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Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking [Kindle Edition]

Anya von Bremzen
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"Moving and darkly comic" -- Niki Segnit The Sunday Times "Heartbreakingly poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. This is an important book, a must read!" Heston Blumenthal "Vastly entertaining... A real treat." Woman & Home "By turns funny, tragic and nostalgic, this is a wonderful, fascinating volume, which puts a human face on the grim pages of the history books" The Lady "This poignant memoir is an education in the richness of eastern European cuisine, and the story of Soviet communism, through the lens of family experience." Observer

Book Description


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3477 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (12 Sep 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552777471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552777476
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #113,048 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Growing up in the West during the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s, international relations were dominated by this thing called the Cold War. The war was between 'us' and 'them' - a whole different, entirely undesirable, backward, and frightening other world behind this other thing called the Iron Curtain. It probably never entered my empty teenage head that there were people just like us behind this Iron Curtain - Mums, Dads, children, teenagers, grandparents. They were, quite simply, all communists - baddies, a serious threat to the democracies we pretty much took for granted. But after reading this memoir by a woman of a similar age to me, is it possible that threat may well have been a lot of hot air? It seems they were all too damn hungry and spent too much time standing in queues to be a threat to anyone!

Nevertheless, Anya von Bremzen's memoir is a book truly written from the heart - for her mother and grandmothers, her father, her grandfather, her fellow Soviets, the terrible waste, deaths, family tragedies all resulting from the megalomania of a few. In their own way each of the leaders was mad. The chapter on Stalin is the most compelling and frightening to read, Khrushchev is positively boring in comparison, and the chapter on Gorbachev was a complete revelation. In the Western media, I remember him being portrayed in glowing terms - perestroika, glasnost and all that. But in the USSR it seems he was quite a different sort of fish.

And of course throughout the book there is the food. It is amazing how we so often associate food with how we feel, our overall well being and happiness with ourselves, our lives and how it lives on in our memories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Toska, nostalgia, memories... 12 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I just learned a new word, "toska", "that peculiarly Russian ache of the soul", and it certainly runs through this memoir - do not let the title make you think it is a cookbook. Covering the author's family and their lives from tsarist Russia through the Soviet era, the cold war, Glasnost and to 2011 Putin times, I found it intensely fascinating.

Growing up in Norway in the 1970s and 1980s, Soviet was a large, menacing presence to the east. We heard of bread lines and bombs and saw pictures of grave-looking men in the Kremlin in the news, but ordinary people were not part of our consciousness of Soviet. Certainly not their food, did they have any at all? My first trip there was in 1990, to then Leningrad, and my main memory were the empty shops, and for us privileged tourists the eternal chicken. I was 17, and knew far too little of the realities...

From her mother's table in New York, Anya von Bremzen recounts her family's lives as privileged in some eras, shunned in others - the mosaic is rich and the food imagery brings it out for me. Unlike other reviewers, I found the topic well matched to the amount of detail given, and would wholeheartedly recommend this to those interested in a bygone time. Perhaps the "larger picture" isn't always there or sometimes seems divorced from the historical accounts included, as she tends to focus on the microcosmos of her own family or apartment building, but since she is recording her own experiences from childhood, it rings true to me. Intimate and distant in even measures, lovely.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply remarkable 17 Jan 2014
By amd
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Don't be fooled by the title of this book. - you won't find 100 things to do with beetroot (well, maybe some ideas); rather it is a wonderfully poignant personal and social chronicle of the Soviet Union as reflected through its culinary culture. The author - an émigré from Soviet Russia - skilfully guides the reader through her often dichotomous relationship with the Soviet Union in such a way that her personal story provides a compelling evocation of the lives of many.
Nor does the book come under the mantle of misery memoire. Whilst endless winters and deprivation play a role, the queues become a locus of dissidence, gossip and romance. Soviet Man and Woman go to bed longing not only nutritional satiety but also cultural and intellectual.
This book is beautifully written with an overwhelming feeling of toska or longing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars confused 29 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fascinating topic but executed in a inconsistent manner. It is neither a book about food and cooking, nor is it a proper insight into the broader cultural context of food in pre-Gorbachov's Soviet Union. Refugee's nostalgia is not enough to carry the whole book.
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