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Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories Hardcover – October 12, 2010

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Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories + The World is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143916648X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439166482
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,388,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Anna Badkhen writes about war with a beautiful sensuality, connecting us to those otherwise nameless, faceless fighters and indigenous peoples ensnared in its horrors and hardships. Peace Meals takes us into these people’s kitchens, and into their souls.” 
—Norman Ollestad, author of New York Times bestseller Crazy for the Storm

“Anna Badkhen is a hero among women —war correspondent, wife, mother, diplomat, and, with the publication of this book, a sensitive and lyrical human-interest reporter from the outer reaches of the world.  Peace Meals takes us not only into the hearts and homes of some of the least-understood (and most interesting) people in war zones, it fearlessly explores the wrenching moral conflicts every war journalist faces.  This is a beautiful, vivid, gripping book —with some fabulous recipes.”

—Amy Chua, author of World on Fire and Day of Empire

Peace Meals is an extraordinary mosaic built of keen observation and uncommon compassion. So much more than mere war reportage, Badkhen attunes her ear to fundamental questions that war time activities:  what are the causes of hate and what are the measurable and immeasurable  costs of war?   What does it mean to resist, to persist, and when is it worth it?  Badkhen maintains an unswerving gaze not only at the complex subject matters she investigates but also at her own role as a reporter.  Always her conclusions resonant with authenticity and compassion as she renders accounts that neither judge nor praise; neither sensationalize nor diminish.  People are more than their stories, Badkhen asserts line by line.  Because of this Badkhen can find beauty in the brokenness.  She describes a profound generosity evidenced with astonishing regularity.  It comes in the most humble and necessary of human acts:  eating.”
—Gina Ochsner, author of The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight

"The philosophical connection is interesting...absorbing observations...An intriguing premise." —Kirkus

"Illuminates the strange, dark history of the past couple of decades—the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and drought-stricken East Africa.  Most chapters chronicle her connections with particular individuals...each character providing insight into local customs and quirks, but more significantly, illustrates and humanizes regional complexities.  Badkhen regularly encounters real danger, but meets it with compassion and graveyard humor...the resulting range of events both large and small is both honest and real." —Publishers Weekly

"Promising...With careful observation, [Badkhen] sees beyond the heartbreaking stories of the families and soldiers, refugees and warlords, she meets.  Her eloquent, honest words tell an in-depth history of recent war, and also make known courageous and resourceful people whose actions, or lack thereof, are forced by circumstance." —Christian Science Monitor

"[A] gritty memoir of Afghanistan and Iraq that focuses not on frontline reportage but on behind-the-scenes kindnesses of local families, many of whom shared their hearths, and their bread, with the foreign journalist. In Peace Meals [Badkhen] uses those simple meals as a window, a graceful way to bear witness to the devastation she was covering. But don't think that her book is about food. It's about humanity." —Entertainment Weekly

About the Author

Anna Badkhen was born in the Soviet Union and moved to the United States in 2004. She began covering conflicts in 2001 and has written about people in extremis from four continents for Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The New York Times, and other publications. Her wartime reporting won the 2007 Joel R. Seldin Award for reporting on civilians in war zones from Psychologists for Social Responsibility. She lives in Philadelphia.

More About the Author

Anna Badkhen has written about wars on four continents, including the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Chechnya. Her reporting has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. She is the author of "Afghanistan by Donkey," "Waiting for the Taliban," and "Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories."

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
Not a "quick read," but an interesting and thoughtful book.
Anna Badkhen's beautifully written book is homage to the civilians who live through wars and to the soldiers who fight.
Paula E. Cushing
I thought this was a fun idea, though it wasn't something I paid much attention to.
Nathan Webster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By bill katovsky on November 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Anna is that rare war correspondent with natural writing gifts, an empathetic heart, and a sharp eye for the telling detail. There's nothing bombastic or look-at-me bravura with her prose that often inflicts Hemingway/Jungar journos risking life and limb to report from war zones, alas to an American public long weary of conflicts raging on the other side of the world. Anna was the very first Iraq War correspondent I had interviewed for my first book, Embedded:The Media at War in Iraq (2003). It felt odd to be in contact with someone in a war zone while I was safe here in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a worthy member of the Fallaci/Gelhorn school of war reporting. Her prose nestles inside your head--in near cinematic overtones, and not always comfortably. Your sensibilities, prejudices, and prior opinions are reshuffled. "So this is how they really live..." when you read her descriptions of the others-- you know, the civilians in faraway places with their own history and customs, and who bear the brunt of suffering and tragedy when politicians unleash the dogs of war.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By nomad2 on October 17, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Instead of rehashing her own travails while reporting in the world's war zones--the usual masturbatory trope of so many war correspondents--Badkhen takes us into unknown territory: the overlooked lives of millions of ordinary people who are trapped in mass violence. Her tools are a writerly eye for the human dramas that occur at the margins of battle fields; an ear for uncelebrated stories of survival; and a taste for the flavors of mercy that bind us all as human beings in times of extremity. A humble, original, eloquent, humane and very important book about a brutal decade of conflict.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Books and Chocolate TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Peace Meals is a true story about war and food as told by correspondent Anna Badkhen. 'In the midst of the tragedy of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and conflict in places like Chechnya, East Africa, post-Soviet states, and Palestine, Badkhen finds commonality in sharing meals with the people she met as a journalist in some of the most dangerous places on earth.

Through her words we get to meet families like that of Ahmad Shawkat in northern Iraq and share dolma (stuffed grape leaves) with them as we learn the story of their survival and hope for a country whose future is still uncertain.

She takes us through many accounts of what she witnessed, some horrific and heartbreaking, some heartwarming, and some even humorous, but all come back to the common ground of breaking bread together. Each chapter takes the reader to a different place with different people and the food that was shared, and ends with recipes of the dishes she was offered. But this is not a cookbook. It is one woman's journey to report on the brutal facts of war but in doing so, found so much more in sharing life with the people she met along the way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ahram al-Yardum on October 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Anna Badkhen has written a worthwhile book with a somewhat innovative structure, drawing on her experiences in the war-zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other historic events, such as the hostage crisis in Moscow's Dubrovka Theater. She turns the wars and conflicts inside out and speaks with wry humor and humanistic devotion from the tables shared with translators, soldiers and citizens she met while researching news stories published elsewhere. From the perspective of the table and its food, shared by all, the wars and the continuities between seem, or should seem, more real than and somehow even more tragic.

This is where my reading experience ran aground. Contrary other reviews posted here, I didn't find this book to be highly literary. In fact, I think it suffers from reporter's acumen in places which would otherwise be quite moving. Many English-language authors, Hemingway included, who wrote for newspapers before or concurrently while writing stories and novels suffer from an inability to shift gears between the language or reporting and the language of literature. They employ an overlapping set of devices, but ultimately news, remaining objective in language, is not supposed to move you the way novels and stories -- which need and want no concept of bias -- can and should. Journalistic strength can be literary weakness. As I read this novel I often found myself frustrated by the distance at which I was kept from the joy and tragedy. I wanted to feel the sorrow of death, the relief of reaching safety, and that overwhelming endorphin-barrage that comes with eating after days and days.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By SiriE on October 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved my Peace Meals and am right now ordering more copies to give to well-fed friends for Christmas.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To start, I read this book alongside Anna Ciezadlo's "Day of Honey," a similar cookbook/memoir about a freelance reporter's experiences in the Middle East, but I must say that I enjoyed this one much more thoroughly. Both books have similar recipes from essentially the same areas of the Earth, but the only locales that both authors reported in was Baghdad in the years following the 2003 U.S. invasion, and thankfully the contrast between the two is such that there is a lot to talk about. As a result, this review will essentially be a compare/contrast between the two books, mostly so I can better enunciate my feelings for this one.

The most telling feature of Badkhen's writing is her objectiveness to her experiences in the Middle East. She is a reporter first, a storyteller second. Unlike most reporter-authors, however, Badkhen is still able to bridge this gap and tell us a compelling story full of drama and tension. If anything, I prefer her detached, matter-of-fact objectiveness compared to Ciezadlo's flowery, memoir-like prose: she doesn't need to spice up her stories by making them more important than they really are, preferring to let raw emotion shine through in the simplest of terms. I am not sure whether to attribute this to her reporter background or her Soviet upbringing, but based on her language you would never guess that English is her adopted language. Even when she is on the scene of the 2002 Nord Ost hostage crisis in her home country, she remains objective, focusing on the reactions of the locals and less on her own reactions.

This does become a problem, however, when she tries to give real-life characters depth and personality.
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