Ukrainian cookbooks sell out

Ukrainian cookbooks sell out
Rhonda Dredge

The purplish tinge of a nice beetroot-stained pickled cabbage might not appeal to everyone but there has been a surge in interest in Ukrainian recipes since the beginning of the war.

Amanda Schulze at Books for Cooks in Victoria St has sold every Ukrainian cookbook on the shelves bar one.

Even the Russian shelves are depleted as local cooks look bizarrely for inspiration from a war zone.

The most popular book is Summer Kitchen by Olia Hercules who was due to come out for the Food and Wine Festival in March but cancelled because of the war.

“She lives in London and decided to stay instead for support,” Amanda said. “She’s been fundraising for UNICEF.”

“We’d ordered in a few books, so we decided to do a promotion to raise money for Ukraine.”

The bookshop donated $15 from each sale of Summer Kitchen to the cause and the books were sold out within one-and-a-half weeks.

Ukrainian food is known for its pickles, black bread, quark, dumplings, piroshki and borscht, colourful dishes that are known here but not normally grouped together as a cuisine.

“It’s beautiful food,” Amanda said, admiring a picture of a dish of garlic shoots in the book. “They use everything.”

The country-style illustrations are in stark contrast to nightly scenes of the war of demolished cities and decimated towers.

Amanda said that interest in the cuisine was one way of showing solidarity with the besieged Ukrainians.

Ironically, when you compare books from the opposing sides, Ukrainian dishes are quite similar to Russian ones, with connections across the entire region as far as Iran.

A Russian cookbook shows eggs stuffed with beetroot while a Ukrainian one shows dumplings in beetroot soup.

“If you look at Russian food it’s very heart-warming,” Amanda said. “The country’s in the wheat belt. They use buckwheat and root vegetables.”

Summer Kitchen is filled with great pictures of recipes that are interpretive of the local cuisine, in a similar way as Ottolenghi’s are of the Middle East.

The author was born in Kherson in the south of the Ukraine in 1984. She trained in London and runs a cooking school. She has a new book out in August called Home Dishes.

The bookshop holds 55,000 titles with a mix of new and secondhand books arranged according to region. There are still books available on the Russian shelf.

Some of the old cookbooks are reproduced by a small New York publishing house, including the only Ukrainian cookbook still in stock, up next to its warring neighbour •


Caption: Amanda Schulze with her last copy of Summer Kitchen.

The Bridal Lament opens at Arts House

The Bridal Lament opens at Arts House

May 15th, 2024 - Georgie Atkins
Like us on Facebook