This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Around 1991 I was living in Moscow. There was lots of snow on the ground and I didn’t have any shoes. I’d put my DMs in the oven because I was trying to thaw them out, but instead they’d melted. As Doc Martens weren’t readily available in Moscow at that time I had to get another pair sent out from Camden!
Many other unusual things happened to me while I was living in the former Soviet Union, there was the time I took a taxi that was an ambulance (off-duty!), or the time a friend of mine (English) was on the Russian equivalent of Blind Date – it was called Love at First Sight. We were in the audience cheering him on when he got the girl and the cruise! Even if it was with several other couples at the same time.
From Moscow I went to Tashkent – partly lured by the dry warm climate and the rugger-ball –shaped, salmon-fleshed, melons the size of overnight bags. In Tashkent I met a large man carrying an equally large jar of home-made red wine – in my lift. He and his equally large friends persuaded me to visit their homeland and the homeland of the grapevine – Georgia. I have since drunk many a glass of delicious Georgian red in both London and Tbilisi.
These are the sorts of things I have weaved into my first Neo Chick-Lit novel. What is Neo Chick-Lit?, you ask. Well, people kept saying that Chick-Lit was dead, so this is (dare I say it?) its slightly maturer younger sister. There’s still humour, drinks and men, but with a darker satirical edge and less handbags and dieting. The Neo Chick-Lit chick is more likely to be from the arts’ world than the corporate one. And she has intellect rather than self-awareness. Hobbies include travel to exotic and uncomfortable locations. She is more likely to be found with an obscure tome (i.e. The Red Years – collectivization and dekulakization) accompanying her favourite tipple, than a pizza. Other heroines which feature some of the above are Anna Blundy’s edgy heroine, Faith Zanetti and the original – Bridget Jones.
Put a Moscow kitchen, vodka and a shy and retiring English PhD student together and what do you get? A hangover and signs that something is seriously amiss… So opens My Soviet Kitchen, my novel, which is set largely in (you guessed it!) a Moscow kitchen. Is it really possible that heroine Ivy Stone could be engaged and not remember who to? But then Ivy has led a sheltered existence in England. And the former Soviet Union is a place where spontaneity and living in the moment rule!
While Ivy is wondering if she will ever find her mystery fiancé, she is overwhelmed by K.K., a rich and worldly older man. He whooshes her off her feet. Both metaphorically: “one of the worst things about falling in love is the hours wasted in idle reverie and smoking”, and actually: flying her away to attend an open-air Uzbek wedding, where she learns “the classic art of eating a plate of rice with no cutlery”. Her glamorous Russian beau then shows her how to be massaged in an Estonian sauna. But soon after that he disappears in suspicious circumstances…
K.K. may be the villain of this piece, but he is meant to represent all those who start out willing, ready and able – and end up soured by circumstance.
Just in case you’re a bit at sea with the whole Moscow-kitchen lifestyle thing, the novel comes with a mini Companion Guide to help you get stuck in – it guides you through making such Russian classics as salted cucumbers, chocolate potatoes and even hosting your very own Russian kitchen party. You can also learn how to make exotic Georgian classics like khachapuri, which Ivy describes as “steaming-doughy, melted-cheesy slices.” And there is a recipe for a delicious life-giving Estonian grain-berry shake.
So step into this Moscow kitchen where there’s no ‘cult of time’ and be spirited away to 1990s ex-USSR!
My Soviet Kitchen is available to buy on Amazon.
Also see www.roastbooks.org