With your hands in the masses
El lder sovitico mand crear The rich and healthy food book with 400 truffled propaganda dishes that put the spotlight on how people should eat in the homes of the USSR. A book best seller Soviet with 11 editions and translated into several languages that influenced Eastern European cuisine for generations
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Moscow, 1936. Stalin orders his Minister of Commerce and Food, Anastas Mikoyan, to create The rich and healthy food book. A 477-page work, halfway between the cookbook and the propaganda, that would become the first communist cookbook. A major best seller of gastronomy internationally that sold more than eight million copies and was a pioneer in promoting dishes of quick preparation in the heart of the homer. A volume subjected to the different purges of the party that forged the way of cooking for generations and generations of women on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
Madrid, November 2021. The Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzn presents the cookbook Fast, cheap and healthy food. A 94-page digital book with 40 recipes that shows how the interest of communist leaders in the world of cooking is perpetuated. “Our society is marked by how, when and what we eat,” says Garzn’s prologue on the first page. A book that, “far from being a mere repository of recipes healthy“, it is considered” a tool “with” a marked outreach vocation “that contains” recipes that can be cooked in less than 10 minutes. “
A relationship between gastronomy, politics and society that more than 80 years ago Stalin and Mikoyan (one Georgian, the other Armenian and both seminarians before political leaders) were able to identify. In search of new ideas to implement, the almighty leader of the USSR sent his Minister of Food on a three-month trip to the United States, in which Mikoyan discovered a passion for food that turned out to be dangerous.
“The taste of ice cream is more important to you than building communism”Stalin snapped between mockery and threat. However, unlike the vast majority of the politbur’s members, Mikoyan will not only escape the purges, but will also be one of their top enforcers.
During his journey through “capitalist America”, Mikoyan met with businessmen and prominent personalities such as Henry Ford. However, what most interested him were his visits to gas stations, food factories and roadside bars to find out what, when and how much US workers eat. “There are things that we can learn from the Americans and that we must copy in the USSR“He would say to Stalin and the rest of the politbur.” Things “like” gas stations sell food to consume at the moment “or that” cereals and pasta come in boxes. “
Three years later, The Rich and Healthy Food Book will finally see the light. When opened, the first page shows a quote from Stalin presiding over the 477-page tome. “A characteristic of our revolution is that it gave the people, not only freedom, but access to material goods and the possibility of well-being and cultural life,” reads a full page in capital letters.
a concept of well-being that in the book is identified with “the abundance” of food. An “abundance” that, in addition to being the title of the first chapter, is shown in his more than 400 recipes and in the photographs of pantagrulicos delicacies. A propaganda that sought to celebrate the end of the ration cards and the great famines of the 1930s, which left more than four million people dead from hunger in Ukraine alone.
The book contains more than 400 recipes of gastronomy from different countries (hot and cold dishes, sandwiches, meat, fish, desserts, vegetables, for children, for the sick, for pregnant women …) and propaganda messages praising the country’s productive achievements. It also provides information on healthy eating, etiquette when setting the table, and nutritional information on new Soviet products, such as tin cans or ktchup, that Mikoyan brought with him from his trip to the United States.
In this way, the book explains not only what to eat, but how much to eat. For example, count that “a child between the ages of 12 and 16 should take in 2400 calories a day“or that” a worker who performs physical work must ingest between 3000 and 3500 calories. “In addition, he clarifies that an adult man must ingest” 100 grams of protein per day “and” between 70 and 100 grams of fat. “
Another of its great novelties is that the book introduces the concept of fast food with recipes for its quick preparation based on pre-cooked and canned products “which in tsarist Russia were considered a delicatessen imported from abroad.” In this way, Mikoyan and Stalin encourage “a modern Soviet woman has to free herself from the offensive and heavy domestic burdens”. Something you can do “when you realize that in the hour you spend cooking you can do 10 times more things by buying the necessary products already prepared.”
Special mention deserves the champn, one of the drinks that Mikoyan endeavored to mass-produce in the USSR as a symbol of the new times and in which he became personally involved for years until the industries produced it to his liking. In the book, Stalin says that “now the workers can buy it because they earn money” and that it is “a sign of prosperity.” An alcohol on which different epigraphs deal and that it is recommended to consume “accompanied by oysters“.
A cookbook that, in addition to Stalinist propaganda, became a source of pride for Mikoyan himself (recognized today as its main author, although more than 50 scientists and intellectuals participated in it), who liked to show off his culinary skills before the leaders of the USSR: he gave them boots, bottles, tables made of chocolate. Showing off your pastry skills, He even gave a gun of chocolate to the bloodthirsty Beria during a visit to his kitchen in which he challenged him to “find human flesh”, alluding to the numerous murders organized by the head of the secret services.
However, the recipe book of the USSR did not get rid of the political vicissitudes and Stalin himself was purged of it after his death. Before, in their editions of 1947 and 1953, recipes for Jewish food, the tea of the Calmucos (a people of Mongol origin who were considered collaborators of the Nazis) and references to US food were removed, eliminating ktchup or the CornFlakes who had fallen in love with Mikoyan.
Total, The rich and healthy food book It has been published more than 11 times in Russia alone (three of them after the fall of the USSR), it has been translated into different languages, it is available in eBook and in physical format on Amazon and is considered the most influential cookbook in Eastern Europe. A best seller which, as Stalin, Mikoyan (and Garzon himself decades later), shows the importance of the marriage between politics and food.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism