her cookbooks, and part of what I appreciate about That book is how little emotional detail is given in the recipe preambles---it's all about the food. This time, it's all about what the food Means. I have never learned so much from a food memoir-- in part because I have been largely ignorant of the details --the real gritty details-- of daily life in Russia in the Soviet period--and the thing is, you don't realize how little you know and how much there was to know about surviving those years. The contradictions stay with me--Anya selling Western treasures such as Juicy Fruit gum to other children--gum she receives from the children of diplomats--and uses the cash to skip ballet lessons and order luxurious small meals for herself, oblivious to her mother's struggles and humiliations in order to feed her.(I'll never forget the scene with the bloody stumps of body parts in her purse.) Her mother's efforts to feed her, to try to raise her amidst the surreal madness are the stuff of daily heroism. The bananas. The new years' trees. And of course the kulebiake-- kasha stuffed fish plus dried sturgeon spine encased in pastry dough, a dish that has received inordinate attention this year thanks to the New Yorker piece on Buford's food sleuthing with Daniel Boulud. (That was a terrific article, but it's seems they need not have worked so hard--they could have called Von Bremzen!) All smart people must read this book if only to remind themselves of the limits of that descriptor, but I also recommend it on audio, where Von Bremzen's voicing conveys buckets of disdain for "American peanut butter" and the other mass produced grotesqueries that the very poor wind up designating as "food." I'm not sure when I'll stop hearing her say in my head "American peanut butter." Which is fine. This is a book that will stay with me for a long while.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Siv30

    "כל הזיכרונות המאושרים הקשורים לאוכל דומים זה לזה; כל הזיכרונות האומללים הקשורים לאוכל אומללים בדרכם שלהם." אניה פון ברמזן נולדה בברית המועצות ב- 1963. היא היגרה עם אימא שלה לארה"ב בשנת 1974 כשהיתה בת 10. לאחר שנים בהם היתה פסנתרנית, עקב גידול ביד נאלצה לחפש מחדש את יעודה. כשמצאה את יעודה באמצע שנות ה - 20, כתבה ספר מתכונים עב כרס שהפך לרב מכר היסטרי ומאז היא עוסקת בעיקר בקולינריה ברחבי העולם. "סיפור על אוכל סובייטי הוא בהכרח כרוניקה של כמיהה, של תשוקה שלא באה על סיפוקה." בממואר מרהיב, משעשע ורווי "כל הזיכרונות המאושרים הקשורים לאוכל דומים זה לזה; כל הזיכרונות האומללים הקשורים לאוכל אומללים בדרכם שלהם." אניה פון ברמזן נולדה בברית המועצות ב- 1963. היא היגרה עם אימא שלה לארה"ב בשנת 1974 כשהיתה בת 10. לאחר שנים בהם היתה פסנתרנית, עקב גידול ביד נאלצה לחפש מחדש את יעודה. כשמצאה את יעודה באמצע שנות ה - 20, כתבה ספר מתכונים עב כרס שהפך לרב מכר היסטרי ומאז היא עוסקת בעיקר בקולינריה ברחבי העולם. "סיפור על אוכל סובייטי הוא בהכרח כרוניקה של כמיהה, של תשוקה שלא באה על סיפוקה." בממואר מרהיב, משעשע ורווי אנקדוטות היסטוריות, מתארת אניה פון ברמזן את ההיסטוריה הרוסית והפרטית שלה דרך געגועיה לאוכל אותו היא זוכרת מימי ילדותה. מסעה הקולינרי עובר בצמתים מרכזיים ומתחיל בסוף עידן הצארים בערך בשנות ה- 20 של המאה ה- 20. עשור - עשור מתארת פון ברמזן את מצבו החברתי והכלכלי של ההומו סובייטיקוס (כפי שהיא מכנה אותו) שעל פניו נראה שתמיד היה רעב לאוכל ושיכור כלוט. אירועים היסטוריים כבדי משקל נבחנים תחת זכוכית המגדלת הקולינרית כשהמזון הוא סמן ימיני למצב האומה הרוסית. היא פותחת בפני הקורא המערבי צוהר לחיו של האזרח הסובייטי מאחורי דלתות הברזל הקומוניסטיות . "כל אזרח לשעבר של מעצמת־העל הסובייטית שכללה שלוש־מאות מיליון איש לעולם לא יראה באוכל עניין אישי בלבד. המהומות ב־1917 עקב המחסור בלחם הביאו להפלת הצאר. מחסור חמור במזון זירז כעבור שבעים וארבע שנים את קריסת האימפריה המתפוררת של גורבצ'וב. בין שתי נקודות ציון הללו גוועו שבעה מליוני איש ברעב במהלך הקולקטיביזציה של החקלאות שסטלין כפה. ארבעה מיליונים נוספים מתו מרעב בשנות המלחמה בהיטלר. אפילו בתקופות שלוות יותר, בימי שלטונם של חרושצ'וב וברז'נייב, המשימה היומית המטרידה ביותר הייתה להניח ארוחה על השולחן. באחד־עשר אזורי זמן חלקו אזרחים מחמש־עשרה הרפובליקות האתניות של ברית המועצות את הגורל הסוציאליסטי המשותף של עמידה בתורים לחלוקת מזון. האוכל היה נושא קבוע בהיסטוריה הפוליטית הסובייטית" בהומור שחור פרוע ומודע לעצמו, שוברת פון ברמזן מיתוס אחר מיתוס ומתארת את הסבל והרעב האינסופיים מהם סבל העם הרוסי. היא חולפת על פני תקופות אפלות בהיסטוריה הרוסית ובכתיבה חיננית לא חוסכת שיבטה וביקורתה מבכירי הממשל והמפלגה. למרות שהיא מודעת לנוסטלגיה המתעתעת שאופפת את זיכרונה, היא לא נכנעת לכמיהה שלה אל העבר. הדיסוננס הזה בין המצב הקיומי האמיתי של האזרחים בברית המועצות הקומוניסטית, בה לא היה דבר לאכול (אלא אם השתייכת לנומנקולטורה) ובין התיאורים הקולינריים מזילי הריר מאפשר חוויה חד פעמית לקורא בספר: מצד אחד תיאורי זוועה על הרעב הגדול במצור על לנינגרד ומסעות רצח וטיהורים של סטאלין ומצד שני הקניגה, ספר בישול מפואר שהיה חובה בכל בית סובייטי מן השורה. "הצרות באימפריה האלכוהוליסטית התחילו במאי 1985. אחרי חודשיים בלבד בתפקיד פרסם גורבץ (ה״גיבן״) צו שכותרתו ״צעדים לפתרון בעיית השכרות והאלכוהוליזם״. זו הייתה היוזמה הפוליטית המשמעותית הראשונה שלו, והיא הייתה הרת אסון עד כדי כך שהמוניטין שלו בקרב אזרחי ברית המועצות ניזוק ללא תקנה." הפרק האלמותי על מגפת האלכוהוליזם בברית המועצות הוציא ממני פרצי גיחוך רמים. הסרקזם שבו פון ברמזן מתקיפה את בעיית המים הקטנים (וודקה=מים קטנים) פשוט הורס. אהבתי את הספר. אומנם הכתיבה עמוסה ולמי שאינו מתעניין בהיסטוריה אני לא בטוחה שהספר יהיה מעניין, אבל השילוב בין הסיפורים המשפחתיים הכוללים סבא שהועסק בביון הקומוניסטי, סבתא אמיצה שחצתה את הכפור והמצור בלנינגרד רק משום ששמעה כי בעלה עומד בפני פיתויים נשיים מסוכנים, אב אלכוהליסט בוגדן ונעדר, אם דיסידנטית שהתנגדה לאידיאולוגיה הקומוניסטית וניסתה לשמור את הבת משטיפת המח המתמדת ובין ההיסטוריה הקולקטיבית והקולינרית הוא שילוב מנצח בעיניי.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yiotula

