Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekly Reading Update, including a brief review of Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan

For reasons made obvious in my last post (we were out-of-town most of last week for Eldest's wedding), I didn't manage to accomplish much in the way of reading. I did, however finish the two Grandma's Attic books that I briefly reviewed. I hauled all of the Grandma's Attic books, including the two I reviewed last year, to Nashville and passed them on to my multi-talented, cake-decorating sister-in-law, who has two little girls.

I also finished reading Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan. Apart from the fact that there was a lot of jumping back and forth in time (which is typical, I suppose, since the book is a memoir), which made the reading occasionally confusing due to tense issues, I really enjoyed Maman's Homesick Pie.

Donia Bijan spent her first 16 years of life in Iran, then her family eventually moved to the U.S., where Bijan attended college. After college, she moved to Paris to train as a chef at the famous Cordon Bleu Cooking School. Bijan moved back and forth between the U.S. and France to work at various establishments and hone her skills, then she opened her own restaurant. Maman's Homesick Pie blends memories of her childhood and home life with talk of college, cooking school and the many places she worked to develop her skills as a chef.

Donia Bijan's story is partly about her love of food, how it developed and how she came to blend the recipes and flavors from the three countries in which she's resided to create her own recipes and menus. But, it's also a loving tribute to her mother, who died in a pedestrian/car accident. Her mother was an excellent cook who loved preparing food and passed on her joy to her daughter. She was also a fascinating woman who was involved in politics and nursing, a woman with a strength and spirit you can't help but admire.

Maman's Homesick Pie is one of the best cross-cultural and "inside the world of the chef" memoirs I've read in a while. Although Bijan's family lost their home and possessions during a regime change in Iran, her mother was determined to bloom where she was planted and that rubbed off on the author. There's no whining about their tremendous losses. Instead, Bijan focuses on the scents and flavors that gave her joy and how she became a chef because it was truly the only profession she could imagine for herself.

If you love a foodie memoir with plenty of recipes and a chatty writing style, you'll love Maman's Homesick Pie. I heartily recommend it. There are some unusual ingredients that I doubt we'll be able to obtain in some of the Persian recipes but the author did mention alternative ingredients that can be substituted, in many cases.

I'm jumping the gun, here. The release date is October 11, but I couldn't convince myself to set down Maman's Homesick Pie, once I started reading. My thanks to Algonquin Books for the sending me this unexpected ARC in the mail.

I'm focusing on Lord and Lady Spy, at the moment. And, I'm enjoying a daily dip into Haiku Mind. Otherwise, I really am not doing much reading; the other books in my sidebar took a nice drive to Nashville and back for no apparent reason. Hopefully, I'll get my groove back, soon. Since I bought a few books that were on my Paperback Swap wish list in Nashville, I have room to add a few titles. What wonderful books would you recommend that I add to my wish list?

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  1. That book sounds wonderful! I can't wait to read it.

  2. Kathy,

    It's very good. Now, I need to try some of those recipes!

  3. I tend to fall in love with foodie books, and this one sounds excellent! I love that it also includes recipes as well. So glad that you enjoyed it! I also have a recommendation for you if you enjoyed this one. It's called The Language of Baklava, and it was just a hilarious and wonderful book.

  4. Zibilee,

    I really enjoy foodie books, too. I was flipping through a Ruth Reichl book, a little bit ago, and I will tell you that the writing is not as beautiful as Reichl's, if you are familiar with her, but I always love the way foodie books evoke the senses. Donia Bijan's writing is definitely not lacking in that area. She also kept it very positive, although her father was obviously a bit of a pill. I think you'll like it. I'll look up The Language of Baklava. You had me at "hilarious". :)

  5. That book sounds lovely! I really do enjoy a good food memoir, and cross-cultural memoirs too. It just sounds perfect. Perhaps a book to nominate for the Indie Lit Awards for the memoirs category? (I'm a panelist for that category, so I'm hoping people nominate good books.) :)

  6. Alyce,

    I really enjoyed it. I don't know anything about the Indie Lit awards. I'll have to look them up.

  7. You can never go wrong with reading something with "homesick" in the title. Sounds like a wonderful memoir.

  8. Bybee,

    I don't know that I've ever read any other book with "homesick" in the title! This one's good, though. :)

  9. I want the PIE book.


  10. Care,

    Okay. I'll send it to you. :)


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