What is a food writer without proper examples? Largely, a fool with a pen who actually considers grocery shopping a hobby. Alas, I am temporarily switching the focus of my blog to include reviews of written works on food.
In her memoir, “Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War” Annia Ciezaldo discusses the regional cuisine in Baghdad and Beirut under a unique lens, analyzing all types of roots – not solely tubers. While a foreigner’s perspective on food is oftentimes cliché and limited, not many journalists snoop around enough to research cuisine in the midst of a war. On the contrary, Ciezaldo focuses the bulk of her energy on food to ground herself in such trying times. Throughout her journey, food serves as a staple, comfort and constant. Her home is not a hotel, hostel, or even her husband’s childhood house. It is the smaller, perhaps more historical concept of food, recipes and the relationships they build.
Ciezaldo’s story is captivating, though expect to salivate with every culinary description. You can’t say I didn’t warn you…
“This is why I’m here, I thought. We have drunk oceans of tea, and we will drink oceans more – daymeh, inshallah. But this one we are drinking right now, right here, together.” (page 61)
“In Akkadian cuneiform, the Semitic language of Bottéro’s tablets, bread was synonymous with food: the word for eating, akålu, was the symbol for bread going into the symbol for mouth. Babylonian clay tablets from around 2,000 B.C. list at least three hundred kinds of bread, all with different ingredients, flavors, and cooking methods.” (page 73)
“in Iraq, as everywhere, food was an instant geographic indicator. There was the famous black pickle of Najaf, made with date syrup; the tiny, delicate okra of Hillah; the tender and juicy kebabs of Fallujah….This culinary GPS system often overlapped with sect. ‘I can enter an Iraqi house, and from the food I can tell if they are Sunni or Shiite,’ an Iraqi man once boasted to me.” (page 94)
“We had not found a home, but we had found home cooking, and for the time being, that was enough.” (page 218)
“The more the Iraq war leaked into Lebanon and poisoned our lives, the further our hopes of settling down slipped out of reach, the more I felt that food was the only thing I could know for sure. It was the only reliable substance binding one part of life to another, the only tangible connection between who I was and where I lived.” (page 218)
“Home was a moveable feast; you strapped it to your back, stuffed it in a jar, dried it in the sun, dug it from the ground. Home was wherever you broke bread with people you loved…You coaxed it into existence it by reading books and cooking food and learning languages, by sharing meals and words with others. You carried it with you, folded up like a picnic blanket, and spread it out wherever you happened to be.” (page 297)