Here now is a first look at the CCCP Cook Book: True Stories of Soviet Cuisine (Fuel Publishing) by authors and historians Olga and Pavel Syutkin. It's a rare glimpse into the decades around when the USSR (CCCP) was transitioning to Communism. Food shortages and limited access to staples like bread, milk, and fresh produce were commonplace in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s. Whenever rations are tight, creativity rules. Every day citizens were inspired to invent dishes that sustained them through long winters and hard economic times. Meanwhile, the ruling class feasted on luxuries like suckling pig and caviar. Class distinctions are crystal clear in each recipe; the Syutkins note that some of the images are of dishes that would have only been considered "aspirational fantasy for the average Soviet household."
The book contains 60 recipes, each preceded by its place in history. In some cases, the authors also discuss the evolution of certain dishes, including one for a pastry called Bird's Milk Cake:
In the 1950s, following the abolition of food rationing, signs of prosperity began to emerge and new cakes such as the Fairy Tale and Cornucopia appeared on the shelves. The pretentiousness of these cakes corresponded perfectly with the approved style of architecture and art of the Stalin era. At that time, a cake was more than just a dessert: it was a symbol of wellbeing.
By the mid-1960s public taste had changed... Most of these political pastries have disappeared into oblivion, but one recipe has survived and become a classic. In 1978 Vladimir Guralnik, head pastry chef at the famous Moscow restaurant Praga, led a group of confectioners to develop a recipe for a cake called Bird's Milk... The recipe was distributed across the USSR, but Praga still produced the best version. Throughout the 1980s long queues formed down Arbat Street to buy it and the restaurants initial output of 60 cakes a day soon increased to 500 to meet demand.
Find an exclusive preview of the inside of the book, below, including images sourced from original Soviet recipe books collected by the authors.
CCC Cook Book hits bookstores on September 29. It can be pre-ordered now.