Maman’s Homesick Pie – Donia Bijan

Posted 27 October, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 27 Comments


Title: Maman’s Homesick Pie

Author: Donia Bijan
Published: 2011; Pages: 250
Genre: Memoir/Food
Rating: 4.5/5

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.

**Giveaway Closed**

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?

Thank you to TLC Book Tours, Algonquin Books, and Donia Bijan for providing me with this reading experience.

27 Responses to “Maman’s Homesick Pie – Donia Bijan”

  1. I love food memoirs! Special food memory – most of mine are sort of negative, like the time I tried to make pecan pie and it wouldn’t even break with a hammer… But I also remember my 16th birthday when my stepmom made every single thing I requested, including a 4 layer cake!

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  2. I’m not really into books about food but the cultural aspects of this sound very interesting. My mom is Korean so for me I love Korean food and that is for the most part what reminds me of home!

  3. I have so many great food memories! It’s hard to pick. I recall fondly when I made my own birthday cake (my idea) for my eighth birthday: Angel Food, with 7-minute frosting (both from scratch). I felt triumphant!

  4. Just realized I forgot to include my email address, gah! wordlily AT gmail DOT com

    Cardamom is awesome! It’s also prevalent in Swedish cuisine, which strikes me as very interesting (that and Indian, etc.).

  5. Meg

    Oooh, count me in! I’ve heard such good things about this one, and your review has me salivating. :) I’m a total foodie and love trying new things, so food memoirs are right up my alley.

    A favorite food memory would definitely be tucking into “pigs in a blanket” at my grandmother’s house. We come from strong Polish stock and still eat many “traditional” foods, though I’m the only one in my immediate family who likes cabbage rolls — my favorite! I would sit with Grandma and Grandpa and chow down on all the gross stuff my sister and parents wouldn’t eat. Ah, well — more for me!

    writing.meg [at]

  6. I was just having a conversation about how some meals from my childhood just can’t be created because the time and place is gone. I still crave my mom’s sloppy-joes and they weren’t fancy but I can’t get it right.
    (bkclubcare at gmail)

  7. I’m not a foodie but I do love books/authors that can make me TASTE the foods they are describing. And books where the food is related to a family’s story is even better. :)

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one Trish! Thanks for being on the tour.

  8. This sounds similar to The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber. I read that over the summer, but still haven’t posted… I love foodie memoirs!

  9. Unfortunately my mom is not a good cook (neither am I) but my mother in law is a great cook. First time I met her she made home made biscuits and gravy for breakfast. I had never had it (only cereal in my house)Whenever we eat B&G it reminds me of dating my husband.

  10. This sounds like an excellent book! I love books that involve great food–two of my most favorite things! Glad you enjoyed it so much during the read-a-thon too! I haven’t entered a giveaway in ages, but I don’t think I can pass this one up!

    I have lots of great food memories, as my mom a pretty good cook, but an excellend baker! Since she stayed at home, I have lots of memories of helping her bake things, or baking cookies with my sisters, etc. What was really fun though, was the Saturday mornings when we would all make monkey bread together. My siblings and I were responsible for rolling the dough into balls and covering them in cinnamon and sugar, while my mom would make the “goop” (butter, sugar, vanilla) on the stove. I hope to do the same with my kids!

  11. I have to admit that I have always been a bit ‘simplistic’ when it comes to food. It means that I don’t really have a connection to food books in the same way that other people do. My mother when we were growing up cooked to satisfy my father. This meant we had a meat and potato up-bringing… It also means I hardly ever eat potatoes any more!

  12. Sounds lovely. I’m a big fan of those eastern flavours and I’m fascinated by Persia. I think this book’s for me!

  13. My husband and I still ask his mom to make certain dishes when we visit, and she loves to do it, or says she does at any rate. ;)

    I have a copy, so no need to enter me. Just glad to see you enjoyed it.

  14. A food memoir! That sounds really good. And told with a bit of nostalgia :)

    One of my strongest food memories is the smell of pot roast cooking on Sunday afternoons. My mom would put a roast and carrots/potatoes/celery in the slow cooker before church and we’d come home to the most lovely smell. That smell has always said “home” to me.

    If the giveaway is still open:
    terrib61 [at] gmail [dot] com

  15. Would LOVE a chance to win this!! I’m not only a bookaholic, I’m a foodaholic!

    Chicken and dumplings always remind me of my mom. That was my favorite food growing up, and no one can make it like my mom did!


