Maman’s Homesick Pie:
A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen
By Donia Bijan
America is a nation of immigrants, and our family histories are often composed from the colors, sounds, and flavors of our childhoods—a traditional holiday dish cooked by our grandmother, a snippet of song in the language of our ancestors, the air perfumed by a city’s native plants and flowers. We hold onto these fragments as symbols of family and home. Learning to cook a particular recipe or passing down a song becomes an expression of love for those who came before us, a way of curating our lives with the struggle and beauty of the past.
In MAMAN’S HOMESICK PIE: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen (Algonquin, 2011), Donia Bijan uses the language of food to tell her story, and to honor her mother from whom she learned to cook. Donia’s journey begins in Tehran where she spent her childhood playing on the grounds of her father’s hospital and helping her mother prepare traditional Persian dishes. Her childhood was rather idyllic until the Islamic Revolution forced her family to flee to the United States in 1978. Donia’s journey continues in America where, as a teenager, she was seduced by fast food and designer jeans, and then on to France where her passion for cooking led her to study at the prestigious Cordon Bleu. Ultimately Donia returned to the United States, where she received high praise from national media such as Elle, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet Magazine as a chef in some of San Francisco’s best restaurants and, later, for her own French-inspired bistro, L’Amie Donia.
MAMAN’S HOMESICK PIE is an eloquent, heartfelt memoir, interspersed with thirty inspired recipes taken from Bijan’s experiences: from her Iranian childhood (Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant, and Orange Cardamom Cookies), her French training (Ratatouille with Black Olives and Fried Bread, and Purple Plum Skillet Tart), and her cooking career (Roast Duck Legs with Dates and Warm Lentil Salad, and Rose Petal Ice Cream). Donia’s love for her mother and her home, as well as for adventure and the power of good food, sings from every page.
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