Summary from BN.com: For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.
From the Persian world of her youth to the American life she embraced as a teenager to her years at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (studying under the infamous Madame Brassart) to apprenticeships in France’s three-star kitchens and finally back to San Francisco, where she opened her own celebrated bistro, Bijan evokes a vibrant kaleidoscope of cultures and cuisines. And she shares thirty inspired recipes from her childhood (Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant and Orange Cardamom Cookies), her French training (Ratatouille with Black Olives and Fried Bread and Purple Plum Skillet Tart), and her cooking career (Roast Duck Legs with Dates and Warm Lentil Salad and Rose Petal Ice Cream).
Foodie memoirs that contain recipes are one of my favorite types of books. I love them because I get a good story about a person as well as seeing how food played a big part of their lives. I love having the recipes included because I can try to experience along with the writer the flavors and tastes that made up their story. This book contains that wonderful combination as I learned about life in Iran, America, and France and all the food in between.
This book is about Donia Bijan's story as she shares her life from growing up in Iran, coming to the US and living the American dream and then starting her career as a chef. I loved her style of writing from the get go. I felt that Bijan drew me into the life and I could see, hear and taste everything she was describing. From the beginning of the story, I knew I was going to connect with it when the author describes the importance of Thanksgiving. She mentioned how for her family celebrating it was important because as immigrants they wanted to accept what is probably the most American of holidays. My family does the exact same thing with us going all out for the holiday.
I found the information of Iran quite interesting as many people today only view them as an evil country. Bijan has fond memories of growing up with her parents and sisters. When they had to flee the country, it was devastating for everyone as it meant making life altering decisions. One of the sections of the book I found interesting was the role change between Bijan's mother and father especially after they came to America. Her father wanted their lives to be tied in medicine but her mother had higher aspirations including women's rights. When they got to America, she found herself being able to use her platform more there but he found himself not being as successful. The change must have been quite jarring.
Tie-in recipes are included at the end of every chapter. I like how Bijan includes back story before the recipe to give the reader a better sense of why she included it. Some do look a bit difficult but most look fairly easy and with easy to get ingredients. A few of the recipes are quite exotic, both from Bijan's childhood in Iran as well as her training in Paris. You don't want to read this book on an empty stomach.
Overall, I loved reading the short vignettes about Bijan's life throughout the years. It's an amazing story with both serious and fun times mixed together. I will admit sometimes the timeline skips around so I wasn't sure at first if we were back in Iran or America. Other than this, I truly love the food, culture, history and narrative that Bijan gave us in this book. This is another addition to the great memoirs that I've read in 2011.
Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan is published by Algonquin Books (2011)
This review copy was provided for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours
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