“Savage Fest” by Boris Fishman—Heartbreak and Huc

Fishman, Boris. “Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes)”, HarperCollins,  2019

Heartbreak and Humor

Amos Lassen

Boris Fishman shares a family story in his recipe filled memoir “Savage Feast”. It is also an immigrant story, a love story, and a wonderful meal and it looks at the challenges of navigating two cultures from an unusual angle.  His personal story and his family’s memoir are relat3d to us via meals and recipes. It begins when Boris was a child in Soviet Belarus, a place where good food was as valuable as money.

We learn of the unlikely dish that brought his parents together and how being hungry in the Holocaust made his grandmother so obsessed with bread that she always kept five loaves on hand. His grandmother was quite a cook, his grandfather was a  master black marketer who supplied her, evading at least one firing squad on the way. Boris’ family is made up of Jews who lived under threats.

When Boris and his family comes to this country, food remains of major importance. But before coming here, the family spent time in Vienna and Rome. All the while they had to deal with staying connected to their roots and doing away with the trauma that traveled with them and was, indeed, a part of them.

Fishman goes to a farm in the Hudson River Valley,  to the kitchen of a Russian restaurant on the Lower East Side, to a Native American reservation in South Dakota, and back to Oksana’s kitchen in Brooklyn. His relationships with women are troubled and he finally finds an American soulmate.

For Fishman, food and sharing meals with his family is a way to maintain his roots even as he feels pulled towards his new American life. He turns to cooking and exploring in the kitchen as a way to work out his next step in his life. We are with Boris on his journeys of cooking in his grandfather’s Ukrainian home aid to the kitchen of Russian restaurant on the Lower East Side to a children’s camp on a Native American reservation in South Dakota.

Food is the grounding force of the memoir about   the author’s experiences as an immigrant to America with his family culture  still very much rooted in Russia. He faced a lot of familial pressure to live a certain way while also trying to follow his dreams of writing as well as making his new home in America. He uses cooking, eating, and obtaining food throughout the narrative.

Here is the memoir of a family that survives and is united by food. We are also very aware of the feelings of hunger that the family experienced and are reminded of dishes and recipes of traditional foods—potato latkes, stuffed cabbage, braised rabbit, liver pie, and scores more make the memoir a succulent treat… “This beautifully written memoir is a wonderful story about family, love, and connecting with your roots.”

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