Luda and Milena seems like an old trifle of a story. It’s about two old Russian women bent on seducing a man in their ESL class by cooking progressively more and more elaborate dishes to win his stomach and heart. I wish I could say there’s more to this, but that’s pretty much it. It really is short. And the ending seems a bit too pat and throwaway. My guess is that Vapnyar cooked this one up in her mind while cooking for herself – the giveaway is when she describes Luda (or was it Milena? I had trouble telling them apart, though I blame this primarily on my own attention span) trying to learn skills from the Food Channel. This sly reference to one celebrity chef made me smile:

On the third show, the host explained how to make tiramisu, which might have been helpful were it not for the host’s cleavage—so prominent that Luda couldn’t concentrate on the movements of her hands.

I guess those who’ve been making fun of me for my recent Giada obsession will feel vindicated, but I still don´t see it. As far as I’m concerned, she’s the only one I want to learn from.