Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
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.