July 01, 2015

The Joy of Soviet Cooking

Imagine for a moment that Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia, had actually met her heroine, Julia Child. Then imagine that they worked through all 524 of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking together. Picture Julie slicing and dicing (and dishwashing) while Julia sips wine and urges fearlessness.

This is pretty close to what Anna Kharzeeva, 28, food blogger and founder of the Moscow-based Samovar Cookery School, is doing with her grandmother, Elena Moiseyevna. The pair are cooking their way through the iconic Soviet culinary bible, The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food. Each week or so, Kharzeeva tackles a recipe from “The Book” (as it is known to its fans, such as Anya von Bremzen, author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking) while her grandmother coaches, puts the recipes into historical context, and, more often than not, rescues Kharzeeva from certain culinary disaster. Kharzeeva then blogs about their adventures for Russia Beyond the Headlines in posts that are informative, witty, and always full of culinary fun.

Kharzeeva and Moiseyevna have very different attitudes towards The Book. Kharzeeva, typical of her generation of cosmopolitan Muscovites, loves international cuisine and is frankly more at home with Jamie Oliver than Anastas Mikoyan, Stalin’s Commissar for Foreign Trade whose passionate pet project The Book was. For her, The Book at times seems like a relic from a bygone era.

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