Sunday, August 26, 2018

Russian Food Stories from the Far East

Although I have an ever-growing collection of food memoirs and cookbooks from all over the world, I will always have a big weakness for those who are sharing more than cooking tips and recipes. All my favorite ones are bringing me closer to a special table culture, unique ingredients and historical approaches to food and nutrition.
T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks by Sharon Hudgins and Tom Hudgins is my latest addition to the category of favorites. It is not only because it features a cuisine that I am fearfully approaching as a cook but due to its variety of dishes and certain familiarity. Over the years, I made peace with the thoughts that most probably will never made my own borscht - the Russian version to do not antagonize those who have a different story about the origin of this liquid meal - or Napoleon, but will always enjoy both, and many more, over a Samovar-made tea and a good story. 
Although most of this book is made by recipes - with detailed directions that made me dream that maybe I can do at least one of them too - the cultural and anthropological background helped placing the recipes in their specific context. 
You - at least I am guilty of such subjective thoughts -  may rarely expect something outstanding coming up from Siberia and the Russian Far East. Nevertheless, while on various academic assignments in the mid-1990s and during late visits, Hudgins is revealing a world frozen - no only literally - in old culinary times, burgeoining from a visit to another following contact with new foods and eating habits, slowly arriving after the opening of the country to the Western consummerism. 
The recipes are spiced with personal accounts of their encounters with local Russians and additional information about specific holidays and traditions, or literary references to food. As an unique American-authored book about Russian Far East, T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks is not only a culinary resource but also an anthropological account of the local mentalities, histories and customs.

Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review