DOI: 10.1515/culture-2022-0182 ISSN:

Domestication of Russian Cuisine in the United States: Wanda L Frolov’s Katish: Our Russian Cook (1947)

Sasha Razor
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


This article examines Wanda L Frolov’s cookbook, Katish: Our Russian Cook (1947) as a transitional text that navigates the food diplomacy of World War II and the Cold War “Red Scare.” The book narrates the story of two women from different parts of the world and walks of life – an American widow and a refugee widow from Russia – who lived together in Southern California during Prohibition. The plot is presented through the point-of-view of one of the characters, Sis, as she recounts her childhood memories, while recipes come in clusters triggered by specific vignettes. Using irony, exoticisms, and literary and cultural allusions, the cookbook embodies the journey of the Russian character from her home country to the United States through American recipes. In Katish: Our Russian Cook, Frolov created an original character who asserts herself in the female space of the kitchen while adjusting to a new country. This adjustment is reflected in the hybrid Russian–American menu, which represents a radical departure from the three decades worth of auto-ethnographic cookbooks produced by the white émigrés in the United States. Frolov’s mode of representation of the Russian identity is fused with consumer potential as a positive force, while the child’s eye view of the story obfuscates the refugee trauma narrative. Released before the advent of television cooking shows and food editor conferences, Katish: Our Russian Cook mapped the local Los Angeles culinary scene in the 1920s and contributed to the development of the culinary memoir writing genre. Published first during the Cold War and republished by Ruth Reichl in 2001, it serves as a pertinent example of American integration and domestication of Russianness.

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