Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day of Honey, a Memoir of Food, Love, and War, by Annia Ciezadlo

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and WarDay of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ciezadlo's crowded, thoughtful, fragrant memoir of her life as a newlywed in Baghdad and later Beirut is loud with bombings and ends with recipes. This is a memoir of everyday life in several middle eastern war zones, where people turn to their food traditions to counter the constant threat of death around every corner. At one point in the book, Ciezadlo makes dinner for her husband and refugee guests while a sniper takes shots from their apartment roof. The recipe is in the back of the book.

This book is about the survival of families, neighborhoods, traditions, and foodways. She learns to cook on hot plates in vermin-infested hotels, finds the real Iraqi food traditions beyond pale restaurant imitations, and learns the nuances of a 10,000 year old culture in the process. There is a point where she has fallen in love with the culture so much that she decides to stay in a very dangerous area long after even her husband has left for New York, and she has to choose between her head and her heart.

It's the core of the book, really; the complete irrationality of war juxtaposed with everyday human living, and how easy it is to believe that everything will be fine if there's a good meal to be made. She explains the political conflict well and helps us understand Sunni vs. Shiite, the different warring factions and the way loyalties can change instantly with the ever-shifting power, but the truth of the book is in the everyday people she introduces.

If the political situation in the Middle East has been hard for you to comprehend, DAY OF HONEY is a very real way to begin understanding the human impact of warfare. Ciezadlo will see that you care about the people, as well: one cab driver pleads with her, "We drive American cars, watch American films, buy American clothes. We love America! WHY DOESN'T AMERICA LOVE US?" Read this book and you will find much to admire in the strength of Iraq's people.

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