Lenin's culinary legacy lives on

 

I WAS glad to see in last Saturday's Irish Times that the saying "to make an omelette you must break eggs" was for once properly attributed, to Lenin.

It is perhaps not widely known that Lenin was a first class cook: the famous "omelette" remark led many people to imagine he could produce only breakfast. In reality he liked nothing better in early middle age than to spend an hour or two concocting some new dream dish in his simple, functional Petrograd kitchen, or comparing recipes with his friends. Quite a few of today's top cooks, East and West, owe much of their inspiration to Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov.

In the early years of this century, when involved in the Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class, the young Lenin naturally enough had little time (or inclination) for anything other than simple dishes based on buckwheat and water (and of course the wife, Nadezhda, never learned to cook at all).

As the youthful co editor of Iskra, Lenin then fell into the rather careless eating habits of most journalists. But as his interest in Marxism grew, he eventually found himself obliged to address the peasant food question.

The principal obstacle to the acceptance of Marxism by many of the intelligentsia was their adherence to the widespread belief of the Populists that Marxism, in its culinary manifestations, was inapplicable to peasant Russian cuisine, which at that time hardly even recognised the notion of a proletarian diet.

Lenin eventually proved otherwise. Despite the debacle of the First Congress, which collapsed after a huge row over the catering concession, Lenin cleverly arranged for the Second Congress to be convened in London, with its wealth of seductive bistros, trattorias, wine bars and kerbside restaurants. Always a visionary, Lenin realised that the extreme tedium of the three week proceedings would drive delegates out of the Congress and on to the streets where they very quickly discovered the delights of a varied but organised cuisine informed with a Socialist conscience.

It was this experience, principally in the Covent Garden area, that copper fastened Lenin's fast growing reputation as a foodstuffs dictator in the Raymond Blanc mode. From then on, he always cooked the main course at the Bolshevik inner circle get togethers. This could be a simple kouhbyaka with mushy peas in a caviar and sour cream sauce, or an exotic creation like wild Georgian boar steak blasted in a furnace with 1300 proof Stolichnaya vodka; but by all accounts it was never less than superb.

MURIEL has absconded. Yes, Muriel it has actually turned out to be her real name - the Dublin bed and breakfast landlady thought to have put up The Main Man for five nights during the Beef Tribunal at a total cost to the taxpayer of £3,536, and who repeatedly promised this column an exclusive interview, has not been seen for several weeks.

Police last night entered her modest terraced home in Serpentine Avenue, Ballsbridge, Dublin 14, to find it empty. The immaculately furnished residence, valued at about £200,000 in today's spiralling property market, bore few signs of a hasty exit. The Garda took away files, documents, and a large brown suitcase. They then sealed off the house.

A neighbour, Harriet Coulson, blamed media pressure for Muriel's sudden departure. Ms Coulson suspected something was wrong only when three car loads of Mayo supporters, up for the All Ireland final, called at her door after Muriel's bell drew no response. It turned out they had booked in for two nights' B&B: "Fortunately," Ms Coulson said, "I was able to accommodate them.

Presumably they found her prices (£18 p.p. nightly) fairly reasonable? "Not particularly - they said they'd get the same deal for £12 in Kiltimagh. I pointed out to them that the All Ireland Final did not take place in Kiltimagh."

That presumably shut them up? "No, they insisted the final might take place in Kiltimagh some day. These are Mayo people after all. In the end I gave them 5 per cent off plus extra sausages, and they went away happy or as happy as you could expect them to be after the match.

If there are further developments in the Muriel saga, it is in this column you will read of them first.