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Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  254 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Each of Lara Vapnyar's six stories invites us into a world where food and love intersect, along with the overlapping pleasures and frustrations of Vapnyar's uniquely captivating characters. Meet Nina, a recent arrival from Russia, for whom colorful vegetables represent her own fresh hopes and dreams . . . Luda and Milena, who battle over a widower in their English class wi ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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Mar 02, 2014 Aloke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, fiction
Several short and funny stories. Some sex. Then recipes. What more do you want?
Nov 29, 2010 Tanya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: underwhelmed
I feel bad giving a mostly negative review to creative work produced by a fellow Soviet expat, but that is also the very reason why I *must* give an honest, not so glowing review.

Initially, I was compelled to pick up this collection of stories because I like reading fiction about the immigrant experience, especially if it's written by someone who shares a lot of the same memories and experiences that I do, having come to the States from Russia in 1993.

I was more than a little disappointed by t
Derek Emerson
Sep 19, 2009 Derek Emerson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009-books-read

Lara Vapnyar has a fascination with food, although not of the type usually written about and praised. Vapnyar's selection of food resembles her approach to fiction, which is simple, straightforward, and sustaining. Her first collection of short stories ("There are Jews in My House") showed the promise of a gifted story writer, and this second collection (a novel was published in between) confirm earlier expectations. The Russian born writer, now living in New York, came to the U.S. when she was
In "A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf," Nina stocks the refrigerator with vegetables but never has time to cook; but when a sudden change in her life gives her all the time she needs, a different problem arises. In "Borscht," a lonely Russian emigrant finds more comfort in a stranger's cooking than in the sex she offers. Two women--"Luda and Milena"--employ food as their weapons as they fight for the attention of the same man, while others, in three other stories, try to adapt to their new ...more
Apr 25, 2010 Daisy rated it liked it
What I learned from this book: Chop garlic, chop parsley, mix together with salt, put in a bowl, add hot borscht. See recipe chapter--it's funny.

Well I liked these stories much better than Memoirs of a Muse: A Novel, which I barely remember. Funny that usually the first and last stories of a collection are placed to be the most powerful or poignant, but I liked the middle stories best, especially Borscht. A quick read and a cute premise: Eastern European immigrants in New York and their nostalgi
Jul 25, 2011 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book of short stories for two reasons: (1) it has "broccoli" in its title and (2) the author's first name is "Lara" and I liked that character in Boris Pasternak's "Doctor Zhivago," especially as she was played by Julie Christie in the 1965 movie. To say that a collection of Russian short stories about Eastern European émigrés living in America is sad is perhaps to be redundant. Vapnyar wanders around the intersection between food and love, as she promises to do in the collection's ...more
Jun 03, 2008 Yuzhi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A savory book, only wish it was longer. Each short story was like a well-crafted puff pastry, the layers just keep coming off, revealing a flavorful center worth thinking about for days. My favorite is the one titled Luda and Milena; the ending was just too much black humor. First published in The New Yorker, it was funny but also bleak.
Jun 04, 2008 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun collection of short stories, all food-related, all with Russian immigrant characters. I'm not usually a short-story fan, but each of these was satisfying enough, maybe because I love reading about food and culture and love.
Not bad, but somewhat forgettable. I found some of the story endings a bit pat, but she still has a strong knack for description and touching situations. I haven't tried any of the recipes included, but I now do want to eat borscht for the first time ever.
Apr 14, 2009 Erika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to make more Russian salads. . .
Jul 08, 2014 Frances rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It took me awhile to hunt down Lara Vapynar’s short stories “Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love.” It is a short collection and one I never felt I was able to sink my teeth into, despite the subjects.

Vapynar is a Russian immigrant and the tales she tells are those of other immigrants. Food has obvious cultural significance and in each story the characters are trying to connect with or rediscover some part of themselves through the dishes they create and consume. The familiarity of a dish o
Sue Russell
Sue Russell - Library Journal

This collection by Vapnyar (Memoirs of a Muse) follows up her first collection, There Are Jews in My House, which won the Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in 2004. Among the growing number of writers, including David Bezmozgis and Ellen Litman, who use eloquence and sardonic wit to capture the experience of Eastern European immigrants from the Communist bloc resettling in American cities, Vapnyar is one of t
Nesa Sivagnanam
Feb 06, 2011 Nesa Sivagnanam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These six short stories all feature Russian immigrants to the United States who eat together and whose lives are depressing with occasional moments of joy.

Nina's husband, a talented musician, leaves her. She's alone with the fresh vegetables she always buys but never cooks until she meets a man who loves to cook and finds a touch of redemption.

Sergey goes to a prostitute, to his shame, but sees the wife and mother in her as she makes him borscht.