    I really felt this was three different books, one about her family, one about her and her food, and one about Russia's history. I really don't like how they ran together. I found some sections confusing. The history was dry and the food secondary to the story. I wish she had written one great book about her trip back to Moscow to do the TV show and incorporated stories from the past that related to the food. I felt that the chronological order really hampered the showcasing of the food. In the l I really felt this was three different books, one about her family, one about her and her food, and one about Russia's history. I really don't like how they ran together. I found some sections confusing. The history was dry and the food secondary to the story. I wish she had written one great book about her trip back to Moscow to do the TV show and incorporated stories from the past that related to the food. I felt that the chronological order really hampered the showcasing of the food. In the least she should have put the recipes for each chapter in the chapter. That might have helped to make the whole thing come together a little better.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chintogtokh

    I love this book. I think many Mongolians have a sort of nostalgia for out communist, Soviet past. The apparent lack of a big cultural heritage, or rather, what constitutes "culture" in modern times - food, music, art - led to the adoption of many Soviet-era exports as our own. Reading this book feels both familiar (Olivier salat - Nisslel salat, Blinchik, Plov, Borshch) and yet, with the detailed look into one family's life from the nation's infancy to its death, it serves as a cure for any ost I love this book. I think many Mongolians have a sort of nostalgia for out communist, Soviet past. The apparent lack of a big cultural heritage, or rather, what constitutes "culture" in modern times - food, music, art - led to the adoption of many Soviet-era exports as our own. Reading this book feels both familiar (Olivier salat - Nisslel salat, Blinchik, Plov, Borshch) and yet, with the detailed look into one family's life from the nation's infancy to its death, it serves as a cure for any ostalgie that one might have for those times.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ana Rînceanu

    This book combines the diverse cuisines of the USSR, and the story of Soviet communism, through the lens of the author's family experience. I can't recommend this book highly enough: you want to learn about totalitarianism, Russia's relationship with other soviet countries and food, then you need this book in your life. The writing is superb so just dive in!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Soňa

    Fascinujúce, smutné i veselé, šokojúce i objasňujúce.... Náhľad autorky na Ródinu, teda vlasť nielen cez vzťah k jedlu a históriu jednej rodiny i celého národa počas 20. storočia. Táto kniha má proste moc chytiť presne na tom správnom mieste. Aj keď veľa z veci poznáme z histórie či hodín dejepisu, je prekvapením čítať ich z pohľadu niekoho kto bol priamo pri tom... tie vysvetlenia za tým, ten reálny pohľad do kuchýň i obchodov, do kastrólov i špajzí a v neposlednom rade i sŕdc Sovietov... Rusov? Fascinujúce, smutné i veselé, šokojúce i objasňujúce.... Náhľad autorky na Ródinu, teda vlasť nielen cez vzťah k jedlu a históriu jednej rodiny i celého národa počas 20. storočia. Táto kniha má proste moc chytiť presne na tom správnom mieste. Aj keď veľa z veci poznáme z histórie či hodín dejepisu, je prekvapením čítať ich z pohľadu niekoho kto bol priamo pri tom... tie vysvetlenia za tým, ten reálny pohľad do kuchýň i obchodov, do kastrólov i špajzí a v neposlednom rade i sŕdc Sovietov... Rusov? Nie, kniha je venovaná všetkým etnikám a národom, ktoré niekedy tvorili časť Sovietskeho zväzu a určite je prínosom pre každého kto by chcel vedieť viac o živote... Nie je to totiž len obraz pádu cárskej veľkrajiny, nástup boľševikov, déduška Lenina, generalissima Stalina, hladomory medzi vojnami, KukuruzaChruščova, Brežneva, Gorbačova, Jelcina až po dnešnú Moskvu pod Putinom. Ó nie, toto nie je len o tom, je to o Kníge, Knihe chutnej a zdravej výživy Je to proste pohľad do kuchyne kde je pre niektorých dostatok a pre väčšinu menej ako nič. Prvá veta: Kedykoľvek s matkou varíme, rozpráva mi o svojich snoch. Posledná veta: "Iďiotka", zavrčala mama napokon, no potom urobila dvakrát cmuk-cmuk do telefónu a šla znovu do postele.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    This one is a stunner. Bremzen and her mother, who emigrated from Moscow in 1974, recreate a dinner for each decade from 1910 to 2000, weaving in the story of her family--Jewish-categorized Naval Intelligence officers on one side, Baltic aristocrats on the other, as they move in and out of privileged positions and survive Soviet history with vivid food experiences. From the frequently reprinted and edited Book of Healthy and Tasty Food (which disappeared discredited capitalist kepchup as well as This one is a stunner. Bremzen and her mother, who emigrated from Moscow in 1974, recreate a dinner for each decade from 1910 to 2000, weaving in the story of her family--Jewish-categorized Naval Intelligence officers on one side, Baltic aristocrats on the other, as they move in and out of privileged positions and survive Soviet history with vivid food experiences. From the frequently reprinted and edited Book of Healthy and Tasty Food (which disappeared discredited capitalist kepchup as well as politicians from subsequent Stalinist editions), WWII ration books, 1970s Globus peas from Hungary, 80s vodka restrictions and creative moonshine, the Uzbek stew recipe from great grandma who helped pioneer the unveiling of Central Asian women and disappeared into a gulag in the 1950s, 1930s hamburgers championed by food expert Mikoyan, the Putin excesses of the new consumer world and the lost czarist cooking of pre-Revolutionary (with lots of servant labor) kitchens. I genuinely couldn't put this down.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    God I loved this book. Maybe it's that long-hidden degree in Russian history... This book has about four great stories running through it - the history of the Soviet Union from the time of the Revolution to the present, the story of the author's family as they coped with the changes in Moscow during this long period, often oppressed, frequently hungry, the story of the author's own life growing up in Brezhnev's time and her eventual asylum-seeking with her mother to the US, and finally, it is th God I loved this book. Maybe it's that long-hidden degree in Russian history... This book has about four great stories running through it - the history of the Soviet Union from the time of the Revolution to the present, the story of the author's family as they coped with the changes in Moscow during this long period, often oppressed, frequently hungry, the story of the author's own life growing up in Brezhnev's time and her eventual asylum-seeking with her mother to the US, and finally, it is the story of food and how it links all these people and time periods together. After all, history marches along in a linear way, but we always have to eat. I had to try many of the recipes (even those that weren't in the book, but were available online). I also enjoyed downloading the Soviet Cookbook she talked about so often. Who knew it would be in English and available on Kindle.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    Túto knihu odporúčam každému, kto by sa chcel nad absurditami nášho post-sovietsko-satelitného bloku radšej zasmiať, než nasrať. Lebo podobnými aj OVEĽA absurdnejšími bizarnosťami sa táto kniha priam hemží. Možno práve podobnosť a zároveň nepodobnosť s našou históriou je tým, čo z tejto knihy, okrem neskutočne šťavnatého, vtipného jazyka, robí klenot. Zemiakový majonézový šalát proste nie je jediné, čo máme s Rusmi spoločné. Akurát ten ich je omnoho pikantnejší.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alysa H.

