Northern Illinois University Press

Recipes for Russia

Food and Nationhood under the Tsars

Alison K. Smith

“Offers a great richness of information on what Russians of various classes were eating and how various commentators on national life interpreted what Russians ate, or should eat, as markers of what they were or should become.”—Mark Steinberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“A significant contribution to the field of Imperial Russian history and the history of foodways/gastronomic culture.”—Cathy A. Frierson, University of New Hampshire

Smith examines changing attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs about the production and consumption of food in Russia from the late 18th century through the mid 19th century. She focuses on the way that competing ideas based either in “traditional” Russian practice or in new practices from the “rational” West became the basis for Russians’ understanding of themselves and their society.

The Russians who participated in the process of self-definition were variously private authors and reformers or public servants of the Russian imperial state. Some had great success in creating a sense of themselves as ultimate authorities on a given topic. For example, a series of cookbook authors developed a system of writing Russian cookbooks in ways that borrowed from, but were still quite different from, foreign sources. Others found the process of mediating these ideas more difficult; agricultural reformers, in particular, sometimes found traditional practices, now deemed irrational, hard to eliminate. Recipes for Russia looks at the process of nation building within the framework of the modern world—that is, it looks at the way individuals sought to define their nationality not only against outside influences but also by incorporating those outside influences into some coherent, yet national, whole.

While Smith looks at food as part of Russian culture, she also connects it with the social, legal, and economic background that formed the culture, while examining the pre-reform period in significant detail. As a result, Recipes for Russia illuminates the great changes of this period, both in the food habits of Russians and in their views of themselves and of their nation.

(2008) 269 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-381-4
cloth $40.00

Alison K. Smith is Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Part I: Authority and Material Concerns
Chapter 1: Ensuring Sustenance: The State and the Starving Peasant
Chapter 2: Making Cabbage Healthy: Dietetics and Public Health as a National Concern
Chapter 3: Describing the Russian Diet: Ethnography, History, and Cultural Definition
Part II: Production and Consumption from Theory to Practice
Chapter 4: Searching for an Authority: Encyclopedists and the Art of Translation
Chapter 5: Who is Responsible? Master Chefs, Gentleman Farmers, and Progressive Patriotism
Chapter 6: Audiences and Authorities: Russian Housewives and European Gastronomes
Selected Bibliography

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-381-4
cloth $40.00
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