It tells the story of our intrepid ancestor as she made a new life for herself in America after being banished by her family in her small village in Belarus. Anna's story is not a tragedy, however. She emigrated to a new home that she cherished, married, raised a family of her own, and nourished and healed them with vegetables and herbs grown in her garden. There are some beautiful illustrations and even a few heirloom recipes at the back of the book
As a surprise Christmas present for my mom, I sent copies of her book to five of my blogger friends from Cook the Books, our online foodie book club, to read and review, and they very kindly obliged with great posts about the book as well as their forays into some pretty tasty Russian cooking.
My Australian expat buddy Alicia blogs in England at Foodycat. Alicia is always an adventurer in the kitchen and like our heroine Anna, is expert at putting up the garden harvest. Her Anna post led to a glorious pot of borscht studded with chunks of vegetables and short ribs, accompanied by some pampushky, a sort of savory doughnut rolled in garlic and salt. Where's my spork!
Traveling halfway around the globe, we find ourselves next in Hawaii at Claudia's blog, Honey from Rock. Claudia felt a bit of kinship with Anna and her gardening, preserving, wine-making ways, and notes "Peasants rule!" She took up the challenge of making Potato and Cheese Pierogis and they came out quite splendidly, bathed in a little emerald green parsley butter.
Heather the Girlichef is a blogging dynamo with a big heart and a great writing style. She immediately said yes when I approached her about reviewing this book and her phrase about resonating with Anna's "hands in the earth growing food" is just beautiful prose. Heather set about making a pot of Garlicky Chicken Soup and reports that this foodie medicine may have warded off a few colds that were brewing around her home.
The rest of our book reviewing band fell in love with Anna's Cabbage Soup, though all three pots of soup came out quite differently:
Simona of Briciole, is an Italian-born California resident, and used Savoy Cabbage and home grown Red Russian Kale (how appropriate) topped with a dollop of homemade kefir in her rendition of this hearty vegetable soup. Simona writes that she may be inspired to start recording some of her father's many stories and I can enthusiastically second this idea! Perhaps we will have another interesting memoir to read soon?.....
My Cook the Books co-founder and co-host, the effervescent Deb of Kahakai Kitchen in Honolulu, also tried out a cabbage soup recipe a la Anna, though her version was a little less sugary, a little more lemony and enhanced with a scoop of brown rice. Deb may also be providing us with some future recipes and/or memories of her Scandinavian immigrant forbears at her blog. I sure hope so!
Finally, there's my version of Anna's Cabbbage Soup from the recent archives of The Crispy Cook. Like Deb, I cut down on the sugar, lessened the cooking time (I like my "kapusti", or cabbage, more al dente) and made up a pot of love at my own little dacha.
Thanks to all my wonderful friends who helped celebrate the publication of my mother's new book. I offer you my heartfelt thanks and am glad that you enjoyed Anna's stories and recipes. My mom has been excitedly reading all your posts and even stirred herself to learn how to leave comments on your awesome blogs, no mean feat!
To keep the book party going, I will be offering a copy of Anna: Heart of a Peasant to one of you now. Just leave a comment below (for an extra entry LIKE The Crispy Cook on Facebook ) and leave a comment below telling me about your action, and I'll randomly pick a winner and send out a copy of my mom's book to you, anywhere in the world. I will pick a random winner from the comments below after a deadline of Feb. 29, 2012.
And for all you readers who can't get enough cabbage soup, please feel free to join us at Cook the Books as we read and cook from Roald Dahl's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Deb of Kahakai Kitchen is the host for this round, in which we find our central character, Charlie Bucket, staving off hunger with his family in a cold house with meals of cabbage soup, boiled potatoes and bread with margarine (on a good payday!) before Charlie wins the lucky Golden Ticket in a bar of chocolate that allows him to tour this fabulous Willy Wonka candy factory. Cook the Books submissions are due March 25, 2012 and you can find out all about how to join in the fun with our book club regulars over at the Cook the Books website.