“If you like books about affectionate, colorful families, imagine Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers mixed with Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey’s Cheaper by the Dozen. If you’re a fan of food memoirs, you’ll want to shelve it near M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating and A.J. Liebling’s Between Meals.… [A] smorgasbord of humor, pathos and emotional insight. I very much enjoyed Savage Feast, and so will you.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
Beginning with Boris’s childhood in Soviet Belarus, where good food was often valued more than money, Savage Feast, a revealing family memoir, told through meals and recipes, describes the unlikely dish that brought his parents together and how years of hunger during the Holocaust left his grandmother so obsessed with bread that she always kept five loaves on hand. She was the stove magician, while Boris’s grandfather was the master black marketeer who supplied her, evading at least one firing squad along the way.
These spoils kept Boris’s family—Jews living under the threat of discrimination and violence—always provided for and protected. Although food was in abundance, it became even more important once Boris’s family reached America, after emigrating through Vienna and Rome—a journey filled with marvel, despair, and bratwurst. How to remain connected to one’s roots while shedding trauma? The ambrosial cooking of Oksana, the Ukrainian home aide for Boris’s grandfather, shows him the way.
His quest takes him to a farm in the Hudson River valley, the kitchen of a Russian restaurant on the Lower East Side, a Native American reservation in South Dakota, and back to Oksana’s kitchen in Brooklyn. His relationships with women—troubled, he realizes, for reasons that go back many generations—unfold all at once, finally bringing him, after many misadventures, to an American soul mate.
Savage Feast is Boris’s tribute to food, that secret passage to an intimate conversation about identity, belonging, family, displacement, and love.