Author: Donia Bijan
Published: 2011; Pages: 250
Isn’t amazing how food can be so connected to memory? And homesickness? And love? Or is it just me? I remember when I went off to college I would request certain meals, when visiting home, that tasted like home to me. There are still so many recipes and meals that remind me of childhood or more specifically of my mother. Even earlier this month when my mom and I visited my grandmother, Grandma had her cookie jar full of her special caramel brownies because she knows my mom loves them. Being reminded of my own food memories is just a small part of the reason why I loved Maman’s Homesick Pie.
Maman’s Homesick Pie in short: Author Donia Bijan shares her experiences of growing up as a child in Tehran, her teenage years as an immigrant in America, and her years in San Francisco and France where she studied to become a cook. Woven into Donia’s own stories are the memories of her family and the importance of food and cooking in her life.
Why I read it: Lisa of TLC Books mentioned Maman’s Homesick Pie on Twitter one afternoon and I *knew* I had to read it. I raised my hand to be included on the tour and ladi-da.
Thoughts in General: Maman’s Homesick Pie is a delicious book. So go read it. The end. No really, I read this book during the readathon and there were so many times when I sighed out loud at Bijan’s writing and descriptions and might have even hugged the book. Maman’s Homesick Pie is a book to be savored. It isn’t just the food talk that makes the book so delicious, but the nostaligic manner in which Bijan remembers her parents and the struggles of being accepted into American society and the search for belonging. This book has a lot of heart and it was easy to be swept up in Bijan’s storytelling.
Maman’s Homesick Pie contains several recipes throughout the book, mostly of Persian influence. I admit that I am familiar with many of the tastes and scents Bijan describes, but after reading the book I feel I must discover cardamon. The recipes range from simple quick bites to savory chicken and lamb and duck dishes to sweets. I didn’t have a chance to make any of the recipes but I have the Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake bookmarked as I think Scott will love it. But more than just recipes is the way that Bijan pours her heart into each item: “This [Rose Petal Ice Cream], reminiscent of a scent more than a flavor, is what I imagine people who have fallen in love ought to eat. It is new and fresh, evocative and mysterious. It is not vanilla” (216). [hugs book to self].
My only complaint is that the storyline felt disjointed at times. There were frequent jumps back and forth in time and if these jumps were tied together through segues I missed them. Sometimes I found myself thinking “huh, where and when am I”? But, also remember that I’m highly distracted these…ooooh look, something shiny!
Bottom Line: Foodies be warned—this book will make you salivate. And those of you interested in the cultural perspective of the book won’t be disappointed. While Donia’s family was exiled from Iran when she was still young, her Persian culture and upbringing are very much a part of her life and thus the book and story. And those of you who are like me and love memoirs period, well…what more can I say?
And the writing! See what I mean:
“You used all your sense: you looked at it, touched it, and smelled it to know it was done, then lifted it out of its caramel pool, tasted the jus, adjusted it with a squeeze of lemon, and sliced through the lettuce wrap, its emerald leaves now translucent against a milk white breast, the scent of truffles begging you to come closer. You were made of stone if you didn’t fall for this dish. I never tired of the pattern of assembling a dish, falling in love iwth it, sending it away. You shrug and start all over, but each time it feels different–you and your dish in perpetual courtship” (169).
Giveaway: I was thrilled when Lisa sent me an email noting that I would be able to giveaway a copy of Maman’s Homesick Pie to a commenter. I know there are some foodie readers amongst y’all and even some memoir lovers. For US/Canada folks, enter to receive a copy of Maman’s Homesick Pie by leaving me a comment below with a special food memory you have. Or a recipe/dish that reminds you of home. And your email address, of course.
Ok, so even if you don’t enter the giveaway, I’m really interested in hearing what your food memories are. Makes me excited for the holidays coming up when we can carefully choose our traditional holiday menus. What about you?