Modernizing Cuisine: The Soviet Experience
Irina Gluschenko, Associate Professor at the School of Cultural Studies, took part in the conference ‘Food and Culture. History, Society, Communication’ where she presented her report ‘Modernizzazione in cucina. L'esperienza Sovietica’ (Modernising Cuisine: The Soviet Experience).
Her research focuses on a unique phenomenon in world history – the first example of an accelerated transition during the 20th century from a traditional to an industrial society as seen in the Soviet Union in the 1920s-1930s.
Her report analyses the changes in everyday life and specifically the transformation of people’s diets as implemented by the Soviet government. Radical changes in nutrition were not only inevitable and necessary, they were also the result of a conscious policy pursued by the government. ‘Culinary policy’ was part of the general strategy of modernization in the 1930s.
Soviet food policy was implemented in two stages. First, home cooking was replaced by public meals in canteens, canteens in factories, etc. Then, in the second stage, there was the return to home cooking but this time - incorporating new equipment, products and ingredients, largely produced by the Soviet food industry.
As a result of this policy Soviet cuisine, which differed from traditional Russian and other cuisines seen across the Soviet Union was transformed into a single synthetic concept. Later, Soviet cuisine was considered dull, poor and boring. However, this does not diminish the success of this experiment in culinary modernization, because it helped adapt people who had lived largely or wholly rural lives to the new, urban, realities.