This deeply resonating memoir of the Middle East is about the rhythms of daily lives and the breaking of those rhythms. Journalist Annia Ciezadlo was born in Chicago and Indiana, but in 2003, she moved to Baghdad, where she spent her honeymoon with her Lebanese husband. Over the next six years, she reported on events in war-torn Iraq and Beirut, even as she absorbed the shared recipes and rituals of Middle Eastern households. Day of Honey records the dissonance between those quieting traditional patterns and the bloody chaos of infectious violence. It teaches its compassionate lessons without preaching; to bring them completely home, it offers a full bounty of family recipes.
Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Warby Annia Ciezadlo
A luminous portrait of life in the war-torn Middle East, Day of Honey combines the brilliance of From Beirut to Jerusalem with the pleasures of Eat, Pray, Love.
American Book Award Winner
Winner of Books for a Better Life Award (First Book)
James Beard Foundation Award Nominee
BNN Discover Awards, second place nonfiction
A luminous portrait of life in the war-torn Middle East, Day of Honey combines the brilliance of From Beirut to Jerusalem with the pleasures of Eat, Pray, Love.
American Book Award Winner
Winner of Books for a Better Life Award (First Book)
James Beard Foundation Award Nominee
BNN Discover Awards, second place nonfiction
A luminous portrait of life in the Middle East, Day of Honey weaves history, cuisine, and firsthand reporting into a fearless, intimate exploration of everyday survival.
In the fall of 2003, Annia Ciezadlo spent her honeymoon in Baghdad. Over the next six years, while living in Baghdad and Beirut, she broke bread with Shiites and Sunnis, warlords and refugees, matriarchs and mullahs. Day of Honey is her memoir of the hunger for food and friendship—a communion that feeds the soul as much as the body in times of war.
Reporting from occupied Baghdad, Ciezadlo longs for normal married life. She finds it in Beirut, her husband’s hometown, a city slowly recovering from years of civil war. But just as the young couple settles into a new home, the bloodshed they escaped in Iraq spreads to Lebanon and reawakens the terrible specter of sectarian violence. In lucid, fiercely intelligent prose, Ciezadlo uses food and the rituals of eating to illuminate a vibrant Middle East that most Americans never see. We get to know people like Roaa, a determined young Kurdish woman who dreams of exploring the world, only to see her life under occupation become confined to the kitchen; Abu Rifaat, a Baghdad book lover who spends his days eavesdropping in the ancient city’s legendary cafés; Salama al-Khafaji, a soft-spoken dentist who eludes assassins to become Iraq’s most popular female politician; and Umm Hassane, Ciezadlo’s sardonic Lebanese mother-in-law, who teaches her to cook rare family recipes—which are included in a mouthwatering appendix of Middle Eastern comfort food. As bombs destroy her new family’s ancestral home and militias invade her Beirut neighborhood, Ciezadlo illuminates the human cost of war with an extraordinary ability to anchor the rhythms of daily life in a larger political and historical context. From forbidden Baghdad book clubs to the oldest recipes in the world, Ciezadlo takes us inside the Middle East at a historic moment when hope and fear collide. Day of Honey is a brave and compassionate portrait of civilian life during wartime—a moving testament to the power of love and generosity to transcend the misery of war.
