on September 16, 2011
This book is rich, part memoir, part cookbook, part travelogue, it is the story of Donia Bijan's journey from emigre to restaurateur, sincere and beautifully written. Her stories are similar to the stories I heard as a student at UCLA from Persian students and their parents who had to start again in a new country. She draws interesting pictures of her family, especially her parents, their marriage and life through good and bad times. Her collection of memories is sad, sweet, tart and as delicious as the mouth-watering recipes she includes. Her training at the Cordon Bleu is a rare look into the school's rigorous (and dangerous) training method in its final year with Madame Brassart, Julia Child's nemesis. This is a story about the things that appeal to all of us, travel, good food and love of family. It is a warm and lovely look at her life, the love she felt for her mother, and her ability to find a way to get what she wants out of life. Maman's Homesick Pie is not to be missed!
on November 1, 2011
This is a memoir to savor. It's a breath-taking account of a young woman who lived the life of a cherished and richly encompassed child of the world at large. I became spellbound by Donia Bijan's life story immediately, and found myself holding my breath as I grasped her book, not wanting to read it slowly, but speeding through its pages like a delicious crepe filled with Turkish coffee ice cream.
While Ms Bijan's memoir is captivating in and of itself, her exotic recipes included at the end of chapters are both slightly tipped with the savory and screaming to be tried in one's own kitchen. I can hardly wait to try her Cardamom Honey Madeleines. Proustians everywhere know of his love affair with Madeleines to begin with, so her distinctive twist of cardamom with trying out farmers' market honeys makes this recipe irresistible to me. We have a great farmers' market in Naples. Not to mention that I have a fabulous Madeleine pan I've never used!
What I found intriguing among so many things about this memoir is the tone of her literary "voice." I suppose I expected a lilting celebration of food and family...a "warm and inviting kitchen" experience as expressed on the cover review. Instead, Ms Bijan's telling of her past life as a refugee from revolutionary-torn Iran, to the shores of a hip and culturally shocking San Francisco, and an unimaginably glorious but difficult training in the bowels of kitchens in Paris, France, is somewhat maudlin. It's reflective. I found it a surprise, and a powerful memoir for that reason.
Food, studying the art of food preparation and restauranteering isn't what's important in her memoir, it seems to me. What is important is the underlying story of trials, family obligations and examples of dedication to others, of loving and sharing gifts through food, of finding wholeness within the simplicity of homemade and close-to-home foods and ingredients that are discovered. Food was the life-blood of Donia's family. It is also the foundation of her heritage,where she is today, and where her son and future generations are going.
It was significant to me that her mother was not only a central figure in Donia's learning the importance of food and cooking, but she was a strong role-model: a midwife, a women's liberation advocate, a tireless volunteer in wartime, a teacher, a woman of grace and celebration, a needlewoman, a mother and devoted wife. Her mother didn't show her the example of taking the easy road in life, of failing to show up and give ones best efforts. It's obvious in Donia's life.
I highly recommend this book of many trips through a life that's magical and meaningful. There is much I've left out because there's so much in this memoir, beautifully told, never boring--quite the opposite--like a teatime set with Brussels lace on a silver tray holding lemon tea steeped in a china pot draped in a knitted cozy...side served with a plate of freshly baked cardamom Madeleines; this book will be in your hands until the last perfect word is read.
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 Aytollah 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.
on September 29, 2011
I received my copy of Maman's Homesick Pie in the morning and could not put it down until I had finished every page. Even though it contains mouth watering recipes, it is far from being a cookbook. Warmly written from the heart, Ms. Bijan shares her memories of a child and her family, a family who later left and could not return to their beloved country, and then of a girl becoming a woman working hard to realize her professional and personal dreams. The book is alive with the sights, smells, and emotions that she experienced. It was honest, real, and very well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Ms. Bijan through her work and hope that she will share more of her life, her memories, and her recipes in a future book!
on September 28, 2011
I just finished Maman's Homesick Pie, and felt compelled to write a review, because the story was so gripping and so beautifully written. The book has so many angles to it... a true and touching story of how a family was exiled and forced to live out of their native country; how they acclimated to life in the US and the struggles they faced; the unrelenting drive, courage and support of the author's mother; all woven together through foods, recipes, and the author's pursuit to be a chef. It made me laugh and it had me in tears... As an American born in the US, it opened up my eyes to the challenges that face families who emigrate, in terms of assimilating and rebuilding as well as all that they must leave behind. It humored me to read about how the idiosyncrasies of our culture ;) are seen from the eyes of a teenage "Persian" girl. It was also a very sweet and touching memoir of the author's mother, who was clearly a dynamic and impressive woman. I'm going to introduce this book to my book club...I think we could talk about if for weeks on end. You can't go wrong with this book.
on October 3, 2011
This story is about the author's journey as a chef, daughter, mother, and person, and the experience of living in three different countries - in her native Iran until her teen years, in France, where she studied at the Cordon Bleu and also apprenticed at several restaurants, and in America, where her journey continues.