    I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. The title might mislead those unwilling to give it more than a shallow look into believing it's a cookbook, but it's actually the best kind of history book - a wonderfully-written, rich cultural history told through the prism of personal experiences (the author's, and her family's). The fact that most of those experiences use food as an anchoring point is splendid, I think, simply because food is so universal. Food is a topic t I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. The title might mislead those unwilling to give it more than a shallow look into believing it's a cookbook, but it's actually the best kind of history book - a wonderfully-written, rich cultural history told through the prism of personal experiences (the author's, and her family's). The fact that most of those experiences use food as an anchoring point is splendid, I think, simply because food is so universal. Food is a topic to which everyone can relate in one way or another. Rarely have I felt a sense of "lived history" more palpably than in this book. There is heartbreak, tragedy, and dark humor here. A particular mix -- a recipe, if you will -- that seems common among post-Soviets, and which is itself touched upon throughout the book. The only places that miss a beat, perhaps, are the final chapters on the 1980s, 1990s and now. I think this is largely because the author left the USSR for the USA as a child in the 1970s (so her own personal experiences of life on the other side of the Iron Curtain during those times become more limited and abstract), and because many of the older family members whose lives took up so much of the earlier chapters begin to pass on at that point. Also, the early-1990s "tour of the crumbling empire" section feels a little show-offy and is not very well fleshed out. But on the whole, this is a real tour-de-force that could be recommended reading for pretty much anyone - but especially those interested in cultural history, personal narrative, or food studies.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Weeeeellll, it made for a good book club because the host presented lots of examples of the food and there was vodka, of course! However, the writing was absolutely tedious! Beyond. Painfully. I actually found myself counting how many times she used the word bourgeois (it was way too many, by the way)! I kept asking myself what point was the author trying to present? Get to the point...get to the point. I chanted that in my head sometimes. The point was muddled. I still don't know what the autho Weeeeellll, it made for a good book club because the host presented lots of examples of the food and there was vodka, of course! However, the writing was absolutely tedious! Beyond. Painfully. I actually found myself counting how many times she used the word bourgeois (it was way too many, by the way)! I kept asking myself what point was the author trying to present? Get to the point...get to the point. I chanted that in my head sometimes. The point was muddled. I still don't know what the author's primary focus was in writing the book. Was a political commentary? Was it about her family life? Was it about what led up to her life now? It got more readable towards the end. Seems like she gave up trying to be a descriptive ninja. She was like a pathetic show off in the beginning. So many unnecessary adjectives! It made me laugh out loud. I'm sorry if I'm being mean here...she seems like a funny, smart, very successful woman, for sure. I'm sure she's swell! The book got rave reviews all over the place. I just didn't personally like her book! If I didn't love my book club babe who chose the book, I wouldn't have forced myself through it. The reason for two stars is because of the way that babe presented the food at book club. That was really fun and yummy!

  16. 5 out of 5

    trovateOrtensia

    Nel mio passato di carnivora, durante un viaggio in Armenia mi capitò di mangiare uno stufato di agnello alla georgiana. Lo trovai buonissimo. Scopro ora che si chiama canachi e che era il piatto preferito di Stalin. Gulp A parte i miei trascorsi carnivori-stalinisti, il libro è interessante e divertente al tempo stesso, e consiglio di leggerlo.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pietro

    Bevo a una casa distrutta Il cibo è un fattore decisivo in ogni cultura e in qualsiasi sistema politico. A maggior ragione lo è in una nazione sterminata che ha fagocitato al suo interno una tempesta di cucine etniche, talmente lontane e diverse tra loro da non essere neanche parenti alla lontana; senza contare le centinaia di milioni di bocche da sfamare (o da lasciar morire a seconda del vento politico del momento). Il viaggio nostalgico dell'autrice è un viaggio politico e non uno sterile e Bevo a una casa distrutta Il cibo è un fattore decisivo in ogni cultura e in qualsiasi sistema politico. A maggior ragione lo è in una nazione sterminata che ha fagocitato al suo interno una tempesta di cucine etniche, talmente lontane e diverse tra loro da non essere neanche parenti alla lontana; senza contare le centinaia di milioni di bocche da sfamare (o da lasciar morire a seconda del vento politico del momento). Il viaggio nostalgico dell'autrice è un viaggio politico e non uno sterile elenco di piatti tradizionali affiancati da qualche lieta rimembranza; la sua infanzia da Giovane pioniera cresciuta a pane nero e canzoni leniniste è una via d'accesso privilegiata alla comprensione della terrificante complessità del sistema sovietico. La schizofrenia di un sistema prima rivoluzionario, poi totalitario, poi scongelato, poi traballante e tarlato, poi imploso e ubriaco sia di vodka che di libero mercato, è rappresentata nella vita dell'autrice dalla mamma anti-sovietica e amante di Proust e dal nonno capo dello spionaggio della marina. Presa tra due mondi diversi, la cucina sovietica è la corda alla quale aggrapparsi per venirne fuori, per conoscere la grande Rodina - unione di popoli liberi lanciati verso un futuro radioso e giusto - oltre la tenda pesante e soffocante della propaganda. L'autrice attraversa tutta la storia novecentesca della Russia (il capolinea è Putinland), tenendosi salda alla fune culinaria, offrendo un viaggio storico-politico ricco di preziosi aneddoti, storie private che s'intrecciano su un unico grande telaio umano, costruisce un arazzo sì grigio e miserrimo, ma che conserva un forte romanticismo. Mi son chiesto: come si può avere nostalgia per un passato, un'ideologia, un progetto d'ingegneria sociale che ha mietuto montagne di morti, ha dato il pane, un lavoro e un tetto a tutti, ma ai funzionari ha dato ciotole di caviale beluga, residenze imperiali e comfort che persino gli zar potevano solo sognarsi? Un passato che ha annullato intere etnie, lingue, culture e tradizioni? Anya von Brezmen ha confermato i miei sospetti: si può ed è lecito avere nostalgia di tutto questo, soprattutto perché non è tutta merda ciò che puzza (si può? funziona?). L'URSS è stata più della somma delle sue morti, delle privazioni, dei soprusi e delle ideologie calpestate, dell'asfissiante retorica del Partito, delle code per il pane e delle cicliche carestie; noi occidentali, cresciuti e pasciuti nella parte capitalista e relativamente ricca del mondo, abbiamo vissuto una vita parallela a quel sesto del pianeta e con la solita prosopopea di chi sta meglio, di chi "questo è il mondo libero!" siamo sempre stati veloci alla pietà nei confronti dei "poveri russi", la solita dinamica della pagliuzza e della trave. Si stava meglio qui da noi? Fuor di dubbio, almeno potevamo lamentarci senza essere spediti nei sotterranei della Lubjanka, lo stesso vale per i nostri intellettuali. Il capolinea Putinland arriva molto velocemente, purtroppo, perché il viaggio organizzato per noi da Anya von Brezmen è stato effettivamente splendido, coinvolgente e istruttivo. Gli ultimi capitoli - una cronaca serrata e al cardiopalma che si divide tra piatti abcasi, baltici, coreani e la contemporanea implosione al rallentatore dell'Unione - sono l'equivalente letterario delle adrenaliniche fughe di Indiana Jones, costellate di ancestrali trappole e ossute mani di mummia. Le madeleine di Anya von Brezmen sono, per sua stessa ammissione, avvelenate, fatto che non impedisce all'infingarda nostalgia di risalire la corrente e presentarsi alla porta. Amore e odio, come sempre, che ai giorni nostri si trasformano in un rigetto nauseato per il soviet-kitsch proposto ai turisti occidentali che si recano a Mosca per comprare una matrioska di Stalin, per comprare una maglietta con la falce il martello o sbavare d'invidia piccolo borghese sulle Bentley degli oligarchi. Se l'apparatčik ha tradito gli ideali e calpestato il diritto di milioni di individui a un futuro se non radioso almeno parzialmente illuminato, l'occidente ha invece pugnalato la Russia con la lama arrugginita del turbo-capitalismo; il resto lo vediamo dalle nostre finestre: conflitti mai risolti che si sono incancreniti, l'oppressione legalizzata di alcune parti della società civile, il ritorno a un imperialismo volgare e prepotente, che ha un sapore rancido e puzza di naftalina ma ora si veste nelle migliori boutique italiane, mangia sushi freschissimo e beve vino biologico.

