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Brush the top of the pastry with the egg glaze. With a fork, prick small holes through the top for the steam to escape. Bake until golden-brown, about minutes.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking A Memoir of Food and Longing

Let cool for 20 minutes, cut into rectangles or squares, and serve. In Russia, where ravenous guests often dropped in unexpectedly, my mother relied on this simple scrumptious dessert that could be whipped up in minutes from a few apples and seasonal berries baked in a rustic cast-iron skillet under an aromatic cap of puffy batter. Decades later, mom and I both still make often. Make sure to pass around some creme fraiche or whipped cream. Butter a inch cast-iron skillet and dust the bottom with the bread crumbs.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the milk, vanilla and 1 cup of the granulated sugar. Beat in the 6 tablespoons of melted butter until incorporated, then beat in the flour until a thick batter forms. Spread one-fourth of the batter in the prepared skillet and top with the apples and berries. Using an offset spatula, spread the remaining batter over the fruit in an even layer.

Scatter the remaining 8 to 12 blackberries on top and gently press them into the batter. Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Slice into wedges and serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream. Which did you enjoy most?

Excerpt from Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking | Penguin Random House Canada

If you were to choose a single food to symbolize your childhood, what would it be? In whose experiences were you most interested? When Anya and Larisa arrive in the United States, they experience mixed emotions. How does the book describe the immigrant experience? Have you read other books that portray it differently? What do these reading choices say about their personalities? Before reading the book, what was your perception of the Soviet Union during the Cold War? For Anya and others of her generation, foods like kolbasa and kotleti carry vivid memories of a childhood in the Soviet Union.

What are your most cherished food memories?


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Despite their hatred of the State, Anya and her mother experience a bittersweet nostalgia for the life they left behind, sometimes even for elements of it they disliked. Have you experienced similar feelings about a time in your past or a place you lived? Search for: Search Clear. Book Club in a Box: Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking Here's everything you need to create an extraordinary book group meeting: a great memoir, delicious recipes, and a reader's guide to get the discussion going.

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Good caviar and vodka were cheaply and widely available, blini were indeed delicious, and when we ventured to a restaurant, I had Georgian chicken stew that soothed my wintry ache. You can smoke anywhere. Cigarettes are listed on the coffee shop menu. Grocery stores require that you bag and label your produce.

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My single apple needed its own plastic bag, and I was chastised for not knowing this. For a non-Russian-speaking tourist in December, it was challenging to navigate but there were many gifts, edible, aesthetic, and otherwise. Von Bremzen, a former pianist, wrote Please to the Table which I borrowed from my library many years ago , an indispensable reference of Russian cooking, aspects of which are homey, grounding, and fermented. Those trendy probiotics in kvass, kombucha, and yogurt have roots in Soviet lands.

Her father left the family when von Bremzen was five, and she grew up in a Moscow apartment with her mother, an anti-Romanov and anti-Bolshevik.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

For a time they lived in a communal apartment where eighteen families shared a kitchen -- unimaginable. Von Bremzen immigrated to Philadelphia in , and when she tasted bad food, it was just bad, without any political righteousness. There was no suffering for a cause, like in Russia, where one ate stale bread for the motherland. Lots of Americans continue to eat really terrible food. We spend very little on food in this country and don't seem to have culinary education or taste.

There's certainly a quickness to assume that certain cuisines are awful, borne of ignorance or xenophobia. They begin with the Silver Age and concoct a pre-Soviet feast, before cooking through the more depressing and leaner times. She writes that food is to Russians what landscape or class was to the English, love to the French, and war to Germans.


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They read Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Pushkin. There's an ambivalence in the Russian greats writing about food. Von Bremzen lets us know that there are eighty-six kinds of food mentioned in Dead Souls.


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She says that the literary gluttony usually serves to point out moral failings. It points to a complicated Russian relationship with food. Lev Tolstoy, who famously tried to be a vegetarian and force his family to adapt to the ascetic ways, also wrote of great feasts.