“The Hot Dishes of the Cold War”: a journey through Soviet kitchens

Delivered. Evoking the fall of the USSR, dismantled just thirty years ago, on December 25, 1991, through cooking recipes may seem a bit offbeat. But journalist Guélia Pevzner invites us on a wonderful journey behind the stove, by mixing personal ingredients and others, more material, from the Book of good and healthy food, the Soviet culinary bible first published in 1939, in the midst of Stalinist terror, and never equaled since. By a curious twist in history, the author, French of Russian origin, recovered a copy from the 1960s, kept by Benedictine monks in Champagne. The first page bore this eloquent dedication: “To remember the to the stage some camps. “

Then begins the narration, all in flavors, of a submerged world on the basis of this primer known to all, practical, although “Richly seasoned with quotes from the classics of Marxism”, and above all, unique. Which did not bother anyone, specifies the narrator, since“He was in harmony with (…) the only political party “. The illustrations of sumptuous tables, crumbling under the “champanskoye” » (Soviet sparkling wine) in gleaming ice buckets, far removed from reality, spoiled nothing. Not even inconceivable dishes like “Woodcock, snipe, teal and fried quail”, when “Getting a simple chicken was already a feat”. Whatever. The book was offered for a wedding, a birth, a retirement. He was an indispensable companion.

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His numerous councils fulfilled their mission: to educate the masses, even in the field of tableware, a universe, perhaps even more than others, fantasized. For those who, like the author, too young, have not known the Holodomor, the organized famine in Ukraine, or the deprivations of the Second World War, there remain the Brezhnev years (1964-1982) which correspond to the period known as “stagnation” (” zastoï »), when the USSR began to freeze in on itself, with its share of shortages. We called them, by necessity, “The vegetarian years”. A pineapple was then quite simply a mirage.

In the juice of the time

“As we approached the end of socialism, we lost most of the cheeses, sausages and even canned vegetables from the countries of the Soviet bloc,” testifies the journalist. By the end of the USSR, there were only two or three varieties of each type of product left. (…). Proper names gave way to generics. “Buy cheese”, my grandmother used to say to me. (…). Needless to say which one, she knew I would buy whatever I find. The Soviets even diverted a word “deficit” to designate a product unobtainable unearthed after hanging around for hours in front of the empty window of a products (a grocery store), without even knowing what it was. On returning home, they said thus: “I bought a deficit. “

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“The Hot Dishes of the Cold War”: a journey through Soviet kitchens