Jan 7, 2012

The Language of Baklava

If you love food, you must read this book. If you loved the family meals, and stories shared during those meals, you must read this book.

Diana talks about all the meals she has shared with her family cooked by her Dad, Bud over a number of years. There are stories which talk about comfort food, food to impress people, food when some family members got angry, and food to cure your soul. Its a long recipe book with personal stories for each of the recipes. All of them in exquisite detail in terms of the story and the recipe, both. If you are a foodie, you will even find yourself drooling as you read some of these recipes.

If you want to understand the Jordanian way of living, eating and existing, you must read this book. There are elaborate stories about stays in Jordan, dwelling into the way the Bedouins live, the food natives eat, and their gregarious method of eating.
If you are an Asian, you will find yourself smiling at most of these, and even tell yourself with a little reproaching tone, that’s how we all are. All Asians. Loud. Endearing. Loving our family and our neighbours, and food being the central of our existence, and family meals having a lot of history, drama and stories for us.

If you have more than one point of origins/identities , you will love this book. If you belong to one community, but have grown up in a different one, and are yearning to be closer to the one you belong to, and yet your heart knows you are really the second one, then this is book is for you.
You might even want to do a little soul-searching yourself, and answer those questions you’ve always asked yourself – where do I belong to? Which is my real native? The one I was born into or the one I grew up in. At least I did. The book didn’t answer my questions, but it gave me a certain comfort that I am not the only one thinking like this.
Reading this book might even put a little perspective on why our migrant parents behave the way they do when they meet, see or even think of anything that connects to their native remotely.

As I was reading about Bud, the way he behaves, his dream to own a restaurant, his need to keep the family together, the way he conditions his daughters, I felt a feeling of having known this person. And that person is my Dad! Almost 80% of the description Diana gives for Bud are what my Dad is! :)
Now I understand why my Dad used to behave the way he would when he would see us what he then thought to be drifting from our culture , how he would react when he would spot anyone speaking my mother tongue(which is one of the rarest languages spoken in India) or how he would tell some stories about food with his eyes literally brimming with emotion or the steadfast way in which my parents would insist that we do things the Shivalli way.

This book also reminded me of all the meals people from my community would have together, in an alien land which found the food we ate very different, very alien. And that the need for us all to meet each other very frequently was to keep in touch with our roots, because all of us were drifting away. All of us knew that, we were accepting that, but we also wanted to cling to our culture. Our food. Our people. Our customs.

This book details that yearning very beautifully. Its a person’s journey to his native, and back to where he now lives in, to accept a little painfully that his native is not what he thought it was. And that he has now transformed into a different person.

If I were to write a book about my childhood, my Dad and the food we made at home, my community and my people, well, it would be something like this. Except that the food would be Mangalore-an, and we would still be in India. There would be stories about people asking me about my mother-tongue Tulu and asking me if all the stereotypes they know of or heard of about us, our language and our food are indeed true.

And then there are some lines that have made a mark on my mind. When Auntie Aya tells Diana – Every time you think you want to have kids , ask yourself if you want to have kids or bake a cake. Funny yes, but very deep too.

In short, if you eat, you should read this book.
If not the stories, the recipes are to die for. This is the collection of all of the Middle-Eastern food you’ve heard/read/dreamt of, all in one place. Babaganoush, Hummus, Baklava, Tabbouleh, Fattoush. All of them. And so much more.

I’ll give this book a complete 5 on 5 rating. This one is going to be on my kitchen bookshelf permanently!

My GoodReads reading progress -

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5 comments:

  1. Sounds like an informative fun read. Will look for it in the library.

    Had no idea you spoke Tulu, that's cool!:)

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  2. ~Rads - Don't miss this one book. Its a very beautiful read. And yes, Tulu is my mother tongue :)

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  3. A few years ago, I devoured as many books as this author had written. NEVER ENOUGH! They were great.

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  4. This book would be a family recipe even without the recipes. It's one of my favorites.

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  5. ~Jenny - Oh, all other books by her are this good, is it? Awesome... am going to pick up the rest! :)

    ~Anon - Agreed. Beautiful book as it is.

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