“Her epicurial tour cracks open a different Iraq. She looks into its dusty cookbooks, explores its coffeehouses and savors the foods of its many regions and religious sects. Her book is full of more insight and joy than anything else I have read on Iraq.... Her writing is at times so moving that you want to cry for countries destroyed, but she writes with such wisdom that you don't fret over the future of these 4,000-year-old civilizations."—The Washington Post Book World
“Her writing about food is both evocative and loving; this is a woman who clearly enjoys a meal. . . . A glass of Iraqi tea, under Ciezadlo’s gaze, is a thing of beauty.”—The Associated Press
“In her extraordinary debut, Annia Ciezadlo turns food into a language, a set of signs and connections, that helps tie together a complex moving memoir of the Middle East. She interweaves her private story with portraits of memorable individuals she comes to know along the way, and with the shattering public events in Baghdad and Beirut. She does so with grace and skill, without falling into sentimentality or simple generalizations.” —The Globe and Mail
“Ciezadlo is a splendid narrator, warm and funny and more interested in others than herself... Cooking and eating are everyday comforts, and with any luck, a source of fellowship; Day of Honey is a beautiful reminder that this doesn't change even in the midst of war."—Slate
“Ciezadlo's memoir is, fortunately, fascinating. And touching. Plus alternately depressing (because of the seemingly endless, senseless sectarian deaths in Iraq and Lebanon) and laugh-out-loud funny (because of the self-deprecation, not to mention the vivid portraits of unique characters such as her mother-in-law).... It would be an easy path, and maybe a wise one, to fill out the remainder of this review with direct quotations from the memoir. Ciezadlo’s writing is that good.... Ciezadlo's voice is marvelous."—The Christian Science Monitor
“Her fast-paced, graceful writing weaves politics into discussions of literature and cuisine to bring insight into the long history of cultural mix and transition in the Middle East, reminding us that even as war persists, our humanity helps to preserve our civilization, and our food binds our communities and our families.... A highly recommended personal perspective on political and cultural aspects of the war-riven Middle East..." —Library Journal
“Ciezadlo’s lovely, natural language succeeds where news reports often fail: She leads us to care.”—The Oregonian
“A vividly written memoir of her adventures in travel and taste in the Middle East. The capstone to all her thoughtful ruminations is a mouthwatering final chapter collecting many of the dishes she describes earlier in the book. She does this all in writing that is forthright and evocative, and she reminds us that the best memoirs are kaleidoscopes that blend an author’s life and larger truths to make a sparkling whole.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Ciezadlo paints memorable portraits of shopkeepers, journalists, poets, women's rights activists, restaurant owners, and the ways they cope... When Ciezadlo describes meals, I am both hungry and drunk on her words... The best books transport us to worlds outside our experience, making them both real and comprehensible. Unequivocally, this is one of those books.” —The Austin Chronicle
“Annia Ciezadlo’s Day of Honey is a gorgeous, mouthwateringly written book that convincingly demonstrates why, even with bombs going off all over the place, you gotta eat.”
—Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City
“A riveting, insightful and moving story of a spirited people in wartime horror told with affection and humour. Food plays a part in the telling—unraveling layers of culture, history and civilization, revealing codes of behaviour and feelings of identity and making the book a banquet to be savored."
—Claudia Roden, author of The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
“A warm, hilarious, terrifying, thrilling, insanely smart debut book that gets deep inside of you and lets you see the Middle East—and the world—through profoundly humanitarian eyes. And if that weren’t enough, there’s also a phenomenal chapter’s worth of recipes. Buy this important book. Now.”
—James Oseland, editor-in-chief, Saveur
"Annia Ciezadlo combines 'mouthwatering' and the Middle East in this beautifully crafted memoir. She adds a new perspective to the region and leavens the stories of lives caught up in the tragedies of war, including her own, with recipes for understanding. She is a gifted writer and a perceptive analyst. Ciezadlo’s portraits are unforgettable."
—Deborah Amos, author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East and correspondent for National Public Radio
“It’s been a long time since I have enjoyed any nonfiction as much as I did Annia Ciezadlo’s Day of Honey… Ciezadlo’s determination to know intimately the cuisine of wherever she’s staying lends the book both its organization and richness… Ciezadlo is a splendid narrator, warm and funny… Cooking and eating are everyday comforts, and with any luck, a source of fellowship; Day of Honey was a beautiful reminder that this doesn’t change even in the midst of war.”
“Her book is full of more insight and joy than anything else I have read on Iraq. Some tidbits are fascinating… Ciezadlo is a wonderful traveling companion. Her observations are delightful — witty, intelligent and nonjudgmental. Skirting the politics, hotel food and headline-grabbing violence, she spills the secrets of this region so rich in history as if they were spices from a burlap sack. Her writing is at times so moving that you want to cry for countries destroyed, but she writes with such wisdom that you don’t fret over the future of these 4,000-year-old civilizations. It’s a shame that the hundreds of journalists, aid workers and pundits who dominate the discussion of Iraq and Lebanon rarely stop to delight in the countries’ beauty.”
—The Washington Post
A lucid memoir of life and travel in the war-torn Middle East, in which the author explores the journalistic adage that "to write the story, you have to eat the meal."
