Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen

I’m one of those people that will sit and talk anyone’s ear off about food, especially my favorite restaurants over the years. I love the idea of food as a way to move through the story of one’s life, and a way to move through the story of a country. I love the play on the title too. Von Bremzen intertwines her story with that of her rodina, or motherland.

I only found this delightful memoir for Read Harder as I was looking for a food book about a cuisine that I’ve never tried and I honestly can’t remember ever having Soviet or Russian food. I wouldn’t really know what most of it was, but I’ve never seen a restaurant for it that I’ve recognized and I didn’t recognize the names of the foods mentioned either.

Von Bremzen walks the reader through life in the Soviet Union through food, explaining where her family fit into each era. It was fascinating to listen to. I grew up during the Cold War with stories from a mother who escaped communism in Cuba as a child. In this book, I revisited a lot of the promise and the problems that I remember her talking about. The author does an amazing job of explaining the messaging from the Soviet leadership as well as the impressions and living conditions of the typical citizen. She writes in a loving and nostalgic tone, even relaying the negatives.

After listening to this memoir, I wish I could find a place that serves some of these foods. There is a downloadable recipe section that was a part of the audiobook, but my phone wasn’t supported. The curiosity was too great though and I borrowed the ebook afterward so I can take a look at the recipes. This last section of recipes makes for a fun summary of the book as a whole. Von Bremzen includes the main recipe per decade with a small introduction. I loved it. I’m not enough of a cook to really take advantage of this inclusion but I loved this section of the book and am glad that I went back to look at it. Maybe one day I’ll start working through cookbooks too….As it is, I appreciate the sentiment that food tells its own story about who we are and where we live.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is a brilliant memoir that I enjoyed more than most. It was entertaining while giving an enormous amount of information about the Soviet Union and the food that embodied each period. It’s a great book for Read Harder Task 13. Add it to your Goodreads and Litsy TBR at the links.

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