“Soviet cooking” seems like an oxymoron, considering that during most of the USSR’s existence food was in short supply. Yet in Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking (Crown, $26), award-winning food writer Anya Von Bremzen gives us a fascinating and often surprising look at the history of the USSR and her own family through the lens of food (or the lack thereof). She is a talented memoirist, and the book is much more than just a list of recipes and favorite dishes. Von Bremzen and her mother recreate classic pre-Revolution fare, prepare Stalin’s Deathday Dinner, and devise their own version of Salat Olivier (which Von Bremzen calls a “salady Soviet icon”). This touching memoir is a must-read regardless of your familiarity with Soviet cuisine (and yes, a recipe for borscht is included in the back).