Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maman’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan

Title: Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen
Author: Donia Bijan

Genre: Non-Fiction (Memoir / Iran / Immigrant Experience / Cooking / Food / Mother-Daughter Relationships)
Publisher/Publication Date: Algonquin Books (10/11/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, super quick.
One-sentence summary: A warm, inviting memoir about an Iranian-American chef's childhood, her Iranian parents, her Parisian culinary training, and her search for her own happiness.

Do I like the cover?: I can't decide: I hate the font but I do rather like the sort of precious, cutesy images.

I'm reminded of...: Diana Abu-Jaber, Firoozeh Dumas

First line: My mother had been dead eight days when I showed up in her kitchen.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow, and gift to the foodie or memoir addict in your life!

Why did I get this book?: I love stories of the immigrant experience, and being a foodie, I can't resist the mix of narrative and recipe!

Review: Although I'm not always a memoir person, I'm a sucker for stories involving food. Bijan's memoir about her mother, her own culinary memories, growing up Iranian, and setting out to be a chef against her father's wishes charmed me from the first page. When she closed the prologue with recipes for cardamom tea and orange cardamom cookies, I knew I was in love.

Bijan's book is a memoir and homage to her family; as she writes in her Author's Note, it is "an attempt to find answers to the questions I never asked my parents, such as How did it feel to start your life from nothing?". Working from her mother's untimely death, she moves mostly chronologically from her childhood in idyllic, pre-Islamic Revolution Iran through her family's forced migration to California where she and her family struggled to find their place in the U.S. (Anyone who's read Persepolis will appreciate the situation the Bijans faced if they returned to Iran, but even those unfamiliar with Iranian history won't be confused as Bijan writes briefly but clearly about it.)

Bijan's writing is straight-forward but possesses lovely sensory details that I so enjoy, especially when reading about food.  Anyone who's read about Julia Child will enjoy the cameo by Madame Brassart at Le Cordon Bleu as well as the other tidbits about the famed institution.

And even though I'm not captivated by the culinary world, I found Bijan's sections about her education at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to be fascinating, and I found myself hoping she'd write a more detailed memoir about that. Bijan writes passionately and honestly about becoming a chef in the '80s, both in Paris and in the US, and the trials and joys she faced as often the only female chef in a kitchen. (There's a shocking story about a broken hollandaise sauce and her chef instructor's response that left my jaw on the ground; I would not have had Bijan's fortitude and it was one of many stories that made me admire her!)

I closed the book feeling like I knew Bijan's family and I miss spending time with her (and her food!).  This is a fast, sweet, enjoyable read that will make your mouth water.  (My wife and I plan to make her Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant this weekend and one of the sumptuous desserts -- if we can pick one!).

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Maman’s Homesick Pie to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, closes 11/4.  For another entry, be sure to check out my interview with Donia Bijan on October 24!


  1. Oh this sounds great. I love books that read well enough to feel like you're connecting to the writer. Very cool.

  2. You need to read The Language of Baklava if you haven't already! It shares some of the same hallmarks with this book, and was just a warm and wonderful read. Very funny too! Off now to enter your giveaway!

  3. @Heather: I adore Language of Baklava -- it's exactly what I was thinking of when I got this book.

  4. I'm sort of picky about the memoirs I read and I' not into foodie books so I'm not sure that I'd read this one.... but that recipe does sound reallly good!! I do, however, like books about different cultures (and I have a good friend who is half-Persian) so I'm interested for that sake..

  5. The cover is cute..ish, but the font, I have to agree with you there.

    I love a quick read

  6. I love books about food, this one looks like I would really enjoy it.

  7. I enjoy memoirs and books abou food. I also love to read about other cultures so I think this book is a hands down winner for me. I also like what you say about the author's writing!

    This is a terrific review, Audra!

  8. Oh, this sounds so up my alley. I'm actually working my way through Julia Child's My Life in France now and I never want it to end! The sensory details, as you mention, are so important. And I'm also an avid foodie, so this sounds like a perfect book for me!

  9. Glad to hear you liked it. I received a surprise copy in the mail, and I'm not one for memoirs, but I do love books about food.

  10. I love that you feel like you really know the author and her family now. This is the kind of book where I find myself wondering, months or years later, how everyone is doing now.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  11. I am reading this right now - as my blog title suggests, I love food, and love reading about food! :)

  12. I love books that are combined with combine food or drink.

  13. sounds like a great read :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  14. I've recently bought a cooking book that would be the perfect companion to this one: Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume. Highly recommended!

  15. This unforgettable memoir would be a treasure for the food and the story. Many thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  16. Thanks for this fascinating and special book which I would greatly enjoy and cherish. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com