Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

A Memoir of Love and Longing
Von Bremzen, Anya (Book - 2013 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

Item Details

Random House, Inc.

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

With startling beauty and sardonic wit, Anya von Bremzen tells an intimate yet epic story of life in that vanished empire known as the USSR—a place where every edible morsel was packed with emotional and political meaning.
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, drab, naively joyous, 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, in its full flavor, both bitter and sweet, Anya and Larisa, embark on a journey unlike any other: they decide to eat and cook their way through every decade of the Soviet experience—turning Larisa’s kitchen into a "time machine and an incubator of memories.” Together, mother and daughter re-create meals both modest and sumptuous, featuring a decadent fish pie from the pages of Chekhov, chanakhi (Stalin’s favorite Georgian stew), blini, and more.
Through these meals, Anya tells the gripping story of three Soviet generations—
masterfully capturing the strange mix of idealism, cynicism, longing, and terror that defined Soviet life. We meet her grandfather Naum, a glamorous intelligence chief under Stalin, and her grandmother Liza, who made a perilous odyssey to icy, blockaded Leningrad to find Naum during World War II. We meet Anya’s hard-drinking, sarcastic father, Sergei, who cruelly abandons his family shortly after Anya is born; and we are captivated by Larisa, the romantic dreamer who grew up dreading the black public loudspeakers trumpeting the glories of the Five-Year Plan. Their stories unfold against the vast panorama of Soviet history: Lenin’s bloody grain requisitioning, World War II hunger and survival, Stalin’s table manners, Khrushchev’s kitchen debates, Gorbachev’s disastrous anti-alcohol policies. And, ultimately, the collapse of the USSR. And all of it is bound together by Anya’s passionate nostalgia, sly humor, and piercing observations.
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is that rare book that stirs our souls and our senses.

Baker & Taylor
A multi-generational memoir by a celebrated food writer captures the flavors of the mid-20th-century Soviet experience, tracing her upbringing by an anti-Soviet mother, her witness to the political events that led to the empire's collapse and the parallel food universes of her life that evinced both simple and sumptuous fare.

Authors: Von Bremzen, Anya
Title: Mastering the art of Soviet cooking
a memoir of love and longing
Publisher: New York :, Crown Publishers,, [2013]
Edition: First edition
Characteristics: viii, 338 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Content Type: text
Media Type: unmediated
Carrier Type: volume
Contents: Prologue: Poisoned madeleines
Feasts, famines, histories
1910s: Last days of the Czars
1920s: Lenin's cake
1930s: Thank you, comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood
1940s: Of bullets and bread
1950s: Tasty and healthy
1960s: Corn, communism, caviar
1970s: Mayonnaise of my homeland
1980s: Moscow through the shot glass
1990s: Broken banquets
Twenty-first century: Putin on the Ritz
Mastering the art of Soviet recipes
ISBN: 0307886816
Statement of Responsibility: Anya von Bremzen
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references
Subject Headings: Moscow (Russia) Biography Russian Americans Biography Russia (Federation) Social conditions 1991- Soviet Union Social life and customs COOKING/ Regional & Ethinic / Russian HISTORY / Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs Food habits Soviet Union Cooking, Russian History 20th century Women cooks Soviet Union Biography Food writers United States Biography Von Bremzen, Anya
Topical Term: Russian Americans
COOKING Regional & Ethinic Russian
HISTORY Europe Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Food habits
Cooking, Russian
Women cooks
Food writers
LCCN: 2013007787
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Mar 09, 2014
  • Markus_10 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A thoroughly enjoyable read. Von Bremzen very cleverly weaves together broader Soviet history with her family's personal history, as well as a few recipes representing different historical periods. She has an excellent sense of the ironic and the absurd. Her recounting of her grandmother's and mother's experiences growing up in the USSR is somehow more fascinating than her own, perhaps because they take place principally in that country rather than in the United States.


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Version pocillo (pocillo) Last updated 2014/08/21 13:32