  16. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever read a food memoir. You make me think I’ve been missing something! My mom makes peanut butter fudge every Christmas. It’s not my favorite thing, but peanut fudge wherever I see it reminds me of my mother :)

  17. *Rhapsody – LOL! I’ve learned that over the years, the disasters are sometimes the best memories. The first time I made pecan pie it overflowed all over the bottom of the oven. I’ve never seen a kitchen oven smoke so much! Bet the layer cake was delicious, though.

    *Jenny – I didn’t realize you were part Korean—my best friend’s mother makes such yummy Korean food. I really enjoyed the cultural aspect of the book—I’m always interested in reading accounts of those who lived through the revolution in Iran.

    *Wordlily – Angel Food Cake and 7-minute frosting both from scratch?! Wow—that is quite the memory. I’m too chicken to attempt Angel Food, though I do love it. Thanks for sharing the memory! And I definitely need to check out cardamom!

    *Meg – Your story about you and your grandparents chowing down on “all the gross stuff” made me smile! There are definitely some family recipes that my husband turns his nose up at as well. ;) I think you’d really like this book.

    *Bermuda – Yes! Food and culture—this one is definitely right up your alley. Hope you can get to it one day.

    *bkclubcare – I hadn’t thought about the time and place as being so intertwined with childhood meals, but you’re right. I hope that one day you’re able to get your mother’s sloppy-joes right. That just screams comfort to me!

    *Rhonda – Oooh, I bet your grandma’s coffee cake is delicious! Thanks for stopping by.

    *Heather – Yes, Bijan does a great job of helping her readers taste the food she describes. It really was a wonderful book and I’m glad I was able to be a part of the tour.

    *Esme – Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did.

    *JoAnn – I haven’t heard of The Language of Baklava but I’ll certainly be looking it up. Have you read any Ruth Reichl? I keep meaning to read more of her food memoirs.

  18. *Laura H – Biscuits and gravy for breakfast?! Oh my goodness!! We usually cook every Sunday morning, but nothing as fancy as that. My grandmother and mom make a breakfast dish called Eggs on Toast that I wish I could re-create but have never been able to. Thanks for sharing your memory!!

    *Trisha – LOL! Yes, bloggers introduce me to many of the books on my radar, too.

    *Laura – I love your monkey bread memory and love the monkey bread as well. ;) Would love to have some about right now. And like you, I look forward to carrying on some of my childhood traditions with my kids. And also discovering new traditions! The fun part of growing up…

    *Kailana – Ha! Well, just as there can be fond food memories, I do think there can be negative ones, too! There are some foods that my husband refuses to eat because of bad experiences growing up. So stubborn. :) But…simple foods can be good, too!

    *Joanna – I think you’d enjoy this book! I haven’t experience a whole lot of Eastern foods, but some of the recipes in the book looked very yummy. So rich!

    *Anna – I bet your mother-in-law loves taking food requests for when you come visit! My parents both live close so there isn’t much we request, but I know when we travel out of town to relatives there are always certain dishes we look forward to! I hope you like this one when you get to it.

    *Terri B. – Mmmmmm, pot roast in the crock pot is one of my very favorite meals. Like you it was a Sunday treat after church. Love with mashed potatoes and peas. Yummmmm! ;)

    *Vicki – It’s frustrating not to be able to recreate a recipe just like mom, huh? But sometimes I think that our nostalgia or memory has a bit to do with that! Thanks for coming by.

    *Britni – I’d be interested in the titles of the books you’ve read and enjoyed! I’m always looking for great foodie memoirs. Thanks for stopping by.

    *Stacy – What?! Never read a food memoir before?! ;) Ruth Reichl has some great ones. But this one was simple delicious. I love that even though you’re not fond of peanut butter fudge it still reminds you of your mom.

  19. I loved this book! Now, I need to read some Ruth Reichl. I’ve got one of her books in my “challenge” pile (the one I haven’t touched for 6 months . . . um, bad Nancy). Actually, I really need to read that quickly and give it back to my daughter-in-law!! :) Glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did!

  20. I have a copy of this that I haven’t read yet. I’m glad to hear it’s that good, I’ll have to read it sooner rather than later. :)