  18. 4 out of 5

    cristina c

    La cucina russa e la cucina sovietica sono solo lontane parenti. Mentre la prima è un tripudio di sapori e di sensualità ( secondo Čechov i bliny ben fatti devono essere " porosi e paffuti come la spalla della figlia di un mercante"), la cucina sovietica si nutre per lo più di ricordi e di pallide eco di quel che si mangiava ai tempi dello zar ( di quel che alcuni mangiavano ai tempi dello zar, ma si sa, la storia la fanno i vincitori). In mezzo ci sono le terribili carestie belliche, la fame ai La cucina russa e la cucina sovietica sono solo lontane parenti. Mentre la prima è un tripudio di sapori e di sensualità ( secondo Čechov i bliny ben fatti devono essere " porosi e paffuti come la spalla della figlia di un mercante"), la cucina sovietica si nutre per lo più di ricordi e di pallide eco di quel che si mangiava ai tempi dello zar ( di quel che alcuni mangiavano ai tempi dello zar, ma si sa, la storia la fanno i vincitori). In mezzo ci sono le terribili carestie belliche, la fame ai tempi di Stalin e poi la lenta risalita e l'instaurarsi della cucina di regime negli anni della stagnazione, una cucina scialba e spartana, lontanissima da quella che la propaganda istituzionale descrive e da quella che gli uomini di regime frequentano. E infine si arriva alla cucina attuale, quella degli oligarchi che fanno arrivare giornalmente il sushi in volo da Tokyo. Questo libro è allo stesso tempo un memoir familiare vivace e pieno di ironia, ed una analisi dei cambiamenti della società russa nell'ultimo secolo attraverso il suo rapporto col cibo ( e, com'è inestricabile per i russi, naturalmente anche con l'alcol ). Ed è anche un tributo pieno di tenerezza alla madre dell'autrice, donna intelligente e volitiva che nella metà degli anni '70 lascia la Russia, sola con la figlia bambina, per crearsi una nuova vita negli Stati Uniti. La donna che fantasticava sul cibo per trasfigurare la realtà e così poterla sopportare, attribuendo nomi francesi agli umili piatti che può preparare nella Russia anni '70, affronta con sgomento gli interminabili scaffali dei supermercati di Philadelphia. Ci vorranno anni perché Anya e sua madre imparino a vivere in una patria alimentare multietnica quale è quella americana, con occasionali rimpatriate sentimentali nella cucina russa. Anya Vom Bremzen è diventata una giornalista esperta di cucina internazionale. A causa/nonostante la sua infanzia sovietica, come lei stessa precisa.

  19. 4 out of 5

    K

    Huh. Somehow I always expect to enjoy culinary memoirs more than I do. I mean yeah, this book was kind of interesting. Von Bremzen seamlessly flits around between history of the Soviet Union from 1917 on, her own family's experiences under the various regimes, and description of various Soviet foods that reflect the times. Von Bremzen includes several interesting-looking recipes at the end, although I agree with reviewers who felt these recipes would have been better placed throughout the book. V Huh. Somehow I always expect to enjoy culinary memoirs more than I do. I mean yeah, this book was kind of interesting. Von Bremzen seamlessly flits around between history of the Soviet Union from 1917 on, her own family's experiences under the various regimes, and description of various Soviet foods that reflect the times. Von Bremzen includes several interesting-looking recipes at the end, although I agree with reviewers who felt these recipes would have been better placed throughout the book. Von Bremzen is a good writer with subtly caustic tongue-in-cheek humor that occasionally sneaks up and takes you by surprise. I found many of the history and personal memoir sections interesting, and her writing about the food fit nicely as opposed to being tacked on. I felt she did a good job of using food as a lens through which to view the Soviet experience. Unfortunately, though, I found my interest waning as the book progressed. Some of the later chapters felt disjointed and stream-of-consciousness, and I wasn't sure what she was trying to portray exactly. In truth I was also rushing to finish the book so I could give it back to the library, but I still think it could have been a more enjoyable experience than it was. I'll give her three stars -- it's a nice idea, mostly well done. My feelings overall remain in the lukewarm range though.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Not strictly a memoir, and certainly not a cookbook, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is an original. Anya Von Bremzen has told the history of the Soviet Union through the story of her grandparents, her mother, and herself, with a special emphasis on food. It may sound like a goulash with too many ingredients, but the result is wonderful. In addition to enjoying an entertaining memoir about a memorable bunch of people, I learned a lot about what it was like to live in the Soviet Union at diff Not strictly a memoir, and certainly not a cookbook, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is an original. Anya Von Bremzen has told the history of the Soviet Union through the story of her grandparents, her mother, and herself, with a special emphasis on food. It may sound like a goulash with too many ingredients, but the result is wonderful. In addition to enjoying an entertaining memoir about a memorable bunch of people, I learned a lot about what it was like to live in the Soviet Union at different times. In any number of books I've read about various aspects of the Soviet Union, I'd never come across Salat Olivier, a sort of potato salad. According to Von Bremzen, it's the salad that appears at every holiday and special occasion. It's taken for granted and it isn't the sort of thing people mention in letters or diaries or histories. But you'll learn about it here. Von Bremzen and her mother came to the United States in 1974 when Von Bremzen was eleven years old. She was old enough to have vivid memories of the Soviet Union and young enough to be able to completely adapt to life in the United States. Further travels in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Union gave her even more points of view to round out the book. In addition to knowing her onions about food, Von Bremzen has an unusual story to tell, and is a terrific writer. I even enjoyed the bibliography!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Hilliard

