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“This is a sweet, heartfelt book by a writer who finds herself both insider and outsider at the same time. Salma Abdelnour beautifully evokes the mood of the city she left as a child and the memories brought back by its wonderful food. A delicious read!” --Moira Hodgson, author of It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
“Salma Abdelnour captures the flavors of Beirut - the familiar mixed with the exotic - in her year-long search to rediscover her culture, with recipes that will let you experience the sublime flavors of Lebanese cooking...no matter where you are.” --David Lebovitz, author of The Sweet Life in Paris
“A year in Beirut allows Salma Abdelnour to ponder everything from family and love to loneliness, home, and the strategy necessary to consume several extraordinary meals in one day. Frank, contemplative, and confiding, Jasmine and Fire makes for a delicious and absorbing investigation of a fascinating place.” --Michelle Wildgen, author of You're Not You and But Not For Long
“Jasmine and Fire takes readers on an unforgettable journey to home, family, and identity. Along the way we’re also treated to glorious meals, political analysis, and some stirring reflections on the nature of becoming a global citizen. Salma Abdelnour is a wonderful host to a region that so many readers long to understand and connect with on a newer, more profoundly meaningful level.”-- Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise and The Language of Baklava
“Abdelnour brings her skills as a travel and food writer to this delightful look at Beirut life from the perspective of a native daughter returned after a long stay in America.” – Booklist
“A piquant mix of memoir travelogue and culinary adventure…A multilayered portrait of a complex, chaotic, and contradictory city.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“[A] page-turning account of Abdelnour’s return to her home city, which her family left in the 1980s to escape war-ravaged Lebanon for the U.S. But the grape leaves and eggplant fateh have to share room on the table with a quest for self-discovery, reconnecting with family and friends, and navigating the rippling effects of the Arab Spring. It's an unlikely recipe for a great book, but Abdelnour's diary-like tale is gripping, in large part because she's so honest. The book should come with a warning: "Do not read while hungry — especially if you like hummus." – Food Republic
“In Jasmine and Fire, Salma traces the challenges and triumphs she experienced in the process of rediscovering a place (and a past) she had always longed to access. Whether reveling in the pleasure of a perfect cup of strong Arabic coffee or contemplating the meaning of “home”, she chronicles and interprets her year’s events with disarming sincerity and generosity of spirit.” - Indagare
10. In the May chapter, Salma spends time in some particularly beautiful villages in Lebanon and declares: “I love Lebanon. I really love it here.” Then she interrogates that feeling, and wonders what it means to love a country. Does loving a country make you a nationalist? What is nationalism, at its core? How can you both love a country and find it deeply, even tragically flawed?
11. In the June and July chapters, Salma wrestles with the idea of leaving Beirut and moving back to New York. What would you have done in the same circumstances?
12. Throughout Jasmine and Fire, Salma describes food-related moments and discoveries that helped her reconnect with her past as well as learn more about Lebanon, and come back home to it in visceral ways, both physically and emotionally. Have certain food memories or experiences brought you home again, or helped you connect with a new place? Are there other sensory experiences (say, musical, environmental, spiritual) that have a similar effect on you?
13. How do the foods described in Jasmine and Fire relate to your previous conception of Lebanese or Middle Eastern food? What are the dishes or descriptions that resonated with you most?
14. Throughout Jasmine and Fire, Salma mentions family friends and relatives who stayed in Lebanon for the entire fifteen-year civil war, which lasted another nine years after Salma’s parents decided to move the family to the States. If the city or country where you were living became dangerous or difficult to live in—because of war or a devastating natural disaster, for example—would you pack up and leave? What would make you decide to stay, or go?
15. How does Salma resolve the question of home in the end—or does she? How do you relate to the home or homes in your life? Are you happy with your relationship to home, whatever “home” means to you, or would you like to change or redefine it? How does Jasmine and Fire finally answer the question “Can you go home again?” whether for its own author or for readers who might be fantasizing about a similar journey?
Posted July 19, 2013
A great look into Lebanese culture, cuisine, and history. Anyone who has ever spent considerable time in two
two cities/countries will appreciate Abdelnour's questions, insights, and reflections.
Posted January 6, 2013