This introduction examines how food and foodways were used in Russia and in the Communist Bloc nations of Eastern and Central Europe as a means of envisioning and implementing the idea of a utopian future in the here and now. In the case of Russia, food imagery had been utilized in nineteenth-century literature to imagine the ideal community, which became a political and economic necessity after the October Revolution of 1917. Loudly proclaimed ideals of modernity and progress required tangible results, such as an abundance of cheap and healthy food. Local variants of this followed the spread of Soviet influence to Eastern Europe after World War II. Here new foodways and technologies were likewise introduced in order to create the “dreamworlds” of the future. The fall of communism (1989–91) brought about the need to reimagine culinary landscapes, both as a critique of socialism and—later—as a response to twenty-first-century globalization and homogenization.
This article examines contemporary Russian postmodernist author Vladimir Sorokin's use of food thematics primarily in works written since the year 2000. Sorokin is perhaps best known for his signature technique of using grotesque sexual or violent imagery to parody the truth claims of various kinds of discourse, whether ideological, religious, or aesthetic. However, in a number of works, beginning with his first novel, The Norm (1983–87), and extending up to such recent short novels such as Day of an Oprichnik (2006) and Candy Kremlin (2008), Sorokin employs food imagery to critique the push for extreme ideological and social cohesion at the heart of Russia's re-embrace of nationalism and empire in the twenty-first century. The author also employs a broad array of food/eating images to critique the country's long-standing tradition of consuming utopian ideologies—from Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in the nineteenth century to Putinism in the twenty-first.