Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Russian
Katish : Our Russian Cook (Modern Library (Paperback))
STAHLHUT, HENRY (Illustrator)
CUNNINGHAM, MARION (Introduction)
Published: June 26, 2001
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Katish, first published in 1947 and now reprinted in the Modern Library Food series, tells the tale of the plump, rosy-cheeked Russian émigré who was hired as a family's live-in cook in Los Angeles during the 1920s. Katish brought with her
not only savory recipes, but a cheery determination that was as nourishing as her blini and borscht. Told from the viewpoint of her employer's daughter, Katish is a bemused but also tender account of the life and times of the unstoppable cook who
brokered marriages and started new bank accounts for fellow émigrés, while offering dozens of recipes for the dishes she produced. The narrative reveals both a personality in full flower and a time and place in which the American domestic scene still
supported live-in help and three square meals a day, enjoyed at a common table.
The book also traces Katish's Americanization: her first acquaintance with California markets and American butchers; her first car and electric refrigerator; and an
American proposal. Punctuating the narrative are Katish's recipes for her special Russian Cheesecake, Pelmney (meat-filled dumplings served with sour cream), Easter Babka, and the hot yeast rolls and cinnamon buns that excited the marriage offer. A final
chapter presents a small recipe collection "taken from Katish's own notebook" that includes a superlative Chicken à la Kiev. The recipes delight, but it's Katish's story, told with a keen eye for the life and times of a domestic celebrity, that makes the
book a treasure. --Arthur Boehm
Katish, round as a plum and neat as a pin, arrived in Los Angeles as a Russian emigre in the 1920s. As Wanda L. Frolov remembers, her house was brought to life by this humble genius of the
kitchen, whose English was unpredictable and whose love of company (especially that of the downtrodden) was unstoppable. Soon Katish was nourishing the bellies and the souls of a happy throng with her blini and pilaf, her shashlik and borscht. On the
side, she brokered marriages and started bank accounts for new emigres, presiding over all from her spotless pastry table.
Katish offers deliciously simple Russian country cooking enveloped in a warm and cheering narrative, tender as the crust of
Katish's own piroshky. It includes Katish's Cheesecake, one of the most beloved recipes ever published in Gourmet magazine.
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