The hottest dishes of the Tartar cuisine by Alina Bronsky


Rosa Achmetowna is the outrageously nasty and wily narrator of this rollicking family saga from the author of Broken Glass Park. When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, "stupid Sulfia," is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and through and instantly becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. While her good for nothing husband Kalganow spends his days feeding pigeons and contemplating death at the city park, Rosa wages an epic struggle to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, whom she considers a woefully inept mother. When Aminat, now a wild and willful teenager, catches the eye of a sleazy German cookbook writer researching Tartar cuisine, Rosa is quick to broker a deal that will guarantee all three women a passage out of the Soviet Union. But as soon as they are settled in the West, the uproariously dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter and grandmother begin to fray.

In a nutshell:

I read it in: the original German (Die schärfsten Gerichte der tatarischen Küche)

I liked it:     Oh, yes.

For people who like: matter of fact storytelling, who don’t mind an un-likable heroine

My thoughts: 

Rosalinda is someone who gets things done. Living in the Soviet Union this is definitely a plus. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. She thinks she knows what is best for everybody and would sell her grandmother if it helped her plans along. Unfortunately the other people in her life often don’t agree with her meddling and feel quite a bit of resentment. However, Rosalinda is sure they will come round eventually and see how great she is.

Rosalinda is the heroine of this book and we see everything through her eyes. From her point of view everything she does makes perfect sense. It would have been interesting to see what Sulfia, her daughter, and later Aminat, her granddaughter, think about how she manipulates them and how she more or less rules their lives.

Alina Bronsky told this story so fabulously in such a dry, matter of fact voice that it is a pleasure to read it. Already after the first few pages where Rosalinda talks about Sulfia’s pregnancy and the following attempts at abortion I knew that I would love the book. The short passage that sold it to me right away was this one (sorry, it is in German):

Ich wusste, dass solche Fälle vorkamen. Eine Jungfrau träumte, und neun Monate später brachte sie ein Kind zur Welt. Ich kannte sogar einen noch schlimmeren Fall, meine Cousine Rafaella: Sie hatte ihre einzige Tochter in der Blüte einer grossen, exotischen Zimmerpflanze unbekannter Art gefunden, deren Kern sie aus dem Süden mitgebracht hatte. Ich konnte mich noch genau erinnern, wie ratlos sie damals gewesen war.

Rosalinda’s extremely self-assured, not to say conceited, view of herself and the way she dismisses the rest of the world was just astonishing. Whatever happens, she never finds fault with herself, but always with the others. Even at the end when she reads about Aminat’s life story in the paper – a story where her grandmother, i.e. Rosalinda, features in a very negative way -, she doesn’t realize it is her they are talking about and comments that she is not even mentioned. In her eyes she just can’t do wrong.

All this doesn’t make Rosalinda sound like a kind and loveable character, but I liked her nevertheless. Her story got never boring, it was funny, tragic, sad, everything you could wish for. After reading Alina Bronsky’s second novel I will be sure to get her debut "Scherbenpark" (Broken Glass Park).

Location: Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), SU (I think) & somewhere near Frankfurt, Germany

Map Russia Ekaterinburg Ascension church Map Germany

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title The hottest dishes of the Tatar cuisine
Author Alina Bronsky
Publisher Europa Editions
ISBN 978-1609450069
I got this book from I swapped it
Buy link Buy The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Only Orangery reviewed this book some time ago.

Lizzy’s review at Lizzy’s Literary Life

This post is part of


You can find all posts relating to German Literature Month at Beauty is a sleeping cat.

7 Comments Write a comment

  1. I’d never heard of this book, but two people have loved it in two days – that can’t be a coincidence 😉


  2. This sounds so good. I like this type of narrator, larger than life, and fascinating. I’ve got Scherbenpark but never got around to reading it. I definitely need to get to her soon.
    I just wanted to add that I like they way you show where the book’s location and also the product info. I’ve never seen anyone do this before but it’s a great idea.


  3. This is a cracking read – something out of the ordinary and an antidote to anything angsty.


  4. I’ve seen several mentions of this book by people whose opinion I trust & they rate it, So it has gone on my list, great post thanks.


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