    Politics, culture, family and the fall of Communism all orbiting around the subject of food. I guess that's how you win a Beard prize while the rest of us just write reviews. This is how it's done memoir / food writers, this is how it's done.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Written by a James Beard-award winning writer, it's a memoir about growing up in Russia and tells of Russian history through its food, the chapters divided by the decades from the twentieth through the twenty-first century. Overall I enjoyed reading this book, the subject matter was interesting and I love nothing more than hearing about the food culture in other countries--however I did find myself wishing that there was a little more food description included and slightly less depth on the hist Written by a James Beard-award winning writer, it's a memoir about growing up in Russia and tells of Russian history through its food, the chapters divided by the decades from the twentieth through the twenty-first century. Overall I enjoyed reading this book, the subject matter was interesting and I love nothing more than hearing about the food culture in other countries--however I did find myself wishing that there was a little more food description included and slightly less depth on the history side of things. To me, Von Bremzen's writing was most appealing when describing food and cooking, but dragged a bit in her descriptions of people. I think this was because everyone seemed to have at least one nickname, whether historical figure or family member, and I kept getting confused with who exactly she was referring to and going back to reread pages to find out. It's a small, picky thing, but it slowed the story down and impacted my enjoyment of the first half of the book. Whether I caught the rhythm of the writing, or had it figured out by the time Von Bremzen emigrated to America with her mother in 1974, the book picked up its pace for the second half and I enjoyed it much more, through to the end--which included a recipe for each decade. I think foodies who are also history buffs, will enjoy Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking the most. Since I am not that familiar with Russian food and culture as compared to other countries, I'm glad we read the book and I walked away learning a lot--always a bonus.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark Staniforth

    From twelve-tiered kulebiaka - starting with the ground floor of burbot liver and topped with layers of fish, meat, game, mushrooms and rice, all wrapped up in dough, up, up, up to a penthouse of calf's brains in brown butter - to wartime starvation and food queues, Anya Von Bremzen's Mastering The Art Of Soviet Cooking serves up so much more than the relatively narrow ingredients offered by its title. This is a sensory journey through Soviet history, using its food as a framework rather than its From twelve-tiered kulebiaka - starting with the ground floor of burbot liver and topped with layers of fish, meat, game, mushrooms and rice, all wrapped up in dough, up, up, up to a penthouse of calf's brains in brown butter - to wartime starvation and food queues, Anya Von Bremzen's Mastering The Art Of Soviet Cooking serves up so much more than the relatively narrow ingredients offered by its title. This is a sensory journey through Soviet history, using its food as a framework rather than its overbearing centrepiece, and as such adds much welcome warmth and colour to a subject restricted all too often to the realms of relatively staid academia. Starting at the crumbling end of the Romanov dynasty and ending with the Wild West-style Moscow makeover of the successive Yeltsin and Putin regimes, Von Bremzen threads her way through each decade of 20th century Soviet history seeking to recreate a show-stopping meal from each. Born into a sprawling communal apartment at the tail-end of the slight Khrushchevian thaw, and later emigrating to the United States to become one of her new nation's most respected food writers, Von Bremzen's book is as much an engrossing personal narrative as it is an attempt to cast light on what ended up on dinner-time tables behind the Iron Curtain. Her family history is fascinating, not least the story of her grandmother, born in then-untamed Turkestan at the time of the Bolsheviks; who became one of the leaders of the grand plan to empower its Muslim natives and thus prepare the ground for socialism, yet who ended her life in the gulag at Magadan. From Lenin's idealistic vision of taking food out of family homes completely, and have people share their mealtimes in vast communal cafes, to the havoc wreaked by collectivisation and the Second World War, Von Bremzen weaves a gripping narative of a daily life far removed from the snapshots of grand parades and presidential funerals beamed out for the west. Even now, she admits, a simple banana - a once-a-year treat back in the USSR - still holds an almost talismanic sway over my psyche. There are some superbly related episodes, not least the trip made by one of Stalin's henchmen, Anastas Mikoyan, to the United States in order to research which western food and processes could be best adapted to Soviet industrialization. Among the cookbook-sized examples Mikoyan embraced was a penchant for hamburgers: unfortunately, his instructions got lost in layers of bureaucracy, emerging from the process somehow shorn of bread baps, thus accidentally creating the naked and now-ubiquitous kotleti, or Soviet burger. The grim humour of the food queues and the increasing reliance on home-distilled alcohol to ease the cold and boredom is never far away. But Soviet food was about far more than one-banana-a-year, something Von Bremzen begins to appreciate much more upon her arrival in the States to find the land of plenty serving up raw Pop Tarts, hot dogs sour from nitrates and yellow-skinned, thirty-nine cent chicken parts bandaged in plastic. The book finishes with a selection of alluring recipes from each of the decades in question, though the 1940s section is reserved for a simple ration card: Those 125 grams, those twenty small daily bites gotten with a puny square of paper, were often the difference between survival and death. For anyone even remotely interested in Russian history or the literature of food this book will be a welcome discovery. Fans of both will find more riches here than even the most indulgent of those Romanov dinner parties had to offer.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kiwiflora

    Growing up in the West during the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s, international relations were dominated by this thing called the Cold War. The war was between 'us' and 'them' - a whole different, entirely undesirable, backward, and frightening other world behind this other thing called the Iron Curtain. It probably never entered my empty teenage head that there were people just like us behind this Iron Curtain - Mums, Dads, children, teenagers, grandparents. They were, quite simply, all commun Growing up in the West during the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s, international relations were dominated by this thing called the Cold War. The war was between 'us' and 'them' - a whole different, entirely undesirable, backward, and frightening other world behind this other thing called the Iron Curtain. It probably never entered my empty teenage head that there were people just like us behind this Iron Curtain - Mums, Dads, children, teenagers, grandparents. They were, quite simply, all communists - baddies, a serious threat to the democracies we pretty much took for granted. But after reading this memoir by a woman of a similar age to me, is it possible that threat may well have been a lot of hot air? It seems they were all too damn hungry and spent too much time standing in queues to be a threat to anyone! Nevertheless, Anya von Bremzen's memoir is a book truly written from the heart - for her mother and grandmothers, her father, her grandfather, her fellow Soviets, the terrible waste, deaths, family tragedies all resulting from the megalomania of a few. In their own way each of the leaders was mad. The chapter on Stalin is the most compelling and frightening to read, Khrushchev is positively boring in comparison, and the chapter on Gorbachev was a complete revelation. In the Western media, I remember him being portrayed in glowing terms - perestroika, glasnost and all that. But in the USSR it seems he was quite a different sort of fish. And of course throughout the book there is the food. It is amazing how we so often associate food with how we feel, our overall well being and happiness with ourselves, our lives and how it lives on in our memories. Now a successful food writer in the US, Ms von Bremzen takes the traditional Russian food of her family and weaves the history of both her family and Communist Russia from its beginnings in 1917 under Lenin to its dissolution in the early 1990s. She treats the whole 70 year odd years as an unmitigated disaster for virtually everyone. I really hope that writing this memoir was cathartic for her and for her mother who is still alive. Anya was very fortunate that in 1974 when she was 10, she and her mother fled to the US, leaving everything and everyone behind, knowing that they would never be able to return. In her writing there is very little happiness or nostalgia for what she left, and although their first few years in Philadelphia were not easy, at least it was better than what they had come from. She would never have had the life she currently has if they had stayed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Part memoir and part family history, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is a fascinating, affectionate, irreverent, and for me surprising inside account of everyday life during successive eras of the Soviet Union, from revolution through Stalin and Khrushchev to glasnost, paying particular attention to the food that was available and how it was acquired, prepared, and served. Having grown up in Cold War America reading it was like looking out at the world through the reverse side of a mirror. A Part memoir and part family history, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is a fascinating, affectionate, irreverent, and for me surprising inside account of everyday life during successive eras of the Soviet Union, from revolution through Stalin and Khrushchev to glasnost, paying particular attention to the food that was available and how it was acquired, prepared, and served. Having grown up in Cold War America reading it was like looking out at the world through the reverse side of a mirror. Anya’s grandfather worked in Soviet intelligence, and through devout loyalty managed to not get arrested when regimes changed, rules morphed, and history was rewritten. Her mother on the other hand was a self-styled cultural exile and dissident, still actually living within the country but refusing as much as possible to be part of it, so Anya had a wide variety of experiences, from the nauseating privilege of a kindergarten curriculum that included daily doses of caviar to the difficult negotiations of cooking in a crowded communal kitchen. She queued in food lines and ran a black market business selling sticks, or sometimes just a few flavorful chews, of Juicy Fruit gum to her school mates. Eventually Anya and her mother immigrated to the United States and when an injury ended her musical career she became a food writer--food being a natural obsession for someone who grew up in a country where getting enough could be a challenge. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is not a cookbook but there are a few recipes in the back of the book, including for Salat Olivier, a potato/carrot/canned peas/egg/apple/pickle salad that I can’t picture and have to try.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carloesse

