Book Reviews

Book Review: Russian Cuisine

Russian cuisine details the development and evolution of traditional cooking this vast country.

Russia is world’s largest country with 11 time zones, 180 ethnic groups, several climates, and foods that grow in each of these regions. People living in each of these regions use ingredients that are widely available and affordable.

All traditional recipes have undergone several alterations over hundreds of years, pending on political events, and whims of absolute rulers.

The author, a Muscovite, immigrated to Canada as a teenager, and studied home economics, but retained traditional Russian recipes with help from her mother.

In this well-illustrated book she provides a thorough history of evolution from Medieval-, to Muscovia Tsardom-, the Imperial Period-, Late Imperial Era-, Soviet Era-, and modern Russian cooking.

The profound change of eating habits since 1990’s is open to discussion and interpretation.

Russian cuisine was never widely publicized in North America during the “Cold war” era. It must be stated that Russian cuisine enjoys a long tradition, as well as finesse in pre-Revolution eating habits.

A special section outlines all basic ingredients, which are widely available in Canadian mainstream grocery stores, except maybe whole millet, rye, wheat and buckwheat, but all can be purchased in health food stores.

There are several easy-to-prepare zakuski (appetizer) recipes, soup preparations (Russians finely divide soups into 10 categories including cold-, vegetable-, fish soups just to name a few), which are followed by main course staples such as pelmeni (mostly known as pirogis by North Americans), boiled beef, pork, goose, fish, stuffed vegetables, boiled grains, blinis (buckwheat crepes), and desserts.

During Tsarist Russia, the nobility employed, French, German, Swiss, Austrian, and even English chefs all of whom adopted their recipes to Russian ingredients. One of them is still quite popular in western restaurants. It is salmon Koulebyaka ( coulibiac de saumon).

The final chapter covers Soviet Era recipes all of which list recipes developed to use easy-to-grow, widely available, inexpensive, and s ingredients with long shelf life.

Russian Cuisine is a book for all looking for healthy, tasty and relatively easy-to-produce recipes.

Highly recommended.

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