Truth be told, my cooking style is all over the place – I’ve never met a plate of (gluten-free) pasta that I haven’t fallen in love with; I try to make vegan Buddha bowls whenever I can. But at the end of the day, my comfort food is always Russian – spring potatoes with dill, cucumbers sliced lengthwise into quarters and sprinkled with coarse salt, summer tomatoes, adding a spoonful of raspberry jam into a cup of strongly brewed black tea.
Mamushka by Olia Hercules
So when I start this month by saying the first book I read was a cookbook, please don’t judge me, because I did read it. I read it cover to cover in an effort to remember the food I grew up with, relive memories of summers filled with cherry jam and crisp, cold pickles, and recreate those memories in Shanghai. Russian food is hard to love – it’s thick with mayo, canned peas, earthy, sweet beets, salted mackerel, oodles of dough, butter, and margarine, but somehow Olia Hercules puts a dreamy haze over the things I remember (not so fondly) from my childhood. Mamushka isn’t really a cookbook, as it is a memoir through recipes. I felt some of the recipes to be unapproachable without a background into the food: with obscure ingredients – like black currant and cornel cherries added just for cultural reference. All the while, some of the other recipes were too simple – boiled crawfish with salt and pepper come to mind. But the power of the book lies in being transformative. Mamushka read more like a story, a fairy tale from my childhood of summers spent grilling fish in Russian woods, making sweet jam, barbecues, and homemade vodka.
I’ve already cooked 12 recipes out of this book and I am still hungry
Rating: – 👵🏼👵🏼👵🏼👵🏼👵🏼 five babushkas
(images reprinted via the pictures shared on Food52)
Also published on Medium.