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Book Review: The Language of Baklava

Posted by gck Sunday, July 7, 2013

languageofbaklavaThe Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber

Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: **** (out of 5)
Recommended for: foodies

Book 15 of 52 in the “Around the World” Challenge

Back-cover summary:
Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert. These sensuously evoked meals in turn illuminate the two cultures of Diana’s childhood–American and Jordanian–and the richness and difficulty of straddling both. They also bring her wonderfully eccentric family to life, most memorably her imperious American grandmother and her impractical, hotheaded, displaced immigrant father, who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children.

My review:
It took me a really long time to finish reading this… so long (almost 6 months) that I thought I might never finish. Even though I really liked what I was reading, I ended up getting hit by the same force that often makes me not finish other non-fiction books – without the hook of a continuous narrative, I drift away and it takes awhile to come back. There is exactly one e-book copy of this book available in the entire Puget Sound area and a few people on the waiting list each time, so I’d read for three weeks, wait a month and a half, then get back to it again.

But it’s worth it. Maybe another reason I couldn’t read continuously was that the writing made me so hungry that I’d put the book down and get something to eat! Not only are the chapters full of mouthwatering descriptions of food, there are also actual recipes of food that are related to the stories, for example: Bud’s Special Rice for Special Company, Barbaric Lamb Kofta, and Garlic-Stuffed Roasted Luxurious Leg of Lamb. This book is a food lover’s dream.

While food is surely the star here, the characters fight for attention, too. The reader really gets the feel of how it is to be a part of the author’s family. Bud (the father) is unforgettable with his boisterous manner. As a child of immigrant parents myself, I could relate to many of the experiences that the author described (though I think she got to eat yummier food!).


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