For the first weekend of book festival goodness, the programming team brought 2017 Young British Foodie nominee, Alissa Timoshkina, to the Spiegeltent to talk all things Soviet cooking, whilst being indulged by the usual Edinburgh Book Festival afternoon tea fare.
In Charlotte Square to discuss her most recent publication, Salt and Time, which from what I can gather is a collection of recipes that mean something to her and her family, authentic Russian cooking, Alissa spoke about the topic in great depth and clarity. A country with four seasons, it was emphasised that in Russia you ate what was available, and that preservation was key to Russian cooking.
Whilst we dipped into our strawberry tarts and cucumber sandwiches, watered down with English Breakfast, Alissa, who is renowned for the popular London KinoVino Supper Club, discussed recipes and ingredients that were not uncommon in her household growing up.
She touched upon the Soviet regime and that its rather interesting to see how recipes have travelled over time. Even though the Soviet collapsed some of the food is still eaten, as a plethora of countries were at the heart, perhaps taking hold of the food that was common at that place in time. Alissa herself admits that soya sauce does feature rather a lot in her recipes, as was the case with a great deal of Soviet countries. Also at the core of her book and Russian cooking is fermentation, hence the book title. Without salt and time, fermentation does not happen.
Nostalgia plays a cetnral part with her receipes, as she focuses on food and memory and the bold connection that links the two. This can be the root cause for the continuation of a style of cooking or total abandonment altogether. She considers foods and perception in differing culutres, for example buckwheat in the UK and buckwheat in Russia. Buckwheat in the UK is found more in menus in gastropubs, however widely available in Russia. But what we can take from this hour more than anything, tiffin, canapes, all combined, is her enthusiasm and enjoyment on the subject food. It is a sheer joy to listen to cultural food discussion for an hour, salivating, with an afternoon tea to hand.
For more on the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme click here.