Politics and Piroshky

CCCP Cook Book: True Stories of Soviet Cuisine by Olga & Pavel Syutkin. Fuel Publishing, 2015. 9780993191114.

I picked this book up because of the vintage food illustrations. I’m a sucker for them in the cookbooks I collect, and I’d never seen any from the Soviet Union. Unlike the similar-looking promotional pictures for Crisco and Jell-O, the photos in this book promoted entire state-owned industries, or were illustrations from the cookbook that contained the required menu for all of the USSR’s cafeterias. The recipes are interesting (including a few I wouldn’t mind trying), but the short essays explaining each are solid gold. The recipe for Stolichny Salad tells the story of the elimination of Christmas and the gradual return of elements of it in later decades as a part of New Year’s celebrations. The one for Mimosa Salad tells how the ministry of fisheries used money earmarked for the Moscow Metro to purchase refrigerators so that fish could be processed immediately after it was caught. Later, there was a PR stunt to encourage people to buy canned fish: a rumor that smugglers had hidden jewelry inside the cans. The recipe for Solyanka Soup tells of the difficulties in providing something like fast food in time for the 1980 Olympics. (McDonald’s couldn’t be used because they wouldn’t reveal their ingredients, and Soviet officials were terrified that they would be jailed if something banned by their stringent regulations was found in the food.) And Pasta a la Navy starts with the delightful rumor that Soviet pasta was made on repurposed gun cartridge machinery because the noodles were the same caliber as Kalashnikov rifle rounds!


I Love Beets

Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak. Quadrille, 2016. 9781849497368.

This cookbook checks all my cookbook-requirement boxes: gorgeous food photographs, delicious ingredients, dishes I’ve never tried, instructions that aren’t too fiddly or time-consuming, and the very first page I flipped to had a recipe I want to make: roast beetroot slices with a garlic-filled white bread sauce. It’s worth reading through the recipes and not just skimming the dish names — there are alternate preparations, as well as recipes for sides, that sound great on their own, like a creamy cucumber and dill salad that’s tucked in the meat section with a recipe for breaded turkey escalope. Add the gorgeous cover and I’m completely sold. (It’s even prettier in real life than the picture: the reds are glorious, there’s spot gloss, relief, and an elegant gold accent. If this book was a dress, I’d wear it all the time.)

L’art de la cuisine française

Mastering the art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. Alfred A. Knopf, 2001. 9780394721781. 684 pp.

Okay, I admit when I was younger I truly did not appreciate Julia Child or her culinary prowess. She was quite manly and had the strangest voice. I had no idea that when I was watching her on PBS I was witnessing a true chef in her element. She was one of the true pioneers of celebrity cooking shows, highly skilled and full of zest for life, who has been often imitated but never duplicated.

Now that I have gotten older, maybe a little wiser, and have married a man who loves to cook I wanted to learn more about this zany lady. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia truly hit her stride. Her love and admiration for the French and their cuisine shines through. Decadent French recipes face their English translations. The entire book is going to end up covered in my drool. (Good thing I own this particular copy!)

Julia Child was a celebrity but she never lost touch with her audience. She didn’t see the need for glitz or glamour. Who really has every fancy cooking utensil or contraption at their disposal? I just wish I had appreciated this gem of a lady when she was still alive.

Guest review by Murphy’s Mom

My Life Sandwich List

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread by Susan Russo, photography by Matt Armendariz. Quirk Books, 2010. 9781594744389.

10,000 Snacks: A Cookbook of Canapes, Savories, Relishes, Hors D’Oeuvres, Sandwiches, and Appetizers for Before, After, and Between Meals by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, pictures by Julian Brazelton. Halcyon House, 1937.

encycsandwichGene: All right, these are from your permanent collection. Go.
Sarah: First, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches! It’s technically a cookbook but honestly I feel like it’s more of a checklist of sandwiches, regional and national, that you should eat. Because if I travel somewhere, I want to eat the sandwich of that place.
G: Doughnut sandwich? Where’s that from? Continue reading “My Life Sandwich List”

Cookbook Truth

Food52 Baking: 60 Sensational Treats You Can Pull Off in a Snap by the Editors of Food52.
Ten Speed Press, 2015.  9781607748014

food52bakingI had a library patron ask me where the cookbooks were (a common question), and when I asked her if there was a particular book she wanted she told me that she reads them to help her go to sleep! (If I was as honest as she was, I would say that I read cookbooks to pretend that I am the sort of person who lives in the pristine, beautiful homes in the photographs of the finished dishes.) Food52 Baking’s desserts are all photographed on a weathered wood table straight out of a farmhouse (or a really expensive New York City apartment) complete with antique-y props. The desserts I would try to make: Cardamom Currant Snickerdoodles and Brown Sugar Shortbread. Desserts I want someone else to make for me (too complicated): Pudding Chomeur, Baked Cardamom French Toast with Syrupy Meyer Lemons, and Hippie Crispy Treats.