Recipes for Russia: Food and Nationhood under the Tsars (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2008) (paperback edition 2011)
In Recipes for Russia I examine various ways in which eighteenth and nineteenth century Russians—both state servitors and private individuals—created policies, gave advice, or invented narratives to affect Russian practices of food production and consumption. In particular, I examine ways that conceptions of Russianness and foreignness affected these developments. The Russian state, prompted in large part by dangerously poor harvests at several points in the early nineteenth century, took action to ensure (or to attempt to ensure) the sustenance of its masses. Although this effort was in part based on concern for the welfare of the Russian population, it was also based in concern for Russia’s status vis-à-vis the West. So too was state concern over public health, a topic then gaining increasing prevalence in many European societies. Individual Russians also weighed in on the relationship between food and health, and also compared Russian diets to foreign understandings of nutrition. Because “traditional” Russian diet (itself a debated and constructed concept) did not map neatly onto Western nutritional knowledge, Russian doctors had to define their own conception of healthy eating. And individual Russians also created new conceptions of agriculture and cuisine, conceptions that drew on traditional and foreign knowledge in differing degrees. Agricultural authors often saw foreign knowledge as by far the most important, and strove to change traditional agricultural practices wholesale. Cookbook authors, on the other hand, and despite the fact that they were sometimes the same authors, came to view the contemporary Russian table as a place where the traditional and the foreign came together in culinary harmony (foreign visitors were somewhat less certain that the result was harmonious).