    Si può provare nostalgia per i tempi di Stalin? E perché Gorbachev, premio Nobel, grande statista e figura largamente amata e stimata in occidente è talmente ancora odiato in Russia, tanto da essere considerato in patria il più inviso e catastrofico leader della storia russa dalla rivoluzione a oggi? E si può trovare qualche risposta a queste ed altre domande sulla recente storia russa in un libro incentrato sul cibo e sulla cucina? Che la storia non si faccia solo con le cronache ufficiali ce lo Si può provare nostalgia per i tempi di Stalin? E perché Gorbachev, premio Nobel, grande statista e figura largamente amata e stimata in occidente è talmente ancora odiato in Russia, tanto da essere considerato in patria il più inviso e catastrofico leader della storia russa dalla rivoluzione a oggi? E si può trovare qualche risposta a queste ed altre domande sulla recente storia russa in un libro incentrato sul cibo e sulla cucina? Che la storia non si faccia solo con le cronache ufficiali ce lo ha insegnato già Le Goff. Che le memorie di persone comuni possano fornire magnifici spunti di riflessione sulla vita reale in un paese, in una determinata epoca, in un ambiente, e contribuire alla viva e reale percezione di un clima respirato in quel periodo (molto di più che un libro di storia), lo sappiamo pure. Ma che la memoria sia fatta anche di odori e sapori, di immagini visive di tavole (più o meno) imbandite e di negozi, e relative vetrine, o almeno vi è strettamente legata, a volte lo dimentichiamo. Anya Von Bremzen è una gastronoma americana. Nata nella vecchia URSS nel 1963 è emigrata in USA nel 1974 insieme alla madre. Oggi narra la sua storia, che è la storia delle ultime tre generazioni della sua famiglia, attraverso i propri occhi e ricordi di bambina scissa tra un’educazione catechizzata dalla scuola sovietica ed una antisovietica inculcatale dalla madre Larisa, insofferente fin da piccola della rigidità e della stupida ridicola inerzia del regime comunista retto da Stalin, poi da Chruscev, e poi da Breznev. Anya (Anyuska) è poi anche protetta dai nonni Liza e Naum Frumkin , provenienti da Odessa, di ceppo ebraico, convinti sostenitori del bolscevismo fin dai tempi della rivoluzione ed ancora fiduciosi nel “sol dell’avvenire”. Nonno Naum in particolare si è distinto come ufficiale della Marina del Baltico, e facendo brillante carriera all’interno dell’Intelligence della Marina stessa, scampando miracolosamente alle purghe staliniane che spesso vedevano tra le vittime suoi colleghi e superiori e che sicuramente avrebbero colpito anche lui, prima o poi, se Stalin fosse campato qualche anno in più.. I ricordi e le impressioni di Anya si mischiano così con quelli della madre e quelli della nonna, così come le vengono narrati ora dall’una ora dall’altra, e da posizioni ideologiche così nettamente contrastanti. La cucina ha un ruolo tutt’altro che marginale naturalmente in questo libro, che riporta anche qualche ricetta in appendice. Ma l’intento è rievocare le diverse epoche attraversate dalla Russia portando a galla odori, sapori e sensazioni che erano legate ai cibi, ai modi di elaborare o semplificare i piatti, di come e dove mangiarli. Si passa dalle cucine del ristorante L’Hermitage di Mosca dove ancora in epoca zarista il cuoco francese Lucien Olivier inventò “l’Insalata Olivier” (in pratica l’insalata russa), alle cucine multifamiliari odorose di cavolo (spesso anche marcio) degli affollati condomini staliniani, dove diversi nuclei familiari condividevano forzatamente stanze e servizi, e si approda alle dacie di Stalin e di Breznev, dove sontuosi festini a base di caviale, storione, aragoste e champagne vengono riservati al Politburo e ai suoi ospiti, mentre il popolo in cui nome è al potere fa le file negli spacci, si arrangia, o muore di fame (tutto il mondo è paese). Interessanti le pagine in cui si racconta della missione di Mikojan in USA, negli anni ’30, per studiare la produzione alimentare industriale americana, e che porterà l’URSS a fabbricare ketchup, mayonese, hamburger e carne in scatola di qualità sovietica, talvolta superiore a quella prodotta da quelle che oggi sono le multinazionali del food, almeno nei ricordi di infanzia rievocata con un pizzico di nostalgia, nonostante la sofferenza. Ma si può provare nostalgia anche per la sofferenza? Perché qui è il punto, che ci riporta alla prima domanda. E credo che se Stalin non è stato demonizzato quanto Hitler, almeno dal suo popolo (ma anche da una consistente fetta del resto del mondo, almeno fino alla caduta del muro), pur se mosso dalla stessa paranoia e pur essendosi macchiato d simili crimini contro l’umanità, sia dovuto a un semplice fatto: Hitler alla fine perse la guerra, Stalin ne uscì invece vincitore. Ma c’è anche un’altra considerazione da fare: spesso nella sofferenza si ritrovano anche quei valori umani (solidarietà, senso di fratellanza, di sacrificio, di amore per il prossimo) che la Russia oligarchico-capitalista di Putin sembra avere perso. E questo libro sfiora anche questo tema. E noi, nei piatti preparati da Anyushka e da sua madre Larisa per pochi ospiti, amici russi che vivono a N.Y. , in cenette che scandiscono i ricordi e i capitoli di questo libro, assaporiamo una sostanziosa fetta di storia.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marica

