A James Beard Award-winning writer captures life under the Red socialist banner in this wildly inventive, tragicomic memoir of feasts, famines, and three generationsÂ Â With startling beauty and sardonic wit, Anya von Bremzen tells an intimate yet epic story of life in that vanished empire known as the USSRâ€”a place where every edible morsel was packed with emotional and political meaning. Â Â Â Â Born in 1963, in an era of bread shortages, Anya grew up in a communal Moscow apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen. She sangÂ odesÂ to Lenin, black-marketeeredÂ Juicy Fruit gumÂ at school, watched her father brew moonshine, and,Â like most Soviet citizens, longed forÂ a taste of the mythical West. It was a life by turns absurd, drab, naively joyous, melancholyâ€”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. Â Â Â Â 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 experienceâ€”turning Larisaâ€™s kitchen into a "time machine and an incubator of memories.â€ť Together, mother and daughter re-create meals both modest and sumptuous, featuring a decadent fish pie from the pages of Chekhov, chanakhi (Stalinâ€™s favorite Georgian stew), blini, and more. Â Â Â Â Through these meals, Anya tells the gripping story of three Soviet generationsâ€”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.Â We meet Anyaâ€™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: Leninâ€™s bloody grain requisitioning, World War II hunger and survival, Stalinâ€™s table manners, Khrushchevâ€™s kitchen debates, Gorbachevâ€™s disastrous anti-alcohol policies. And, ultimately, the collapse of the USSR.Â And all of it is bound together by Anyaâ€™s passionate nostalgia, sly humor, and piercing observations.Â Â Â Â Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is that rare book that stirs our souls and our senses.
Cooking, Food & Wine, Regional & International, European,