Former Christian Science Monitor Baghdad correspondent Ciezadlo traces the six years she spent as an American in the Middle East. The story begins with the author following her Lebanese-born husband to Baghdad in 2003, where the two began new lives as war correspondents. Through immersion in food and cooking, Ciezadlo grounded herself amid widespread instability while gaining special insight into a people forced to endure years of bloody conflict. For ordinary Iraqis, creating meals from handed-down recipes that recalled "the memory of other places, other worlds" brought them a comfort and freedom they could not find elsewhere. At the same time, Ciezadlo also discovered how food allowed her to transcend the lingering homesickness that came from "trying to straddle two different places at once." When the situation for foreign journalists in Baghdad became too dangerous, the author and her husband relocated to the relative calm of Beirut, a city that had been rocked by civil war for nearly 20 years. The couple eventually settled into happy domesticity; for a brief moment, among her husband's relatives and the bounty of delicious food, the Ciezadlo felt satisfyingly rooted. However, they soon found themselves caught in yet another war as Israel began a military campaign against Hezbollah, which included the bombardment of Beirut. A re-emergence of old hostilities between Shiite and Sunni Muslims soon followed, causing more unrest. Saddened by "the aftertaste of hate," Ciezadlo realized that while "the war would never end," internecine conflicts did not diminish the fact that "[h]ome was wherever you broke bread with people you loved."
Though the author is occasionally overzealous in her attempts to wed the political and historical with the personal and domestic, this ambitious and multilayered book is as much a feast for the mind as for the heart.
The New York Times
The Washington Post
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Read an Excerpt
HE WAS ONE of an endangered species: among the few white, native-born cab drivers left in New York. Meaty, middle-aged, face like a potato. A Donegal tweed driving cap. He pulled up beside me, drew down the window, and growled out of the corner of his mouth: “You wanna ride?”
We rode in silence until we reached Atlantic Avenue. “You see this street?” he said, waving a massive hand at the windshield. “They’re all Arabs on this street.”
He was right, more or less. The conquest began in the late 1800s, as the Ottoman Empire waned and the Mediterranean silk trade collapsed. Between 1899 and 1932, a little over 100,000 “Syrians”—in those days, a catchall term for practically anyone from the Levant, the French name for the eastern Mediterranean—emigrated to the New World. Many of them settled in New York. In 1933, the Arab-American newspaper Syrian World described Atlantic Avenue, with gently sarcastic pride, as “the principal habitat of the species Syrianica.”
By 1998, the Atlantic Avenue strip was such a symbol of Arab-American identity that 20th Century Fox re-created it for a movie called The Siege. In the movie, Arab terrorists carry out a series of bombings in New York City, and the government imposes martial law and rounds up all the Arabs, guilty and innocent alike, into detention camps.
“These Arabs, yeah,” the cabbie continued. “They come over here, they try to act normal. Try to act like you and me. Like they’re fitting in, ya know?”
He barked out a laugh. “Turns out they’re al-Qaeda.”
It was a relief when people said it openly. I could talk to this guy. He was an ethnic American, and he assumed I was one too. He was right: I’m a Polish-Greek-Scotch-Irish mutt from working-class Chicago. A product of stockyards and steel mills and secretarial schools. I could see where he was coming from. I came from there myself.
But then again: the man I loved was named for Islam’s prophet. We had been seeing each other for about five months. I had thought of him as just another ethnic American, but now it was September 13, 2001, and suddenly nobody else seemed to see it that way. On September 11, the landlady had knocked on his door just before midnight. Mrs. Scanlon was an immigrant herself, from Ireland, and no doubt with terrorism-related memories of her own. In a high and quavering voice, she asked, “Mohamad, are you an Arab?”
I had been thinking about The Siege quite a bit since then.
When 20th Century Fox started filming The Siege in the late 1990s, I had just moved to the heavily Polish Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint. Apparently the real Atlantic Avenue didn’t have enough brownstones to look like New York on film, so overnight, Hollywood set designers transformed Greenpoint’s Little Warsaw into a cinematic version of the Arab street. Awnings that had once read Obiady Polski (Polish Dinners) now surged with Arabic script. Tanks rolled past under klieg lights. Wandering down the imitation Atlantic Avenue, it was easy to imagine that all of our carefully constructed ethnic identities were nothing but Hollywood sets, as specious a notion as the species Syrianica, a scaffolding you could put up or tear down in a couple of hours.
