This compact book paints a warm and delicious picture of a country whose cuisine is largely misunderstood by Americans. Taken from her three years living in Moscow in the early 1990s, a tumultuous period that marked the fall of the Russian Communist Party, Jones recounts her experiences in Russian homes and shares the true cuisine of Russia, not the poor gruel of the economic crisis nor the overly opulent, frozen-in-the-aspic-of-time foods of a bygone era. She was “never served a Charlotte Russe, Strawberries Romanov, Beef Stroganov, [or] Chicken Kiev” during her time in Russia, but instead “delicious food lovingly prepared by skillful cooks.”
Although the book includes a recipe for Borscht (perhaps the most widely known “Russian” soup), Jones explains that borscht is really a Ukrainian dish and that real Russians prepare Shchi, a cabbage soup that’s simple, delicious, and the perfect comfort food on a cold night. Like Shchi, the rest of the recipes are inviting, simple, and soul-satisfyingly free of fanfare. Potato Casserole with Mushroom Sauce, a real standout, tops baked dill-flecked mashed potatoes with a densely savory sauce.
Each chapter opens with a vignette—tales of a simple meal at a communal apartment, a foray into a Butter Week bliny festival, an autumn wedding—followed by recipes that relate to the scene. Through Jones’ writing and recipes, the cold and frozen images of Russia recede, replaced by thoughts of cozy homes, warm dishes, and welcoming people sharing their proud traditions.
GIVE THIS TO: Comfort-food junkies looking for something a little different. —Tiffany Vickers Davis