If you have any doubt in Annia Ciezadlo’s love for food, you only have to read a few pages of her memoir, Day of Honey, to dispel that notion.
Annia cooks for fun, cooks for comfort and everything in between. She creates a mental map of geographical areas by the foods found in little hole-in-the-wall restaurants or in the carts of street vendors. When her new husband’s job takes her to Beirut, and then Baghdad, Annia uses food to understand the people and culture of her new home. She uses ancient recipes to learn of Middle East traditions, dines with tribal leaders and rare female reformers, and finds her way in a maze of streets with no names, in search of the correct ingredient.
Delicious sounding recipes aside (and there are many of them in the back of the book), Annia uses food to connect to people and to hear their stories. We meet a bright eyed woman marooned in her home despite dreams of a brighter future; a mother camping out in a hotel in fear of returning to her home; a female leader striving to better her country despite constant threats to her life. Most importantly, Annia relates the importance of food in maintaining some sort of normalcy in the midst of a war. Having no food to break fast during Ramadan can be more devastating than bombs going off a few miles away, and being able to offer your neighbors some appetizers in the midst of a bombed out home can make a tough situation a bit easier.
Day of Honey was not a page turner for me; it was more like a meal that I’d enjoy on a special occasion. There were many memorable stories of people Annia met on her journey, and sometimes I found it best to lay the book down for a while and linger over the individual story before starting another. Above all, I was always enamored with the elaborate descriptions of ethnic dishes and eagerly leafed to the back to check out the recipes. I’ve yet to make one on my own, but one of these days!
The review copy of this book was provided free of any obligation by Free Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.