Side note: So yes it’s been a while. Me and the boyfriend just moved into our very own house a few months ago, and with everything that needs doing, and organising we didn’t really have much time for internet (or we shouldn’t have…) so we only got our internet connected last week. But yay I’m back and hoping to post a bit more regularly, although my focus is still off a bit. I have quite a few reviews to catch up on so I should get on it really!
Born in a surreal Moscow communal apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen, Anya von Bremzen grew up singing odes to Lenin, black-marketeering Juicy Fruit gum at school, and longing for a taste of the mythical West. It was a life by turns absurd, drab, naively joyous, melancholy and, finally, intolerable. In 1974, when Anya was ten, she and her mother fled to the USA, with no winter coats and no right of return. These days, Anya is the doyenne of high-end food writing. And yet, the flavour of Soviet kolbasa, like Proust’s madeleine, transports her back to that vanished Atlantis known as the USSR .
It’s been a while since I actually read this, so my review may be a little sketchy, although I at least have a few general thoughts which I knew I wanted to share.
This book it a bit difficult to put into a box, part memoir, part biography, part history book, part food book, part cookbook. It all sort of fits together, although it has a bit of a flighty nature jumping between present day and the past- and not just Anya’s past, her parent’s past too, and her grandparents. It sort of makes a bit of a clash, although the historical bits are more or less in order sometimes it is difficult to connect different events, especially when it becomes more history than biography. Maybe it’s meant to be like that- with the idea of the gap between the government and the general population. It’s hard to connect what she says about the government with what it happening ‘out there’.
I did find it a little slow at first for this reason. I found Anya’s first hand accounts easier to connect with and found I wanted to read the book more when she was a young girl in the narrative, probably it is easier to narrate something which has happened to you personally.
I didn’t get the same sort of sense of amazing food from the food descriptions as I have in other books about food, maybe because I don’t really have any experience of Russian cuisine. Having said that I’ve wanted to try foods from descriptions before, and a lot of the time the descriptions given by Anya were expecting prior knowledge.
I did like the way that history was told with food as a starting point, it made it accessible, and the parallel between those who ate whatever they could get and those who had whatever they wanted was interesting.
Have I missed your review? Leave me a link in comments and I’ll addd it here.