    Sputare il caviale dietro il radiatore, oppure “Quello che i Russi avrebbero voluto mangiare durante il XX secolo”. Il libro di Anja von Bremzen contiene alcune ricette, una per decade, ma anche molto altro: la storia della sua famiglia, tragica e divertente, le storie dei Russi fra carestie ed epurazioni, l’opinione media del popolo russo nei confronti dei leader dell’Unione Sovietica da Lenin in poi, fino a Gorbaciov; la storia di sua madre e soprattutto un’analisi del suo rapporto personale co Sputare il caviale dietro il radiatore, oppure “Quello che i Russi avrebbero voluto mangiare durante il XX secolo”. Il libro di Anja von Bremzen contiene alcune ricette, una per decade, ma anche molto altro: la storia della sua famiglia, tragica e divertente, le storie dei Russi fra carestie ed epurazioni, l’opinione media del popolo russo nei confronti dei leader dell’Unione Sovietica da Lenin in poi, fino a Gorbaciov; la storia di sua madre e soprattutto un’analisi del suo rapporto personale con l’URSS, prima e dopo lo scioglimento dell’Unione Sovietica. L’infanzia di Anja paradossalmente è stata resa difficile dalla madre, che le ha instillato un’avversione verso tutto ciò che era sovietico, in un’età in cui non si è in grado di gestire la vita in un regime e il dissenso. La povera piccola era stata messa dalla famiglia in un asilo per i figli della nomenklatura, ma si sentiva in dovere di sputare caviale e pesce pregiato dietro il radiatore, dato che era cibo di regime. Comunque, a quattordici anni mamma riesce a sradicarla da Mosca e la porta negli USA, dove ricominciano faticosamente una nuova vita. La mamma entusiasta, la ragazza con crisi di disperazione nelle quali rimpiange le code russe per qualunque cosa, i familiari, le adorate caramelle dal sapore fintissimo. Quindi lo struggimento della madre in Russia, “toska”, in USA emigra sulla figlia: toska al quadrato. Quando agli emigrati è consentito tornare in patria, madre e figlia tornano a visitare la famiglia e osservano l’evoluzione dell’URSS, parlano con la gente, viaggiano. Scoprono che il buon umore e l’ironia russa resiste impavida, mentre l’odio etnico dilaga, così come il capitalismo. E la gente sembra dare valore solo alla ricchezza e agli status symbol. Il pensiero dei moscoviti è “Moskva è una città crudele”, nella quale solo i grandi ricchi, che nel frattempo si sono affinati, sembrano avere il dono della semplicità (se la possono permettere): il mondo al contrario. Tutto inizia, continua e finisce con la vodka: in passato, ora e sempre.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Unlike what you might expect from the title, this book is more of a memoir and a history of the Soviet Union than a guide to cooking, but it is organized around the subject of getting and preparing food, which was a central concern in Soviet Russia. It takes its inspiration from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, with his theme of the images and memories evoked by the taste and smell of food. The author begins cleverly, paraphrasing the famous passage from Russian literature with her assertion Unlike what you might expect from the title, this book is more of a memoir and a history of the Soviet Union than a guide to cooking, but it is organized around the subject of getting and preparing food, which was a central concern in Soviet Russia. It takes its inspiration from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, with his theme of the images and memories evoked by the taste and smell of food. The author begins cleverly, paraphrasing the famous passage from Russian literature with her assertion that “All happy food memories are alike; all unhappy food memories are unhappy after their own fashion.” She has written some award-winning cookbooks, and so it is only natural that she uses food as a focal point. But she has a further rationale: For any ex-citizen of a three-hundred-million-strong Soviet superpower, food is never a mere individual matter. In 1917 bread riots sparked the overthrow of the czar, and seventy-four years later, catastrophic food shortages helped push Gorbachev’s floundering empire into the dustbin. In between, seven million people perished from hunger during Stalin’s collectivization; four million more starved to death during Hitler’s war.” She observes that food and drinking and the rituals associated with them have been an abiding theme of Soviet political and cultural history. Food, she says, quoting one academic, “defined how Russians endured the present, imagined the future, and connected to their past.” Her goal, she states, is to show the “epic disjunction,” the “unruly collision of collectivist myths and personal antimyths” that made up the Soviet Union, and she does a splendid job achieving this aim. She personalizes the story by making it into a memoir of her own family's experiences for the duration of the Soviet Union, starting with the 1910’s, and proceeding by decade increments to the present. This, to me, is the real value of the book, because there are plenty of Soviet histories around, but von Bremzen provides anecdotes about what it was really like for the non-elites who lived through those times. She talks about food a lot, and I admit, most of it is food I wouldn’t want to eat. But most of the time, ordinary citizens in the USSR didn’t have much choice, and the author tells us just how they managed to make do with what they could find. They used as their bible The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food (or as she calls it “a totalitarian Joy of Cooking"). What is interesting about this book is that the content changed with each new regime. It was first published in 1939, and included didactic commentaries and ideological sermonizing as well as recipes, many of which involved food that none of the proletarian masses could hope to obtain. Von Bremzen writes: The wrenching discrepancy between the abundance on the pages and its absence in shops made [the book’s] myth of plenty especially poignant. Long-suffering Homo sovieticus gobbled down the deception; long-suffering H. sovieticus had after all been weaned on socialist realism, an artistic doctrine that insisted on depicting reality ‘in its revolutionary development’ - past and present swallowed up by a triumphant projection of a Radiant Future.” This paragraph is an excellent summary of what von Bremzen makes her theme, and her goal, in highlighting the contradictions of life in the USSR. At the end of the book, the author includes one recipe for each decade she covered. The recipes are preceded by very entertaining anecdotes. Discussion: I love the understated cynicism and humorous sarcasm so common to many who survived the Soviet period, especially among the samizdat writers. If you have read other remembrances of that time, you will recognize this tone, so distinctive to those who daily lived and breathed the hypocrisy of their so-called socialist state. This passage, in which von Bremzen writes of Stalin’s involvement in food policy is a perfect example of her style: When [Stalin] wasn’t busy signing execution orders or censoring books or screening [the movie] Volga-Volga], the Standardbearer of Communism opined on fish (‘Why don’t we sell live fish like they did in the old days?’) or Soviet champagne.” Similarly, her ironic names for the leaders of the USSR are endlessly entertaining as well as revealing, from one of many for Stalin, “The Best Friend of All Children” to “the fossilized lump of Brezhnev,” to Putin: “an obscure midget with a boring KGB past” who established a “petrodollar kleptocracy.” Evaluation: Although this book wasn’t what I thought it would be, it was actually much better. If you are looking for more of a cookbook, there are certainly many that feature foods of the Russian continent. This book is much more than that, and yet, the subject of food is central to the story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Myra

