Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo

Hardcover, Hardcover, 400 pages Published February 1st 2011 by Free Press (first published 2011), ISBN13: 9781416583936, Lit Awards: American Book Award (2012), James Beard Foundation Book Award Nominee for Writing and Literature (2012), Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nominee for Nonfiction (2012), Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Non-fiction (2011), Books for a Better Life Award for First Book (2011)

This extraordinary debut by Annia Ciezadlo is memoir of her time covering wars, loving Mohamed (her husband), and trying to make a home in the Middle East since 2001. Reading this memoir is like being with a friend on a crowded New York City subway: she tells the story loudly over the clatter of wheels and we (and everyone else) are riveted to her startlingly vivid tale of love, war, revenge, and mothers-in-law. And Food—it’s as though she “has prepared a feast for us with her own hands.”

Ciezadlo makes no bones about it: she is obsessed with food. Food spells happiness, love, and generosity of spirit. Food matters. She has a distinctive voice: “dark purple figs, wrinkled and soft as a baby’s balls”; “eggplants like giant obsidian teardrops”; “tomatoes puckered into little baboon butts”; “bananas hanging like spider-bait.” Her exuberance in finding the real heart of Middle East in the kitchens there is infectious and joyous. We long for the sun, the taste of olive oil, the smell of bharaat, the clamorous markets, and the riot of colors. We wish we knew her and hope she will tell us more.

A description of her attempts to recreate recipes from basic home cooking is one I will never forget because it happened to me as well. The “simplest” dish of onion, potato and egg can be an utter mystery if one has the proportion, the heat, or the order slightly awry. Ciezadlo’s search for an apartment with a kitchen in Beirut is epic and filled with irony, pathos, and humor. I now have an infinitely better idea of what it means to live in the Middle East. A memoir like this, filled with insight (and recipes!), is a loving and important introduction to the Middle East. Buy a copy for yourselves and buy one to give one away.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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