What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Russia?
Let me guess: a shirtless, bear-wrestling megalomaniac president? Frigid winters and fatalistic writers?
What about Ukraine? Nuclear disasters? Wheat fields?
And Russian food? Borsch and vodka, right?
Ukrainian food? …borsch and vodka again?
More Than Borsch will be the first book to explore the true nature of Russian and Ukrainian culture through classic recipes, culinary history, foodie literature and enlightening tidbits, satiating both the stomach and the brain.
More Than Borsch is meant to humanize that Other. It does not attempt to take on the difficult questions that have come out of that region in recent history. Rather, it strives to provide as unbiased and factual an overview as possible of a nation that is frequently now at the front of our global consciousness.
The book is divided into three parts: history, literature and recipes.
The first is a concise, approachable, yet thorough history of both the country and the cuisine. First, it traces the origin of modern Russia and Ukraine from an 8th century Viking layover to an expanse that includes 11 time zones and the world’s largest country. Then it does the same with the food, revealing the profound effect of the land and the Russian Orthodox church on the cuisine, the 19th century obsession with France and mayonnaise, and the Soviet Union’s function-over-form approach to food. The most essential and fundamental foods and dishes – borsch and the vast multitude of soups; blini, vareniki and baked goods; tea, vodka and more – are highlighted individually, the list curated based on each dish’s importance to the cuisine or particularly piquant story, nourishing the mind and providing for the reader a solid introduction to Russian and Ukrainian history and cuisine.
The second section features Slavic literature, from folk tales every child knows by heart to Chekhov’s paean to blini to contemporary authors using food as a symbol to rail against the system. These excerpts illustrate – sometimes humorously, sometimes seriously, but always with passion – the breathless, wide-eyed approach Slavic literature and Slavic people take to food. And like in the previous section, it provides a sampler of classic Russian and Ukrainian authors everyone should know.
Finally come the recipes: over fifty classic dishes that cover over a thousand years of Russian and Ukrainian culinary history and represent the very core of the cuisine, enhanced by factoids and tidbits about the dishes and ingredients, anecdotes and quirky, original illustrations by Ukrainian artist Tatyana Kunets.
We are currently testing recipes, editing the recipe text as needed and putting together the headnotes and other details. The content of the book is about 95% finished. On the publishing front, we are on the hunt for an agent (perhaps you’re one?).