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Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook Paperback – January 11, 1990

4.8 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Is there more to Russian cookery than beets, cabbage, and sour cream? Please to the Table, a comprehensive guide that takes readers and cooks from the Baltics to Uzbekistan, should absolutely bury that question. Russia alone is bigger than the U.S. and Canada combined; its people claim more than 100 different nationalities and languages. Throw in the other 14 former Soviet republics, cook a feast, and you'll sample everything from Moldavian marinated peppers to cold yogurt and cucumber soup to Uzbek lamb stew to crawfish boiled in beer to open cheese tartlets, Russian tea, and, yes, beef stroganoff--nearly every major culinary style is represented here. Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman capture the soul of Mother Russia in 400 recipes joined together with a literate overview of each culinary piece in this magnificent jigsaw puzzle of a nation. The cook will be amply rewarded, and readers will travel far and wide through flavors and feasts only dimly imagined in the West.

From Publishers Weekly

Soviet cuisine has as many sides as the numerous nationalities and ethnic groups that comprise it in this fascinating compilation of regional recipes. The authors, a Soviet emigre pianist from Moscow and her British art historian husband, offer essays on the history of Russian, Baltic, Georgian, Central Asian, Ukrainian and Armenian foods, including the influences of climate, geography and conquest on the development of distinctive flavors. Classically Russian wild mushrooms and basic Ukrainian peasant borscht contrast with exotic Azerbaijani quail and pomegranate sauce and Uzbeki steamed lamb dumplings. Suggested menus also highlight the impact of other cultures on the vast U.S.S.R.: a Russian vodka party features French-inspired pate; an Armenian meze (appetizer) buffet with spiced feta and halvah is closer to the Middle East than the West; and a Passover dinner includes chicken pilaf with apples, raisins and quince, created by Jews of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, who now live in New York. Despite the chronic food shortages in Moscow that create a cuisine based more on processed food, vodka and frugality than on quality, the authors suggest that hospitality is the hallmark of the Soviet culinary scene. BOMC Home Style and Better Homes & Gardens Book Club selection.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company (January 11, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0894807536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0894807534
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book contains great recipes for the foods that my grandmother fed me as a kid (she left Russia in 1922), as well as the foods that I ate there as an exchange student (in 1995).
This book covers a wide variety of foods and regions. I noticed that there were some reviewers complaining that this book calls for ingredients that aren't used in Russia. Not so. The Russian Empire has incredibly varied regional cuisine. In an empire covering more than 6 million square miles, not everybody is going to make the exact same dishes, nor make similar ones the exact same way. Heck, they don't even all speak the same language. When visiting the south-east, you'll find a heavy "asian/oriental" influence, the use of soy and ginger; In the north-west, more of a European influence; and in the south-west, more of a "middle eastern" influence. This book has a nice sampling of all three of these, as well as many others. 'Pomegranate Grilled Lamb Chops' shows the middle eastern influence of Azerbaijan, 'Roast Pork Paprikash' shows the influence of Eastern European Moldavia... and the preponderance of rice throughout the book shows the influence of the Southern Asian countries.
I have bought every Russian cookbook I have been able to lay my hands on over the years, and this is the first one I reach for when I want to look something up. It's logically arranged, has a comprehensive index, and some great anecdotes. A wonderful addition to any international food lovers' library.
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Format: Paperback
This cookbook is the most-used of any in my home. Having lived in Crimea (in southern Ukraine) with and amongst Russians, I find myself reading Anya von Bremzen's _Please to the Table_ for sheer pleasure and nostalgia. I infinitely prefer it to _The Art of Russian Cuisine_ by Anne Volokh. Although I admire Volokh's work as comprehensive, the results from her recipes taste less like the cooking I ate in my my own and my friends' homes on a daily basis, and more like the mediocre food I ate during rare hotel and restaurant meals. I also find _The Art of Russian Cuisine_ lacking in many dishes that were staples of home cooking and entertaining in my milieu.

In _Please to the Table_, I found the recipes for dishes that I know well to be very authentic indeed. I'd like to address specifically one criticism I saw here in a review, that von Bremzen uses paprika in her recipes. The reviewer wrote that "Paprika is not an ingredient which is traditionally used in Russian cooking. It is the spice of Central Europe (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, etc.)..." True that Hungarian paprika is not a traditional ingredient of pure Russian cuisine. However, I disagree that it is inauthentic. First, this cookbook covers most of the former USSR, including the western republics such as Moldova and Ukraine, where influence from Central Europe shows up in the food. Second, the great home cooks I knew used what they called red pepper ("krasnij perets") more often than black pepper, and the red pepper where _I_ lived tasted much more like a mixture of hot and sweet paprika than like cayenne, which is what you get in the U.S. if you buy something called simply "red pepper". If von Bremzen's recipes called for "red pepper," then the recipes would taste spicier and much less authentic than they do.
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Format: Paperback
_Please to the Table_ is without a doubt the most-used cookbook I own (and I have dozens!) I love cooking and baking, but was a total novice at anything beyond Central Europe -- much to the initial dismay of my Ukrainian-born husband. We've since read and re-read this cookbook together, including the delightful narrative sections and literary excerpts. (He's especially fond of the Gogol bits!) It's got history, literature, cultural tidbits, and culinary savvy that make a fun read for anyone.
Not having ever eaten any of this food myself, and being one to generally prefer cookbooks with pictures, I was initially nervous about trying any of the recipes. But the directions are so precise and easy to follow that I can proudly say that every single recipe I've tried has been a smashing success. I have since tried other Russian and Ukrainian cookbooks, but none yields the same superlative results with my picky hubby -- and my critical in-laws!! ;) We've eaten our way across the entire former USSR, and loved every minute of it!
I would especially like to thank the author for the following recipes (whose pages are stained and whose ingredients are responsible for not a few of the extra pounds on my man's middle...): "My Mother's Vegetarian Borscht" -- you can add beef if you like, but even his father (who is a professional Soviet-trained cook) didn't notice it was missing. His sister pronounced this borscht her favorite - over their mother's - and she has never made any secret about not liking me, so that's a ringing endorsement! "Apple Baba" -- this one is a unanimous hit and my husband always begs me to make it for guests. I usually add 2 extra apples and double the cinnamon, though, by popular request. The "Rum Baba" makes a great New Year's treat.
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Format: Paperback
I treasure this book. I read it again and again and never tire of its beautiful and vivid descriptions of food and feasting in the former Soviet Union. When I open "Please To The Table" I become infected by the authors' enthusiasm for the cuisine of half a dozen countries. Even though I'm not normally an adventurous eater, and I rarely have time to cook, every time I open this book, I can't help being seduced by the descriptions of each dish. Instantly, I'm in the mood to entertain. I want to fires up the stove, load up the table, chill some vodka, and gather my friends about me.
My Russian-born husband nods fondly when I read aloud to him from this book and gets so excited by the tantalizing promise that perhaps we can recreate some of his old favorite dishes. So far, everything I've tried has turned out beautifully.
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