[Fishman] engage[s] with gendered migrant labor, offering nuanced portrayals of some of the dynamics between foreigners who share a Soviet past but belong to different cultures, waves, and types of migration ... Boasting recipes for dishes that Fishman’s late grandmother and other relatives used to cook, the book gradually becomes a collection of Oksana’s kitchen wisdom ... The recipes that Fishman includes in his book refer to Oksana’s practice of cooking this or that dish as a kind of imprimatur, a stamp of authenticity without which the instructional content of the self-described 'memoir with recipes' would scarcely work. Yet this stamp of authenticity relies on Fishman’s adept translations into the English of his intended readers ... Fishman skillfully avoids portraying Oksana, who has played a critical role in his life, as a matronly, obliging caregiver who exists for the purpose of serving his family. He depicts her with obvious affection and sensitivity, but also with some distance, perhaps as an acknowledgment of his lack of access to the inner life of a female migrant.
It's easy to feel at home in Fishman's writing; it's warm, reflective and frequently funny. His relationships with his grandfather Arkady, and Arkady's Ukranian home aide Oksana, are particularly compelling ... Food anchors the memoir, but the recipes are the proverbial icing on the cake. The real meat of this story is its characters and the love that binds them ... This rich, memorable exploration of immigrant identity, culture clash and Soviet cuisine will linger long after the book has been closed or the last of the dishes within have been served.
The author of two novels, Fishman lets his narrative move novelistically back and forth in time through key moments like his family’s emigration ... Fishman’s writing is brisk and vivid, and despite generations’ worth of trauma the family suffered, from pervasive anti-Semitism to the brutalities of World War II, his memoir is often funny ... where this book departs from other memoirs: Most chapters end with detailed recipes, adding a lovely, homey dimension.