You may be dubious that a humble blogger, bookseller, and failed author could possibly have anything in common with the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, but hear me out. Both Tolstoy and I have roots in Czarist Russia. The legenday author and I are both hirstute and eminently photogenic. And lastly, we share a commitment to a vegetarian lifestyle.
I recently stumbled upon the surprising book, Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale. The cookbook is based on one that that Tolstoy’s brother-in-law, Stepan Andreevich Bers, published and gifted to his sister, Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia Andreevna Tolstaya. The contemporary book was translated and adapted by Sergei Beltyukov a few years ago, under the title Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale: Tolstoy’s Family Vegetarian Recipes Adapted for the Modern Kitchen. Here’s the full description of the volume from the Bookshop.org website:
Step back in time and dine on the family recipes of Leo Tolstoy, one of the world’s preeminent vegetarians and the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Learn the recipes of one of history’s most famous writers and vegetarians in Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale . Featuring the writer’s original recipes as interpreted by renowned modern-day chef, this book is guaranteed to provide you with some of the best-tasting meat-free meals you’ve ever cooked Leo Tolstoy was a trendsetter. He was one of the most important and prolific writers of his time-his novels, like Anna Karenina and War and Peace , are still being taught in schools and adapted for the screen. But he was also one of the first widely known vegetarians. Though a meat-eater early in his life, by the time he turned 50 he’d decided it was immoral for someone to kill on his behalf just so he could enjoy a slab of beef for lunch. He became an ovo-lacto vegetarian, but because of the time in which he lived it was up to him (and particularly his lovely wife, Sofia) to create vegan and vegetarian recipes that would both taste good and keep him healthy. Now, for the first time ever, Tolstoy’s mouth-watering, meat-free meals have been collected in Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale . This book features vegan and vegetarian recipes from Tolstoy’s wife. Sophia Tolstoy’s 1874 “Cookery Book”, which was compiled for her by her brother from her diaries, provides a rich tapestry of the Tolstoy family’s dining habits. The recipes range from homemade Macaroni and Cheese to Potatoes a la Ma tre D’H tel, with plenty of tasty options in between (including family specialties you can’t find anywhere else, such as Tolstoy’s Herbal Liqueur). Many of the original versions of the recipes lacked exact descriptions of ingredients and cooking times, but the recipes were edited by chef de cuisine at some of Moscow’s best fine-dining restaurants to insert the missing elements to make the meals you prepare as delicious as possible. So whether you’re looking for a modern revision on a classic or the original recipe right from the 1800’s, you’re guaranteed to find a meal you’ll love. The book contains not only original recipes from Tolstoy and his family; it also includes diary entries written by his wife Sofia, his children, and others who stayed at his estate. These fascinating passages help illuminate the famous writer’s day-to-day life. If you’re a Tolstoy fan, then this book is a revealing must-have that sheds new light on this timeless writer’s life. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, foodie, literary major, or Tolstoy fan, you will enjoy reading and creating these recipes for yourself, friends and family.
If you want to give one of Leo’s recipes a try, the recipe below is for Tolstoy’s favorite mac and cheese dish:
Bring water to a boil, add salt, then add macaroni and leave boiling on light fire until half tender; drain water through a colander, add butter and start putting macaroni back into the pot in layers—layer of macaroni, some grated Parmesan and some vegetable sauce, macaroni again and so on until you run out of macaroni. Put the pot on the edge of the stove, cover with a lid and let it rest in light fire until the macaroni are soft and tender. Shake the pot occasionally to prevent them from burning.