The city had papered Greenpoint’s streetlights with flyers forbidding people to park because of Martial Law, the movie’s working title; as it happened, many Greenpointers had fled Poland in the early 1980s, when it was under actual Communist martial law. Middle-aged Polish émigrés would stop and glower at the Hollywood diktats with gloomy satisfaction: You see? I told you it would happen here too.
Back in September 2001, red and yellow traffic lights flowed over the dark windshield. The few cars ghosting down the empty avenue ignored them. Everyone ran red lights during the days after the attacks. Stopping seemed pointless, like everything else.
“No, man, that’s not true,” I said finally. “A lot of the Arabs here left their countries because they weren’t al-Qaeda. A lot of them left to get away from those guys.”
Al-Qaeda wouldn’t have had much use for my Arab: he’s a Shiite, at least by birth. But introducing the Sunni-Shiite divide seemed a little ambitious in this case. “They left cause their countries were messed up,” I said. “The ones that are here are the ones that wanted to come to America.”
He looked hard at me in the rearview mirror, his eyes flashing in the little strip of glass.
I sighed. “You know, most of the Arabs here in the U.S. are actually Christians.”
A cowardly argument. My own Arab was a Muslim, after all.
“Shyeah!” the cabbie spat. “They act like they’re Christians. They pretend. But they’re really al-Qaeda.”
Gray metal shutters hid the store windows, but memory filled in what I couldn’t see. Here on my right was Malko Karkanni’s shabby storefront, jammed with bins of olives and dusty coffeepots. Mr. Karkanni liked to talk; if you had time, he would pull out a stool, make you tea, and talk about the lack of human rights in Syria, the country he still missed. Ahead on the left was a restaurant named Fountain, with a real fountain inside, like an Ottoman courtyard; once, when I told the waiter where my grandmother was from, he broke into fluent Greek. And here was Sahadi’s, the famous deli and supermarket, run by a family that has been part of New York ever since 1895, when Abraham Sahadi opened his import-export company in lower Manhattan, back when my ancestors were still plowing fields in Scotland, Galicia, and the Peloponnese.
“Well, my boyfriend’s an Arab,” I said suddenly. The words tumbled out, high-pitched and breathless. “And he’s not al-Qaeda, and I have a lot of Arab friends, and they’re not al-Qaeda either!”
The eyes flashed back at me again, a little more anxiously this time. Was he going to kick me out of his car? Would he call the police, the FBI, and tell them about me and my Arab boyfriend?
Or would he just shake his head and decide that I was a fool—one of a breed of unfortunate women who marry foreign men, put them through flight school, and end up later on talk shows insisting that “he seemed so normal”? Like Annette Bening in The Siege, who falls for an educated Arab guy, a Palestinian college professor who acts normal but—you can’t trust them—turns out to be a terrorist in the end?
He thought about it for a block or two before he spoke. His voice was casual, and unexpectedly gentle, as if we had backed up and rewound the whole conversation to the beginning.
“You know that place Sahadi’s?” he said. “Y’ever been in there? They got some great food in there, yeah. Hummus, falafel, you know. Boy, that stuff is pretty good. You ever try it?”
There’s a saying in Arabic: Fi khibz wa meleh bainetna—there is bread and salt between us. It means that once we’ve eaten together, sharing bread and salt, the ancient symbols of hospitality, we cannot fight. It’s a lovely idea, that you can counter conflict with cuisine. And I don’t swallow it for a second. Just look at any civil war. Or at our own dinner tables, groaning with evidence to the contrary.
After September 11, liberal New Yorkers flocked to Arabic restaurants, Afghan, even Indian—anything that seemed vaguely Muslim, as if to say, “Hey, we know you’re not the bad guys. Look, we trust you, we’re eating your food.” New York newspapers ran stories about foreigners and their food, most of which followed much the same formula: the warmhearted émigré alludes mournfully to troubles in his homeland; assures the readers that not all Arabs/Afghans/Muslims are bad; and then shares his recipe for something involving eggplants. They were everywhere after September 11, photos of immigrants holding out plates of food, their eyes beseeching, “Don’t deport me! Have some hummus!” But a lot of them did get deported, and American soldiers got sent to Afghanistan and Iraq. A decade later, the lesson seems clear: You can eat eggplant until your toes turn purple, and it won’t stop governments from going to war.
But then again, there is something about food. Even the most ordinary dinner tells manifold stories of history, economics, and culture. You can experience a country and a people through its food in a way that you can’t through, say, its news broadcasts.
Food connects. In biblical times, people sealed contracts with salt, because it preserves, protects, and heals—an idea that goes back to the ancient Assyrians, who called a friend “a man of my salt.” Like Persephone’s pomegranate seeds, the alchemy of eating binds you to a place and a people. This bond is fragile; people who eat together one day can kill each other the next. All the more reason we should preserve it.
Many books narrate history as a series of wars: who won, who lost, who was to blame (usually the ones who lost). I look at history as a series of meals. War is part of our ongoing struggle to get food—most wars are over resources, after all, even when the parties pretend otherwise.
But food is also part of a deeper conflict, one that we all carry inside us: whether to stay in one place and settle down, or whether to stay on the move. The struggle between these two tendencies, whether it takes the form of war or not, shapes the story of human civilization. And so this is a book about war, but it is also about travel and migration, and how food helps people find or re-create their homes.
One of my old journalism professors, a man with the unforgettable name of Dick Blood, used to roar that if you want to write the story, you have to eat the meal. He was talking about Thanksgiving, when reporters visit homeless shelters, collect a few quotes, and head back to the newsroom to pump out heartwarming little features without ever tasting the turkey. But I’ve found that this command—“You have to eat the meal”—is a good rule for life in general. And so whenever I visit a new place, I pursue a private ritual: I never let myself leave without eating at least one local thing.
We all carry maps of the world in our heads. Mine, if you could see it, would resemble a gigantic dinner table, full of dishes from every place I’ve been. Spanish Harlem is a cubano. Tucson is avocado chicken. Chicago is yaprakis; Beirut is makdous; and Baghdad—well, Baghdad is another story.
In the fall of 2003, I spent my honeymoon in Baghdad. I’d married the boyfriend, who was also a reporter, and his newspaper had posted him to Iraq. So I moved to Beirut, with my brand-new husband and a few suitcases, and then to Baghdad.
For the next year, we tried to act like normal newlyweds. We did our laundry, went grocery shopping, and argued about what to have for dinner like any young couple, while reporting on the war. And throughout all of it, I cooked.
Some people construct work spaces when they travel, lining up their papers with care, stacking their books on the table, taping family pictures to the mirror. When I’m in a strange new city and feeling rootless, I cook. No matter how inhospitable the room or the streets outside, I construct a little field kitchen. In Baghdad, it was a hot plate plugged into a dubious electrical socket in the hallway outside the bathroom. I haunt the local markets and cook whatever I find: fresh green almonds, fleshy black figs, just-killed chickens with their heads still on. I cook to comprehend the place I’ve landed in, to touch and feel and take in the raw materials of my new surroundings. I cook foods that seem familiar and foods that seem strange. I cook because eating has always been my most reliable way of understanding the world. I cook because I am always, always hungry. And I cook for that oldest of reasons: to banish loneliness, homesickness, the persistent feeling that I don’t belong in a place. If you can conjure something of substance from the flux of your life—if you can anchor yourself in the earth, like Antaeus, the mythical giant who grew stronger every time his feet touched the ground—you are at home in the world, at least for that meal.
In every war zone, there is another battle, a shadow conflict that rages quietly behind the scenes. You don’t see much of it on television or in the movies. This hidden war consists of the slow but relentless destruction of everyday civilian life: The children can’t go to school. The pregnant woman can’t give birth at a hospital. The farmer can’t plow his fields. The musician can’t play his guitar. The professor can’t teach her class. For civilians, war becomes a relentless accumulation of can’ts.
But no matter what else you can’t do, you still have to eat. During wartime, people’s lives begin to revolve around food: first to stay alive, but also to stay human. Food restores a sense of familiarity. It allows us to reach out to others, because cooking and eating are often communal activities. Food can cut across social barriers, spanning class and sectarian lines (though it can also, of course, reinforce them). Making and sharing food are essential to maintaining the rhythms of everyday life.
I went to the Middle East like most Americans, relatively naive about both Arab culture and American foreign policy. Over the next six years, I saw plenty of war, but I also saw normal, everyday life. I sat through ceremonial dinners with tribal sheikhs in Baghdad; kneeled and ate kubbet hamudh on the floor with Iraqi women from Fallujah; drank home-brewed arak with Christian militiamen in the mountains of Lebanon; feasted on boiled turkey with a mild-mannered peshmerga warlord in Kurdistan; and learned how to make yakhnet kusa and many other dishes from my Lebanese mother-in-law, Umm Hassane, who doesn’t speak a word of English. Other people saw more, did more, risked more. But I ate more.
If you want to understand war, you have to understand everyday life first. The dominant narrative of the Middle East is perpetual conflict: the bombs and the bullets and the battles are always different, and yet always, somehow, depressingly the same. And so this book is not about the ever-evolving ways in which people kill or die during wars but about how they live before, during, and after those wars. It’s about the millions of small ways people cope—the ways they arrange their lives, under sometimes unimaginable stress and hardship, and the ways they survive.
Every society has an immune system, a silent army that tries to bring the body politic back to homeostasis. People find ways to reconstruct their daily lives from the shambles of war; like my friend Leena, who once held a dinner party in her Beirut bomb shelter, they work with what they have. This is the story of that other war, the one that takes place in the moments between bombings: the baker keeps the communal oven going so his neighborhood can have bread; the restaurateur converts his café into a refugee center; the farmer feeds his neighbors from his dwindling stock of preserves; the parents drive all over Baghdad trying to find an open bakery so their daughter can have a birthday cake. They are warriors just as much as those who carry guns. There are many ways to save civilization. One of the simplest is with food.
© 2011 Annia Ciezadlo
Meet the Author
Annia Ciezadlo received her M.A. in journalism from New York University in 2000. In late 2003, she left New York for Baghdad, where she worked for The Christian Science Monitor. She has also written about culture, politics, and the Middle East for The New Republic, The Nation, The Washington Post, the National Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Observer, and Lebanon's Daily Star. Annia lives somewhere between New York and Beirut, with her husband, the journalist Mohamad Bazzi.
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To find the answer to this question, you will simply have to read "Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War" By Annia Ciezadlo. Ciezadlo finds the answer to this and many more questions throughout this heartfelt and intelligent memoir of the important role food plays in the Middle East in times of peace, and especially, war. The book is a fantastic read, gripping you with Ciezadlo's humor, wit and stark powers of observation. Readers will find themselves falling in love with the characters and places Ciezadlo paints with vivid detail and life, and will find themselves missing those characters and places when the book is finished. But readers should fret not about filling the void they might feel when the story is over; Ciezadlo generously finds a way for the story to continue on our taste buds and in our own stomachs by including recipes of the food so lovingly celebrated within the book's pages. Reading Ciezadlo's story will be one of the finest literature and culinary experiences you will have.
I loved this book! It had me on the edge of my seat, white knuckled at times, hungry most of the time, smiling, laughing and shed a tear or two but mostly wishing I had gone on a long trip to explore and eat my way through the Middle East. Ms. Ciezadlo's research is extensive in both the history of food, politics of food then and now. I've never read a book about covering a war(s) with this very insightful different point of view and how does a war reporter feed and nurture herself. After reading this book you will never look at the food you eat in the same way and take it for granted. I realized that half way around the world in very different cultures/histories from ours (U.S.)things aren't so very different...we all need to eat, feed one another regardless of what is going on around us. So many memories flooded back to me about my own family foods, history of it, prep. of it, my mother/grandmother's cooking, trickle down of "depression" food dinners shared with my mother's sisters... very similar to "my sisters" in Iraq and Lebanon who struggled to feed their families amid the chaos around them. Well worth your time to read, learn and enjoy...don't miss the recipes in the back.
This is the kind of war story I've always wanted to read. It immediately sucks you into the author's world, into her quest to discover and record the real lives and glorious, glorious food of the civilians who so sometimes don't make it into other stories about strife and conflict. But it's Ciezadlo's voice and writing skill that makes this a book you need to read. Despite the bubble-gummy cover, the contents are all meat. Her writing is wicked smart but not preachy, impassioned but not self-righteous. She renders her subjects with grace, even making you love -- as she seems to -- her cantankerous mother-in-law. And she seems to have complete command of the national and culinary histories of Lebanon and Iraq, which she folds into the narrative with a subtle touch. "Day of Honey" strikes all the right balances -- in its writing style, its voice, its reporting, and its rendering of its subjects. It's tender and tough, intelligent and gritty. Perhaps best of all is Ciezadlo's ability to write about love, women and domestic life without ever making you feel like you're reading chick lit. Instead you will want to eat, cook, fall in love and strike out into the world.
This is a wonderful book about love, war and food that will have you craving the dishes mentioned. Of course, the author is kind enough to provide some recipes along with her witty take on life. I found myself laughing (inappropriately) at her descriptions of how marriages are arranged in the Middle East. There are a lot of little insights into this little understood place with first person accounts make the area a lot more real than what you see on the news. It is a blessing that Ciezadlo is a journalist since she brings a natural balanced view to the war torn areas of Beirut and Baghdad. She really made the people accessible though their customs and food. I don't recommend reading this book if you are hungry, since the description will have you craving the food. I received this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
What a great read! The author has a very easy style while dealing with aspects of war, angst, confrontation and delightful personal interactions. It gave me insights into cultures from a personal viewpoint. I would highly recommend it, although the included recipes seem difficult and time consuming.
This extraordinary debut by Annia Ciezadlo is memoir of her time covering wars, loving Mohamed (her husband), and trying to make a home in the Middle East since 2001. This memoir is like being with a friend on a crowded New York City subway: she tells the story loudly over the clatter of wheels and we (and everyone else) are riveted to her startlingly vivid tale: love, war, revenge, and mothers-in-law. And Food—it’s as though she “has prepared a feast for us with her own hands.” Ciezadlo makes no bones about it: she is obsessed with food. Food spells happiness, love, and generosity of spirit. Food matters. She has a distinctive voice: “dark purple figs, wrinkled and soft as a baby’s balls”; “eggplants like giant obsidian teardrops”; “tomatoes puckered into little baboon butts”; “bananas hanging like spider-bait.” Her exuberance in finding the real heart of Middle East in the kitchens there is infectious and joyous. We long for the sun, the taste of olive oil, the smell of bharaat, the clamorous markets, and the riot of colors. We wish we knew her and hope she will tell us more. A description of her attempts to recreate recipes from basic home cooking is one I will never forget because it happened to me as well. The “simplest” dish of onion, potato and egg can be an utter mystery if one has the proportion, the heat, or the order slightly awry. Ciezadlo’s search for an apartment with a kitchen in Beirut is epic and filled with irony, pathos, and humor. I now have an infinitely better idea of what it means to live in the Middle East. A memoir like this, filled with insight (and recipes!), is a wonderful and important introduction to the Middle East.
Wonderful, moving book. Beautiful writing.
No text was provided for this review.
Day of Honey makes me hungry. Not just for the unusual and exotic foods that Annia Ciezadlo describes with an unlimited vocabulary in several languages, but also hungry to explore the customs associated with food, and to peer beneath the layers of politics and war to see the real life going on underneath. Ciezadlo writes, "Food and drink were like truth serum. People would say one thing when you first met them....gradually, bite by bite, they would reveal what they really thought." Ciezadlo and her Lebanese husband make their home, or what passes for a home during war, first in Baghdad, then in Beirut. As reporters, their jobs are to cover the conflicts that ebb and flow around them. In Day of Honey Ciezadlo goes beneath the war, the soldiers, the sights and sounds of bombs and gunfire, and looks to the daily life happening in the surroundings of struggle. She writes of the food, the tales behind the food, and the social customs of preparation and eating. The word 'civilian' becomes a generalization for the individuals Annia comes to know through her search for food and its stories amid the circumstances of war. Even though the focus was on food, I learned much that I did not know about the wars throughout the Middle East, and how the United States' role in them is viewed by the people in those regions. The stories behind the food were enjoyable, and even more, the customs surrounding them. A more adventurous cook than I will experiment with the recipes in the back of the book, but will have to visit a specialty grocery store for exotic ingredients to create the exotic flavors of the Middle East.