I Am Fish Soup

A starring role for ukha

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When it comes to the dishes of our childhood, the maxim that nothing is better than Mom's certainly holds true.

Our own food-based nostalgia rose to the surface recently while watching I Am Love, the acclaimed Italian film that's now available on DVD (click here to buy).

While food serves as a symbol throughout the movie, the star dish is the Russian fish soup ukha. It holds one of the last shreds of personal identity of Tilda Swinton's character, Emma Recchi, a Russian woman who married into a powerful Milanese family.

Emma's life is spoken in a foreign language (Swinton delivers the lines in Russian-accented Italian) and controlled by a well-defined matriarchal role in a family with a crippling sense of tradition. Amid the restlessness of a sexless marriage, she consoles herself with ukha: freshwater fish, potatoes, spices, dill.

Ukha's role in I Am Love develops over the film's tense two hours, growing from a sign of Emma's suppressed Russianness to a key player in unveiling the film's darkest secret.

New York City's Russian Tea Room offers its upscale ukha–teeming with crab and monkfish–by request only. We've adapted the recipe (click here to download) to suit a night in, perfect for curling up on the couch and watching a movie.