The book weaves together several themes - emigration from Iran during the Revolution, living as an immigrant in another country, family, tradition - and yes, food! These themes are artfully brought together in the central theme of the book - a memoir of Donia's mother, who was killed in a senseless traffic accident. The author demonstrates how at each point in her life, her mother was there and made a significant contribution in her life, and shaped who she is, and supported her dream of becoming a chef.
This book is not a traditional memoir but rather a watercolor brushstroke - names, dates, places are left vague - and the memories are not in a sequential order, but are rather evoked by particular emotions. Food being a central part of the author's life (much as it is in mine!), memories center around food and the author shares these memories, and a selection of recipes at the end of each chapter, in the style of "Like Water for Chocolate."
This is an engaging read, and is a touching tribute to the author's mother.
Several years ago, I did work for a year at L'Amie Donia, and had a chance to know the author, who was extremely hard working, and one of the few SF "celebrity chefs" to be behind the line at her restaurant every morning and every night. Thank you for a beautifully written book.
My one continuous thought throughout my reading of Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan was, "is this really non-fiction?" None of it seemed particularly outrageous, but Bijan's novel lacked the "stale factor" I often come across while reading non-fiction. It was incredibly refreshing. Not only was the story engaging, but it allowed an exploration of a culture and time I never understood before. In addition to the intriguing history there was also the added aspect of food, which readers here at Chick Lit Reviews know I can't seem to get enough of. All of these things and so much more made Maman's Homesick Pie a memoir I won't soon forget.
As I mentioned most of the first half of the memoir centers around Bijan's life in Iran as well as the lives of her parents. Much of what I know about Iran (as Bijan mentions) has been learned through hideous media coverage since the time of the Iran-Iraq War and forward. From that information I'd venture to guess that unless you'd lived there during this time you'd assume the same. What I found through Bijan's story was a country rich with culture, people who were highly educated and cared deeply for one another.
One of the aspects that struck me almost immediately upon reading Bijan's story was how much her relationship with her parents meant to her, especially that with her mother. Upon her mother's death she discovers countless recipes and notes regarding the food her mother prepared growing up. This would be potentially nothing more than a stroll down memory lane were it not for her close connection with her mother as well as her professional chefs training at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. Mingled throughout the pages of the novel are some of the most delectable recipes you could imagine, including many that her mother enjoyed at Thanksgiving time which also happened to be her favorite holiday. I loved getting to know her mother through these recipes as well as through the support she gave to her daughter as she grew up.
Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan is an inspiring and beautiful story about a girl growing up in Iran who one day becomes a leading chef. Inspired by her mother, Bijan departs the life her father had planned for her as a doctor and enters a life of food around the globe. Her conflict between her father counter balanced with the support of her mother makes for a story that plays out more like fiction than non-fiction in all the ways that matter. Bijan also manages to break down typical stereotypes and sheds light on a preconceived notions of Iran, turning it into a place rich and beautiful. Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan is a memoir I won't soon forget and one I'd love to share with anyone looking for a wonderful written novel filled with delectable recipes.
Originally reviewed & copyrighted on my site, Chick Lit Reviews.
on November 16, 2011
What a delightful book! Not only does it come straight from Donia's heart, but it also captures all our senses: emotions, taste buds, smell and even touch. It is another "Out of Africa", with Donia's mom being the Africa from whom she had drawn her strength, her passion, her luminosity. She has managed to write a book that is not only beautiful but that seizes the journey that millions of now middle aged Iranian émigrés have travelled. We left our country of birth while still young enough to adapt well to life in the West and to remake our lives, but we were old enough to have absorbed the nuances and wonderful idiosyncrasies of Iranian culture that still after 30 years of exile permeate our senses. This book did more than reawaken my souvenirs; it made my 24 year old say that after reading it he now better understands his roots and particularly what his parents and grand parents had experienced.
Thank you Donia for having shared this with us.
on March 27, 2013
I ordered this book because of the cardamon tea recipe (which I love) and I was expecting a cookbook...it isn't. I was hooked by the charm of the story in the first few pages. While there are recipes (30) in the book, it is in fact the biography of a woman I would have liked to have met written by the daughter who is trying to come to grips with her tragic and needless death. I can't wait to delve more fully into this charming and poignant story. A very good read and it will join my library to be reread again and again.
on August 12, 2015
Everything to do with this books was perfect except for one small item, which I did not address to the seller.
My brand new book had a black mark on all the pages as if it was 2nd hand or something of that nature.
Otherwise, the story was sweet if little lacking in details.
The recipes... I cannot simply wait to try. I do appreciate the stories with each recipe and how you can switch out fruit and suggestions as to what to serve with.
Sorry to hear that the restaurant is no longer as it would have been great to visit.