To begin: Anya von Bremzen's new book Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing is not a cookbook, nor is it a one dimensional Julia Child joke. It is rather a memoir disguised as a cookbook and a joke about a cookbook. It's also a thousand other things, multi-dimensional and laden with irony and intelligence, history and humor. I couldn't put it down.
Of course, I may be one of von Bremzen's ideal readers: a food writer and former Soviet Studies major who once read The 900 Days, Harrison E. Salisbury's account of the siege of Leningrad, which has almost as many pages as days, just for fun.
Okay, fun is maybe the wrong word for a book about the siege of Leningrad. Fun is also not the word you might expect to describe a memoir of growing up amid Soviet hunger, but that's what this book is -- and a lot of fun at that.
Von Bremzen is the author of five cookbooks, countless magazine and newspaper pieces, and the recipient of three James Beard awards. She's also a profoundly gifted writer, able to lace information with observation, observation with wit. She sifts the history of the Soviet Union she left as a ten-year-old with the history of her family, viewing much of that through the lens of food.More »