We met at Colette's with Jane hosting to discuss Michèle's book choice Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan. Jane provided some lovely cheese, pâtés, olives and very nice dolma. As Donia made while training to be a chef, Jane made a cherry clafoutis and madeleines. Of course wine, tea and coffee was also served.
Michèle did not go into great detail about Donia Bijan as author since this book is a memoir, however, she did tell us that Ms. Bijan has written a novel which came out in March called The Last Days of Café Leila.
This book is a memoir that begins when Ms. Bijan has to clean out her mother’s home after her death. She discovers in a kitchen drawer, her mother's recipes and as she goes through them memories of her childhood in Iran, her family’s escape when the Shah was overturned, their life in the United States and her path towards becoming a chef come to her and she writes about their life through stories, often related to these recipes.
Her father, a physican in Iran along with her mother who was a nurse, built a hospital in Iran. They were well known and her father was a well-regarded physician. They lived with Donia and her two sisters in apartments above the hospital. Donia describes well their life, their school life and family outings.
Donia’s mother became involved in politics and campaigned against the revolutionary movement. During a family vacation on Malta, the revolutionary movement ousted the Shah. Donia and her family were not able to go back to Iran and eventually emigrated to the United States. Donia’s mother who had studied nursing in England adapted well to their new situation. However, her father, who was unable to practice medicine in the U.S., did not adapt well. Eventually he went back to Iran and his hospital.
Each chapter finishes with recipes her mother used beginning with a cardamon tea, Often in the chapters, Donia tells stories of their life in Iran and when some of the recipes were made.
Donia’s style of writing was very easy and pleasant to read. Some of us described it as gentle. We learn a lot about the Iranian and Persian culture. We get to know her parents and Donia well.
The book was well liked by all members, everyone finding it easy to read and enjoyable. We were saddened by the fate of her parents when eventually they find themselves living separate lives in separate countries. We were astonished to learn how difficult it is to become a chef, the non-paying jobs, the menial jobs, the long and crazy hours that aspiring chefs, including Donia, have to endure to hopefully achieve success. The only criticism some of us had about the book was how little we learned about Donia’s sisters.
Donia describes well her relationship with her mother and this reminded members of others books with mother/daughter relations, What My Mother Gave Me by Elizabeth Benedict and They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson. Both relate mother/daughter relationships.