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Tolstoy Family Circle at Yasnaya Polyana

Delicacies of the Russian Aristocracy: Mac ‘N’ Cheese Tolstoy-Style


Tolstoy bequeathed us a magnificent recipe book featuring this delicatessen, as it was prepared in the houses of aristocrats at that time.

It may be hard to believe, but saucepans of pasta with cheese were first mentioned in the 14th century in the Liber de Coquina, one of the oldest medieval cookbooks. The famous dish of mac ‘n’ cheese, such a staple of US culture, started out in Italy as pasta with Parmesan cheese. That led to a kind of sandwich made of pasta, butter and cheese that became, and still is, a favorite English dish, the dinner of many people around the world who like something tasty but don’t have the time or the energy to cook.

But before it became fast food, macaroni and cheese was an aristocratic dish. It was part of the family menu of the aristocratic ruling class of late czarist Russia, to be precise, and who better to share the recipe than Leo Tolstoy? A magnificent and recently translated work, published as Leo Tolstoy’s family recipe book, compiles the recipes that him and his family wrote down for posterity. Tartar sauce, pretzels, plum pudding, chocolate kissel, beef stew, macaroni and cheese, among many other recipes make up this book that will surely inspire anyone who likes Russian literature (or even just eccentricity) to cook.

The texts come with a translation of the Russian weights and measures used at the time. The following is a curious recipe that is the combination of Russian aristocratic and US fast food, which sounds spectacular, and goes more or less like this:

Bring water to the boil, add salt, then add macaroni and leave boiling  on low heat 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 on low heat until the macaroni are soft and tender. Shake the pot occasionally to prevent them from burning.

If you are already thinking about preparing this Tolstoyan delicatessen, why not try a good Aleister Crowley curry or a plate of quinoa a la David Lynch?

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