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Paperback Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets' A Gift to Young Housewives Book

ISBN: 0253212103

ISBN13: 9780253212108

Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets' A Gift to Young Housewives

(Part of the Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies Series)

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Book Overview

"Joyce Toomre . . . has accomplished an enormous task, fully on a par with the original author's slave labor. Her extensive preface and her detailed and entertaining notes are marvelous." --Tatyana Tolstaya, New York Review of Books

"Classic Russian Cooking is a book that I highly recommend. Joyce Toomre has done a marvelous job of translating this valuable and fascinating source book. It's the Fanny Farmer and Isabella Beeton of...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Russian Cooking

I found this book recommended to me by my Russian professor, and after eating at a Russian dinner hosted by my university's Russian club, I decided I really had to have this book. It has an excellent introduction which covers a large variety of topics on Russian cooking through the years. Another thing I like about it is that it uses mainly ingredients that are commonly available today. Although a few of the ingredients used are highly unusual today (like dried backbone of a fish), they appear in relatively few of the recipies. I am anticipating cooking recipies from it!

A very interesting look into the cooking of Russia

This is such a classic that it was intended, in the past, to be given to young housewives to be a much-used reference. As such, in addition to the predictable recipes for coulibiac (fish in pastry crust), sturgeon, borscht, kasha and Russian sweets, there is a wide variety of household food preservation and preparation you just don't find in today's cookbooks. Such as--butchering a pig and then portioning out, preserving and preparing the resulting meats. NOT for vegans or the fainthearted, believe me. Also, there are recipes for improving the flavor of homemade vodka (including how to make birch charcoal for the purpose.) And how to make imitation butter from mutton fat, how to get rid of the off-flavor in butter that is going rancid. If you are a home-brewer, this is a surprisingly good book for making such things as mead and fruit wines and liquers. One caveat for the whole book; measurements are either baffling, in Russian terminology that has no English referent, or "two wineglasses" , etc. And for brewers, it requires some basic knowledge of the process. For cooking, there are a lot of beef and fish recipes but the borscht recipes were disappointing as there were only of few of these and there are LOTS of ways to make borscht. However, for interesting reading on food history and technique, and for some authentic Russian cooking, this book is absolutely fascinating reading.


My grandmother immigrated to Canada from Russia well over a century ago and lived to the age of 104. With her she brought many authentic Russian recipes, but alas, they remained in her head and not on paper. This cookbook comes very close to the recipes I, as a child, can remember her preparing. Yes, it is true, that some aspects of the recipes found here are lost in the translation, particularly when it comes to measurements; however, in reality, that is how my grandmother, and many Russian homemakers in her time, prepared a meal. There was no such thing as a teaspoon of this or a cup of that. Accurate meansurements would have meant nothing to my grandmother, for like many immigrants in the 1800's she had little scholastic education. Her education came from the "school of hard knocks" and life's experiences. Measurements included "a little of this a small handful of that." I can remember her placing three fingers in a small cup and when the liquid reached the top, that was how much one used. Confusing? Yes, for the traditional chef, it would be. However, as one becomes experienced with Russian cooking, the delicious recipes found here will not seem like such a challenge to prepare - trial and error is often the best way of learning.

Not a simple cook-book, but a part of the Russian history

So far I did not have a chance to see an American version of Madame Molokhovet's, only the Russian one. But since probably nobody knows about this book in US, and I turned out to be the first one to review it, I have to "break the ground" and drop a couple of lines.The original version, first published at the end of the XIXth century, had a goal to help young middle-class housewives covering a wide range of issues from hiring servants to shopping for the house. The recipes were only a part of what can be called an "encyclopedia on running the house".During the Soviet times there was almost no opportunity to use it because it was almost impossible to buy the ingredients. However, the book was still fun to read. It gives a good picture of the Russian culture of the time.The recipe part (of the original version) is very thorough and understandable. However, most of the dishes require considerable time, exquisite ingredients and, in many cases, help of another person. However, trying them pays off, for they help you to discover REAL Russian cuisine, very different from "chicken-Kiev" and other tourist traps.I would recommend this book to those who love Russia, are interested in Russian culture and like to cook something very unconventional. Very curious to see the American version.
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