Author: Anya von Bremzen
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publishing Date: 2014
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.
When I requested this book, the only thing I knew is that it would be about Russia, but I doubt I knew that it would be about Russia that my family has experienced for three generations, from 1900s to 1990s when my family finally immigrated from there. I personally wish I could gift this book to all the American Jews so they could gain a better understanding for what Eastern European Jews went through and had to deal with on a daily basis. The story is not only focused on food and on alienation in Russia but it also talked about the daily life, the lines, the surprising and shocking origins of some foods and there is culture and politics, but its given in small doses and there is more focus on Russian daily life than anything else.
Reading it has been both a tiring and an exhilarating experience, and let's just say that 1990s was more shocking than I thought it would be. I was a child in 1990s, and only memories I have of Russia include the delicious food my mom has made, reading fairy tales, the seasons and some movies and music. Imagine my dismay and shock on what my young self and my parents have faced in 1990s when I read this story! I also imagine gaining a greater understanding for my parents and my grandparents and how they survived Russia. If you want to learn more about Russia and see how people lived and functioned then pick up and read the book.
This is for Blogging for Books
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)