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Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook Paperback – January 11, 1990
100 Books for a Lifetime of Eating & Drinking
If you want to make an authentic tagine, bake mouth-watering cakes, or vicariously experience the life of a chef, you’ll find the book for it on this list.
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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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Top Customer Reviews
In recent years I have gotten away from buying cook books because I don't use them enough. They seem to have only one style of food. This one still hasn't even made it to my shelf because I keep using it because it is great for everyday cooking and weekend cooking when I have more time and fits so many different moods.
The author went out of her way to make the recipes adaptable to Western grocery and produce selections, and she did a pretty good job doing that.
I happen to disagree with some of the reviews that claim that the book is poorly edited and is "stretching" the content by padding it with "useless notes" in margins and other things. I think that the authors made a very fine job adding quotes from Russian favorite writers, anecdotes, and humorous stories, representing common habits and ways of the Soviet era. After all, for many people a cookbook is not merely a list of recipes, but an exciting opportunity to learn about other peoples and cultures.
I made quite a few dishes following the recipes religiously, and they all turned out great. Sure, my mom probably cooked some of these things slightly differently, but I believe if you follow the recipes, you will get a very good idea of what they should taste like, even though the groceries you are using are different from those available in Soviet Union.
Where this book is thoroughly lacking, it's in complete absence of food photos of any kind, and somewhat chaotic organization. Chapters listed in the Table of Contents are merely general description of the content, there is no way to search by recipe, unless you know its exact name, in which case you use the Index. Also, it would have been nice if the short stories in margins had some kind of search mechanism as well.
Even with all its flaws, the book is an excellent reference, both culinary and cultural. I would definitely recommend it to my non-Russian friends as well as former compatriots.
The subtitle (The Russian Cookbook) is somewhat misleading: the recipes go far beyond Russian cuisine and cover as vastly different regions as the Baltics, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. I believe, the author attempted to incorporate too many recipes from the former Soviet republics, often at the expense of Russian dishes. For instance, I searched but couldn't find the Russian/Ukrainian classic holiday dish of kholodets, also known as studen, which is an astonishing omission.
As far as cooking is concerned, the book is not easy to use: the Contents has narratives instead of dish names, chapters are poorly organized and include Appetizers with dishes from various cuisines, then cuisines by the region. In the Russian Cuisine chapter I find Uzbek dishes. I could never figure out the structure of this book or where to look for Russian dishes.
The recipes are rather complicated and time-consuming, but then, most old country recipes are like that.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend it as a cookbook, but as a pleasant reading and a nice present for someone who is interested in the diverse regions of the former USSR.