Cookbook Review: T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks by Sharon Hudgins

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I didn't know what to make of this cookbook when I first found it on NetGalley. The title is bizarre alone, and then the premise of two Texans cooking in Siberia? I've certainly never read anything like this before.

What I came to realize was that this was a deeply personal account of a couple of food lovers who find themselves on the adventure of a lifetime in Siberia. Not only do they make do with what they can scrounge up in that cold, barren land--they thrive, make friends, and find a way to incorporate their new surroundings into their collective palates.

Sharon and Tom Hudgins are two extraordinary people who seem to have taken their love of international cuisine all over the world with them. It's inspiring to read about their day-to-day lives in Siberia and how they adapted to what was evidently a big culture shock. The stories are entertaining, interesting, funny, and unexpected. They capture the essence of Siberian culture in a way that I've never seen documented before.

Of course, this is a cookbook too, so the book is filled with recipes that the Hudgins actually cooked and enjoyed while in Siberia. They incorporate some of their Texan heritage, as well as heavy influences from their culinary experience in France, Germany, Mongolia, and beyond. What I found most interesting were the recipes that were authentically "Siberian", or as I think of it, Russian with a twist.

You'll find a recipe for your classic borscht, which is as far as my previous knowledge of Russian food extended to. However, you'll also find recipes for more unusual and lesser known dishes, such as "Salmon in a Coat", Russian Fish Stew (Ukha), and Siberian Beef and Pork Dumplings (Pel'meni). Lest you forget where the Hudgins hail from, there is a recipe for Texas Chili as well.

I confess that a lot of these recipes were a little too out of my comfort zone and as a result, I likely won't try them, but there were many others that were relatable. Siberian food is not health food. Lots of the recipes in this book rely on enough mayonnaise and sour cream to make my scale prematurely groan. But hearty food is necessary to survive the long, bitter Siberian winters, so this only adds to the authenticity.

Along with each recipe, there is a pretty detailed blurb about the story behind the recipe, what it should taste like, and other details about why you should introduce it to your own home kitchen. These are gold, and Sharon Hudgins has a real talent for writing about food. She does an excellent job of demystifying some very foreign dishes and making them sound like something I would be excited to cook.

Bits of criticism for Sharon Hudgins: I wish the recipes were organized by course, rather than by story/occasion. Also, pictures of the food would have made this book perfect. As I haven't heard of a lot of these dishes before, it would really help to see what they should look like. There are some pictures of their lives and the people that became important to their story, but not really many pictures of the food, which is unusual for a cookbook.

Overall, a really unique and special cookbook. I probably wouldn't buy it, but it made a very interesting and enjoyable read.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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