What an interesting idea. Mix together a memoir of family history in the old Soviet Union with some Soviet history and the signature foods of the USSR’s distinct eras: Tsarist Russia, Russian Revolution, Leninism, Stalisnism, Brezhnev, Glasnost, Putin. Then the author and her mother, both accomplished cooks, prepare feasts redolent of each decade since 1910 and invite Soviet emigres to reminisce about the smells of an pre-Stalin cornucopia or the despair of waiting on a 1970s bread line. Perhaps because the author’s mother tongue is Russian, there is a kind of reverse construction to sentences and chapters that makes the text thick as stew. The second paragraph of Chapter six, for example, “1960s: Corn, Communism, Caviar” opens with this sentence, “Coarse and damp was the bread waiting at the end of the line.” The three strands of the book — von Bremzen’s family history, the story of the rise and fall of the USSR, and foods of a century — are all palatable, but in the end the flavors don’t quite meld into one delicious dish.