A Culinary Novel on Soviet Cuisine Reminisces about an Empire Foodways {Fragrant Recipes & Taste Notes}


A French translation of Küche totalitär: Das Kochbuch des Sozialismus by Wladimir and Olga Kaminer just came out in September 2012 in France calling attention to a title which was first published in German in 2007. La Cuisine Totalitaire is what one may well see to be a "culinary novel", a hybrid, slightly fictionalized genre whose central thematic is food and which is happy to remain practical as well with its inclusion of tested-and-tried recipes...

The book offers a storied account of the authors' experiences in Soviet fares weaved into a series of narratives. Now based in Berlin, the former Moscovite (Wladimir) and Sakhaline native (Olga) take a walk down memory lane filled with tasty, flavorful nostalgia allowing readers to discover some of the particularities of the Soviet foodways in an approachable manner as they present the flavors of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Georgia, Siberia, Tatarstan etc.

The authors look at these foodways as endangered species and wish to commit them to memory for the future generations. 

It is no mere chance that the book is entitled in the original German the "cookbook of socialism" as in the period when the authors grew up in the Soviet Union, private restaurants were unknown. You therefore garner insights from socialist venues such as the school cantina and home-made food.

We have to say that just thinking of the latter brings back memories of instreaming of fresh produces from country dachas and marvelous displays of ingenuity to get some highly sought out food favorites. Well, it was not always marvelous, far from it, but still, the Soviets' resourcefulness was admirable. 

Illustrations are by Vitali Konstantinov. 

Gaïa editions, 192 pages.  

Available at Amazon.fr and Amazon.de

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