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Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 review with 5 star rating   See All Ratings
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  • Posted November 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Breath-taking Savoring of A Beautiful Memoir

    This is a memoir to savor. It's a breath-taking account of a young woman who lived the life of a cherished and richly encompassed child of the world at large. I became spellbound by Donia Bijan's life story immediately, and found myself holding my breath as I grasped her book, not wanting to read it slowly, but speeding through its pages like a delicious crepe filled with Turkish coffee ice cream.

    While Ms Bijan's memoir is captivating in and of itself, her exotic recipes included at the end of chapters are both slightly tipped with the savory and screaming to be tried in one's own kitchen. I can hardly wait to try her Cardamom Honey Madeleines. Proustians everywhere know of his love affair with Madeleines to begin with, so her distinctive twist of cardamom with trying out farmers' market honeys makes this recipe irresistible to me. We have a great farmers' market in Naples. Not to mention that I have a fabulous Madeleine pan I've never used!

    What I found intriguing among so many things about this memoir is the tone of her literary "voice." I suppose I expected a lilting celebration of food and family...a "warm and inviting kitchen" experience as expressed on the cover review. Instead, Ms Bijan's telling of her past life as a refugee from revolutionary-torn Iran, to the shores of a hip and culturally shocking San Francisco, and an unimaginably glorious but difficult training in the bowels of kitchens in Paris, France, is somewhat maudlin. It's reflective. I found it a surprise, and a powerful memoir for that reason.

    Food, studying the art of food preparation and restauranteering isn't what's important in her memoir, it seems to me. What is important is the underlying story of trials, family obligations and examples of dedication to others, of loving and sharing gifts through food, of finding wholeness within the simplicity of homemade and close-to-home foods and ingredients that are discovered. Food was the life-blood of Donia's family. It is also the foundation of her heritage,where she is today, and where her son and future generations are going.

    It was significant to me that her mother was not only a central figure in Donia's learning the importance of food and cooking, but she was a strong role-model: a midwife, a women's liberation advocate, a tireless volunteer in wartime, a teacher, a woman of grace and celebration, a needlewoman, a mother and devoted wife. Her mother didn't show her the example of taking the easy road in life, of failing to show up and give ones best efforts. It's obvious in Donia's life.

    I highly recommend this book of many trips through a life that's magical and meaningful. There is much I've left out because there's so much in this memoir, beautifully told, never boring--quite the opposite--like a teatime set with Brussels lace on a silver tray holding lemon tea steeped in a china pot draped in a knitted cozy...side served with a plate of freshly baked cardamom Madeleines; this book will be in your hands until the last perfect word is read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    Persian Cooking, Growing Up, and Politics

    Persian cooks love surprises, tucking delightful tangy fillings in innocent looking dumplings enrobed in pale yogurt and sweetening tomato sauces with dried plums. Sophisticated and satisfying, Persian cuisine deserves a far greater audience.

    I hope Donia Bijan's sophisticated and satisfying memoir receives the broad audience it deserves as well. Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen provides surprises and unexpected depths. Bijan loves the idea of "making things, the alchemy of putting things together." She enriches each chapter with tempting recipes, so you can cook along with the story.

    Some of the most poignant writing deals with her desire to become a chef instead of a doctor, which her father found "preposterous." Part Ratatouille, part CNN, Maman's Homesick Pie looks at the challenges of growing up to be your true self and of representing your birth country in sometimes-hostile territory.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    lovely in every way

    Cardamom. What IS cardamom, and where do I buy it?

    This is one of the first questions to plague me as I read this memoir by Donia Bijan, an accomplished chef with a life story that is as fascinating as it is bittersweet. Initially, I hesitated before I began reading, as the last few memoirs I've read have been sort of "blah". And when I saw that this book contains recipes, I thought that was a cutesy gimmick, as I once read a mystery that had recipes enclosed, which annoyed me to no end (yes, I get easily annoyed).

    However, I curled up with it on a recent rainy day and couldn't put it down. It's lovely. Really. Bijan writes in a natural pace, and her stories brims with poignant details. It begins with the tragic death of her mother, and her task of going through her mother's objects. The task is dreary until she finds her mother's collection of recipes clipped from newspapers or on cards from friends. At this point, she finds the theme that ties her life to her mother's: food. As a chef, the recipe cards she finds are revealing because they show how her mother, exiled from Iran, tried to adapt to American life at a time when being from Iran was a cause for suspicion.

    Going back to the beginning, Bijan recounts her childhood experiences of living in the hospital that her father built. While he was a successful doctor in Iran (and devoted foodie on his own), her mother was head nurse and cook for the patients. Bijan and her sisters assisted their parents and were an active part of hospital life. The nature of food in that hospital was not simple of sustenance but of comfort; meals were designed to be shared, lingered over, and enjoyed as a communal activity.


    is it really $47 for a 2 ounce bottle?
    After her parents are exiled, Bijan goes to school in the US and later to Paris where she is trained at the Cordon Bleu. As she remains close to her mother, her relationship with her father is strained as he envisioned a future for her more prestigious than that of a chef. Bijan works in the field, rising to the top of San Francisco's cooking scene before deciding to return to France to work as an apprentice to hone her craft further. At all points of her story, food is always treated as a purposeful endeavor; the composition of a home-made meal the ultimate display of love and attentiveness.

    The recipes included are those that tie into each story, and there is nothing gimmicky about them. Several I have earmarked to try. But nothing tops the story itself-it is heartwarming and genuinely lovely to read. Definitely a feel-good story and I seriously think it would be a great gift for a foodie friend.

    It can't be denied that Bijan's life was one of privilege: her parents were wealthy and she pretty much was able to undertake whatever opportunities appealed to her. But her hard work and self-sacrifice keeps the reader from feeling that her life was an exception. But to illustrate, at one point she describes life in Paris where she is toiling under brutal teachers at Cordon Bleu:

    "Most evenings, on my way home, I would stop to buy half a baguette, then heard to the fromagerie for a wedge of cheese I had never tasted, and finally go to the produce stand for a single peach, or two figs, maybe a tomato."


    Maybe that is supposed to sound minimal, but being that it's Paris, PARIS (!!!!), it sounds impossibly elegant. In all seriousness, a fromagerie isn't exactly in the strip mall in town.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2011

    Highly recommend

    I loved this book and didn't want it to end. It was steeped in details that made me feel like I was a part of the story. I laughed, I cried and savored each word as though it was the last bite of a favorite meal. I can hardly wait for her next book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    Great story!

    Loved the book! Can't wait to try some of the recepies. The story flowed easily and was an enjoyable read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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