Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova
As a child growing up in pre-revolution Iran, Donia Bijan did not realize that the lavish lifestyle of her parents and her progressive education at an international school were not necessarily the norm. Her father, Dr. Bijan, and her mother, a midwife and nurse trained in Europe, owned a labor and delivery hospital and threw elaborate parties in their spare time. Down the road, children not afforded the same luxuries attended prayers with their parents and studied the Koran, creating fertile ground for the coming religious revolution.
While on vacation in Spain in the 1970s, the Bijans got the word that Ayatollah Khomeini’s followers were rising up against the Shah and bombing establishments they believed to represent the evil Western influence. The Bijans’ home was seized and their assets frozen; they were now refugees unable to return to their homeland. With her older sisters already in college in the U.S., 16-year-old Donia is sent to a Michigan boarding school, and eventually the entire family tries to rebuild their lives in San Francisco.
Maman’s Homesick Pie is Donia’s chronicle of her life in Iran and the U.S., her studies at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and her work as a chef in San Francisco. In some ways, it is also an ode to her parents, whom she regretted leaving in Spain, and especially her mother, who had always inspired Donia with her cooking and her hospitality.
The memoir is peppered with Persian inspired recipes such as as the Purple Plum Skillet Tart and Roast Duck Legs with Dates. My personal favorite, and the only recipes I’ve had the chance to make so far, is the Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant – quite delicious!
Maman’s Homesick Pie is a joy to read – and cook from – and will especially appeal to readers who enjoy learning about historical events and foreign cultures. The hilarious descriptions of the differences between Persian and American definitions of hospitality alone make this book worth reading.
I have 3 copies of Maman’s Homesick Pie to give away!
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Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.