What's Cooking in the Kremlin
By Witold Szablowski, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Translated by)
2023 • Penguin Books
In the gonzo spirit of Anthony Bourdain and Hunter S. Thompson, Witold Szabłowski has tracked down—and broken bread with—people whose stories of working in Kremlin kitchens impart a surprising flavor to our understanding of one of the world’s superpowers.
In revealing what Tsar Nicholas II’s and Lenin’s favorite meals were, why Stalin’s cook taught Gorbachev’s cook to sing to his dough, how Stalin had a food tester while he was starving the Ukrainians during the Great Famine, what the recipe was for the first soup flown into outer space, why Brezhnev hated caviar, what was served to the Soviet Union’s leaders at the very moment they decided the USSR should cease to exist, and whether Putin’s grandfather really did cook for Lenin and Stalin, Szabłowski has written a fascinating oral history—complete with recipes and photos—of Russia’s evolution from culinary indifference to decadence, famine to feasts, and of the Kremlin’s Olympics-style preoccupation with food as an expression of the country’s global standing.
Traveling across Stalin’s Georgia, the war fronts of Afghanistan, the nuclear wastelands of Chornobyl, and even to a besieged steelworks plant in Mariupol—often with one-of-a-kind access to locales forbidden to foreign eyes, and with a rousing sense of adventure and an inimitable ability to get people to spill the tea—he shows that a century after the revolution, Russia still uses food as an instrument of war and feeds its people on propaganda.
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