The Hottest Dishes of Tartar Cuisine
By: Alina Bronsky
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, “stupid Sulfia,” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and through and instantly becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. While her good for nothing husband Kalganow spends his days feeding pigeons and contemplating death at the city park, Rosa wages an epic struggle to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, whom she considers a woefully inept mother. When Aminat, now a wild and willful teenager, catches the eye of a sleazy German cookbook writer researching Tartar cuisine, Rosa is quick to broker a deal that will guarantee all three women a passage out of the Soviet Union. But as soon as they are settled in the West, the uproariously dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter and grandmother begin to fray.
I believe I first encountered this book while browsing a list on GoodReads on translated literature. The premise sounded oddly amusing, but it’s also placed in a setting that I like reading from (in and around the Soviet period) plus I read good things about the author online (award-winning and all). So I finally caved last year and picked it up after staring at it for a good long time 🙂