It was a long time since I've read an interesting food memoir and blame me - not the scarcity of publications - for this situation. Luckily, my reading return was in full style, as Anya Bremzen's Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking resonated greatly with my own although peculiar, culinary experiences.
Living in a totalitarian regime means that food and history and political evolutions are always going together. The modest opening of the regime may mean a dramatic change on the menu, as more ingredients become available thanks to the Party's gratitude, for instance. Being born in such a system gives you a certain ability to seize the right moment and eventually, improve the recipe. Thus, it is hard to say how much history and how much food you can find in this well-writen memoir. Biographical details and cooking skills are going together and the result is an extensive journey through the Soviet life - and kitchens. From tsarist Russia to Putin's nouveau riche, Anya von Bremzen covers with a journalistic attention all the details. You can feel the longing and imagine the smells going out of the kitchen in this Proustian Russian translation - and adaptation.
Although enjoyed the story telling from the first part, the travel and writing part dedicated to the discovery of various regional cuisines of what used to be once Soviet Union was very appealing for me.
Fortunately, the book also has a couple of recipes at the end and I am curious to try some of them too - Cornbread for Khrushchev, anyone ?