Katya discovers her own beauty and shares the ex
Aug 23, 2008 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vapnyar returns to a short stories, after a novel as the follow up to the excellently done There are Jews In My House, with a collection focusing on Russian immigrants and food. It is an interesting approach, a themed collection that isn't really about the theme. As before with her short stories, she rarely wastes sentences, making everything count and contribute. Aside from the tragically awful 'Borscht' (which is throughout a major misstep and only near the end begins to show a glimmer of the ...more
Sep 27, 2015 Kenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the ones about broccoli and the other about borscht. The latter reminded me of Lahiri (otherwise, I'm not sure who else/what other wells of writers these stories are drawn from), in that they both address domestic immigrant couples who begin to feel alienated from each other as they learn to adjust to an alien world. The former reminded me of my own life, and here, romantic love gets mixed up with feelings of sexual desire. These stories, due to the uncomplicated narrators, who neverthele ...more
Oct 22, 2008 Alsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find Russian authors terribly depressing and I mean that in the best possible way. They have a knack for churning out stories about love and loss in the most beautiful, poetic fashion. Vapnyar does all of this by making food the focal point that brings all her characters to life and connects them to their homeland, mother Russia. From a dissatisfied blue collar man who finds comfort in borscht rather than a night of passion with a call girl to two old women who fight over a man with a final me ...more
This book confuses me. I didn't particularly LIKE it, it was full of sadness and unfulfilled people living their lives halfway between our beautiful country and theirs. But I felt like I understood another class or another type of person so much better than when I began. Isn't that partially what books are supposed to do? Put us so completely in another person's shoes? I didn't like it, but I was so compelled by it, its hard not to feel a bit changed when you put it down.

Highly recommended for
Jun 04, 2008 Liz marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
From the NYT Dining section!
"In “Luda and Milena,” two Russian-born women in their 70s compete for a man in their English language class, each elbowing the other aside with platters of spinach pie and cheese puffs. The man finally chokes to death on the day that both women make Russian meatballs: juicy patties enriched with cream-soaked bread, onion and garlic, and fried until crusty and brown. It is, however, impossible to know from the story which woman’s meatball was the fatal instrument."
Nov 02, 2008 Vicky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of funny short stories based on Russian migrant's experience in America. The author talks about alienation, nostalgi and isolation. Her stories sad and light at the same time. Her heroes are pensioners at the Language Centers, young women turned between the parents expectations and the call of a new life and parents struggling with depression after the loss of status and selfworth.
Mar 29, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A series of short stories which use food as the basis of relationships, the author provides a unique view into new immigrants' lives in NYC. Given that these are short stories I shouldn't be surprised that some of the characters lacked development, nevertheless I enjoyed the read. It is a perfect before bed book.
Leslie Ann
A decent selection of stories that demonstrate how people use food to connect with others. The stories were more meaningful because my husband is a Russian immigrant (though not a computer programmer). Vapnyar is strongest when she does humor (my favorite story is "Luda and Milena"), and I'm adding a half star just for the recipes at the end.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Sep 25, 2012 Shana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
’s a very small book of short stories revolving around food and Russian/Eastern European immigrants. I adore food memoirs but this fell flat and was just barely entertaining. There was potential, but I didn’t feel that the stories were fleshed out enough. Perhaps they could have stood to be a bit longer.
wild pear
Jan 08, 2010 wild pear rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fun, fascinating, poignant, and sometimes funny collection of short stories set among the Russian ex-pat community in the U.S. Vapnyar's writing is a joy to read: keenly observant, evocotive, and efficient. Her characters are so real they seem to join you in the room, and the food she weaves into her tales takes the mundane and makes it seem tasty and new. Thoroughly enjoyed this quick read.
May 27, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a quick read and I enjoyed it. All of these short stories revolve around food and relationships. Each story is about characters who are Russian immigrants in USA or who are working there. I found that the stories have a yearning quality as most of the main characters experience loneliness and isolation from others.
Aug 11, 2012 Dania rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love reading modern fiction by Russian, Russian-American, and Russian Jewish writers. This is the second book I've read by Vapnyar, and it describes Russian immigrant experiences in America. Some are funny, and some are sad, but they are all well-written.
Alex Templeton
It didn't do as much for me as Vapnyar's novel "Memoirs of a Muse", but all the stories were enjoyable at the very least. I meant to make a copy of "Puffed Rice and Meatballs"; it was quietly horrifying.
Nov 14, 2008 Moishy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Refreshingly Russian, however it seems that the storys where like she read a how to guide on short stories. none the less it is still a great book, i read it in one sitting, and there are receipes in the back relating to the stories.
Aug 11, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice collection of short stories that follow the lives of Russian immigrants and their interactions with food and love. The stories flow together, leaving the reader thinking about the curious combination of food and how it plays a part in each of the stories' romance between the characters.
Ms Vapnyar writes beautiful prose. Her stories are sweet and well crafted. Plus you get an insight into the world of Russian emigrants and the challenges they face.

However, the lack of excitement or tension or even humor means I won't be searching for her other works.
Like the surprise of glowing orange heirloom tomato under an ordinary leaf of lettuce, Lara Vapnyar's subtle, savory scent-ences will catch you off guard. These deliciously crafted stories are ones I won't soon forget.
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Lara Vapnyar emigrated from Russia to New York in 1994 and began publishing short stories in English in 2002. She lives on Staten Island and is pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center.
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