cover image KATISH: Our Russian Cook

KATISH: Our Russian Cook

Wanda L. Frolov, . . Modern Library, $11.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-375-75761-7

These stories of a well-to-do 1920s Los Angeles family and their recently immigrated Russian cook—occasionally dated, always charming—originally appeared in Gourmet magazine, then were published in book form in 1947. Frolov's collection is fifth in a series of resuscitated foodie classics edited by Ruth Reichl (Comfort Me With Apples). In 1924, Frolov's Aunt Martha finds "just the girl" to work in the family's kitchen. The entire family quickly warms up to Katish, especially after tasting her earthy Russian cooking—particularly her cheesecake. Katish insists on planning menus herself and buys gifts for Frolov's mother with any money left over from her budget. She refinishes the kitchen table specifically for making pastry and purchases various antique bowls for her different soups. Frolov embellishes beautifully on simple details like the crackleware bowls that Katish acquires, evoking an entire era with a few carefully chosen words. While some of the many recipes, such as borscht, are not as exotic to modern readers as they were to the narrator and her family in the '20s, others are still unfamiliar, like Pelmeny Dumplings and the one-dish meal Golubtsy. Gently sentimental, irony-free writing is rare today, and while it's fortunate that it is no longer "okay" to mock foreigners for grammatical errors (Katish speaks in broken phrases like "Good steak is thanks to butcher") readers will appreciate the display of innocence therein. (On sale June 26)