    Šią ir kitas mano apžvalgas galima rasti čia: http://knygoholike.blogspot.lt/2016/0... Reikėjo suformatuoti vis stringančią skaityklę, bet pradėjusi skaityti Anios von Bremzen "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing"/"Sovietinės virtuvės meistrystė: maisto ir ilgesio memuarai", formatavimą atidėjau: sakau, nieko - palauks. Nuo knygos sunkiai atsitraukti galėjau - nuostabūs memuarai apie gyvenimą Sovietų Sąjungoje, papasakoti per maistą. Čia puikiai išlaikytas balansas t Šią ir kitas mano apžvalgas galima rasti čia: http://knygoholike.blogspot.lt/2016/0... Reikėjo suformatuoti vis stringančią skaityklę, bet pradėjusi skaityti Anios von Bremzen "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing"/"Sovietinės virtuvės meistrystė: maisto ir ilgesio memuarai", formatavimą atidėjau: sakau, nieko - palauks. Nuo knygos sunkiai atsitraukti galėjau - nuostabūs memuarai apie gyvenimą Sovietų Sąjungoje, papasakoti per maistą. Čia puikiai išlaikytas balansas tarp politikos, istorijos, tragizmo, humoro bei nuoširdumo. A. von Bremzen - žymi kulinarinių knygų autorė, dar paauglystėje su mama emigravusi iš Sovietų Sąjungos į Ameriką. Ši knyga nėra receptų knyga, jų vos keli pačioje knygos pabaigoje. Čia A. von Bremzen pasakoja apie viską: istoriją, politiką, buitį ir savo šeimą. A. von Bremzen kalba nuoširdžiai ir nieko neslepia. Ji pasakoja ne tik apie politinę sistemą, Rusijos ir Sovietų Sąjungos istoriją, bet ir savo šeimos istoriją. Proseneliai ir seneliai - tikri "šviesiosios ateities" lipdytojai, nuoširdžiai tikėję komunizmu ir stačia galva pasinėrę į komunistinę santvarką, senelis - Sovietų Sąjungos šnipas, mama - disidentė iš prigimties, tėvas - laisvamanis plevėsa, dirbęs su Objektu Nr. 1 - Lenino mauzoliejuje. A. von Bremzen nurodo tam tikras sovietės buities gaires: deficitas, pašnibždom sakomi anekdotai apie valdžią, man iki šiol kažkoks mistinis "armėnų radijas", produktų trūkumas, alkoholizmas, vienodas, monotoniškas maistas visose penkiolikoje respublikų, komunalkės ir naujosios statybos, pionieriai, žlugdantys vaikų darželiai ir mokyklos t.t. Ir visi mes, gimę ir augę toje raudonojoje Atlantidoje, puikiai suprantame apie ką čia kalbama. Svarbiausias šiuose memuaruose, žinoma, maistas. Baltoji mišrainė, kisielius, džiovintų vaisių kompotas, sosiskos, daktariška dešra - sovietinių "gurmanų" patiekalai. "Rausvos dešros griežinėlis ant juodos duonos, "Eskimo" ledai ant pagaliuko mugėje - teroro amžiuje šios simbolinės smulkmenos turėjo egzistencinio skonio." Arba: "Kraudama bulves, morkas ir agurkėlių gabaliukus į dubenį, galvoju, kad baltoji mišrainė galėtų būti sovietinių emigrantų atminties metafora: miesto legendos ir totalitariniai mitai, kolektyvinė atmintis ir biografiniai faktai, tiek tikros, tiek įsivaizduojamos kelionės namo - visa tai laisvai sucementuota majonezu." A. von Bremzen analizuoja, ką reiškia "būti rusu" toje daugiatautėje šalyje. Ji pati susidūrė su tapatybės krize (ji kilusi iš žydų šeimos), tačiau nuo pasirinkimo, kokią tautybę pasirinkti sovietinio paso grafoje, ją išgelbėjo emigracija. Prieš porą metų skaičiau turbūt vieną liūdniausių straipsnių savo gyvenime: interviu su turgaus prekiautoju: http://www.delfi.lt/verslas/kaimas/uk... Ukrainietis, nekalbantis ukrainietiškai, gyvena Lietuvoje, kalba rusiškai, pensiją jam moka Putinas, pasas - rusiškas. "Žlugus Sovietų Sąjungai, neradau, kur yra Ukrainos ambasada, todėl išsiėmiau rusišką pasą", - kažkaip taip jis sako. "Man nebuvo skirtumo", - dar priduria. Tie išblaškyti ir sulaužyti didžiosios šalies likimai... Žmogus iš "didžiosios tėvynės" - žmogus be tėvynės. Мой адрес - Не дом и не улица. Мой адрес - Советский Союз. Mokykloje mokiausi su baškiru, draugės klasiokas buvo bulgaras, turiu pažįstamų rusų, baltarusių ir ukrainiečių. Ir visi jie negali apsispręsti, kas jie: lietuviai, rusai ar dar kas nors. Ir kai kuriems išsprūsta žodis: mūsų. "Mūsų" sąjunga, "mūsų" kalba, "mūsų" Rusija. Kaip koks neišnaikinamas įdagas smegenyse... "Nėr kalbos, nėr ir tėvynės", - liūdnai sako viena iš knygos herojų ir duria pirštu į savo pardavinėjamas fermentuotas korėjietiškas daržoves. Mums, lietuviams, irgi bent cepelinai liko. Kažin ar užmušim jais tą baltosios mišrainės skonį?..

  30. 4 out of 5

    Λnnarhika

    Ca librar, cartea asta te poate păcăli foarte ușor. Primul instinct atunci când vezi titlul - "bucătărie sovietică" - este să o strecori printre cărțile culinare și, eventual, să o ascunzi cu un Gordon Ramsay hardcover ca să fii sigur că nu pune nimeni mâna pe ea. Ca cititor însă, în momentul în care o vezi la raftul de gastronomie (accidental, pentru că nu treci niciodată pe acolo), nu te poți abține să nu zâmbești compătimitor și să-i oferi locul care i se cuvine. Lângă cărțile de istorie. Car Ca librar, cartea asta te poate păcăli foarte ușor. Primul instinct atunci când vezi titlul - "bucătărie sovietică" - este să o strecori printre cărțile culinare și, eventual, să o ascunzi cu un Gordon Ramsay hardcover ca să fii sigur că nu pune nimeni mâna pe ea. Ca cititor însă, în momentul în care o vezi la raftul de gastronomie (accidental, pentru că nu treci niciodată pe acolo), nu te poți abține să nu zâmbești compătimitor și să-i oferi locul care i se cuvine. Lângă cărțile de istorie. Cartea asta te hrănește cu istorie. E ca un platou imens plin cu toate aspectele istoriei Rusiei din secolul XX. Incredibil de bine documentată și reală. "Mâncarea echivala pur și simplu cu un combustibil de utilitate. Noul cetățean sovietic trebuia să fie eliberat de mesele înzorzonate și alte asemenea lucruri care îl abăteau de la marele său proiect de modernizare. Novîi sovetskii celovek. Omul Nou Sovietic." "Civilii au distilat supraviețuirea într-un cuvânt - kartociki. Aceste cartele de raționalizare erau tipărite pe o foaie mare de hârtie, cupoane pătrate care țineau o lună, cu timbru oficial, numele și semnătura celui care o primea și un avertisment sever - CARTELELE NU SUNT ÎNLOCUIBILE. Ți-ai pierdut kartociki ? Noroc bun la supraviețuire." E enervant cât de bine sunt încorporate gastronomia, istoria și memorialistica. Nu te poate plictisi. "Ați încercat vreodată să faceți cașa Guriev în timpul unuia dintre cele mai cumplite valuri de căldură din New York? Mersi mult, conte Dimitri Guriev, gurmand ministru de finanțe rus de la începuturile secolului al XIX-lea, pentru desertul care îți poartă numele. În realitate, după cele mai multe relatări un bucătar iobag pe nume Zahar Kuzmin este cel care a ticluit pentru prima oară această cașă deosebită (kașa fiind cuvântul rus pentru aproape orice preparat pe bază de cereale, atât uscate, cât și sub formă de terci), însă Guriev, gustând desertul într-un palat, l-a chemat pe Kuzim la masă și l-a sărutat. Apoi l-a cumpărat pe zisul bucătar iobag împreună cu toată familia lui. (...) Pe la două noaptea, bucătăria mea duduia ca un furnal. Înlănțuită de ușa cuptorului, scăldată în sudoare, eram gata să iau cu asalt palate, sa sfărâm ouă Faberge."

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