From yellow packet adorned with an elephant

I began to play a game with myself…Picturing myself in a dacha surrounded by prickly gooseberry bushes, I’d mentally preserve and pickle the tastes and smells of my Soviet socialist past in an imaginary three-litre jar.

In went the Order of Lenin Red October chocolate bars with a mirthful kid on the wrapper. In went the scarlet-wrapped Bolshevik Factory Jubilee Biscuits, the one’s that dissolved so poignantly when dipped in tea from a yellow packet adorned with an elephant.

Anna von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cookery is a fascinating and increasingly melancholy look at the development of Soviet Russia through Anna’s family history and her and her mother’s food memories. Starting with a Czarist feast of blinis “as plump as the shoulders of a merchant’s daughter” (Chekhov) and running up till the vodka rebellions of Gorbachev’s final years and splintering of the USSR its a total page turner.

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I’d no idea that Stalin – in a brief moment of generosity – sent his food minister to 1930s America, with the result that the socialist dream in late 30s Moscow was for every child to have a hamburger, ketchup and Pepsi, and that Khrushchev’s obsession with corn was also a legacy of Prairie dreams. Nor that the Russian emigrees to 20s Paris created a new kind of French cuisine. This book came via a recommendation on The Captive Reader blog, so go and check that out for more goodies too.

Stucco

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The Music Room, Lancaster – a converted summer pavilion built in the 1730s and showing the muses, Apollo and various Roman emperors around the wall.

All photos from a visit, May 2018.

Maria Reiche

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If Google’s user customisation means that their search engine banners are becoming a permanent rotation of amazing women, then I’m fine with that. Maria Reiche was a mathematician and archaeologist, who seems have to have been the same kind of enterprising character as Dorothy Carrington a few days ago.