Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Middle East in your kitchen: Day of Honey, by Annia Ciezadlo

If you wonder if in the last two weeks or so I starved as I did not post anything about my modest fantastic adventures in the world of food, the answer is definitely 'no', and there are a couple of nice posts about good food that I experienced lately coming soon.
On the other hand, I dedicated a lot of my time to reading good books about food and by far, one of the top stars of my busy daily reading schedule is Annia Ciezadlo's Day of Honey
A 'memoir of food and love' the book is an invitation to discover the rich world of the Middle East through the eyes of its food. In many Western cities you might find amazing 'Oriental' or 'Middle Eastern' restaurants, but when it comes to specific cuisines, we can rarely mention any specific dishes. We know and love a lot hummus and taboule and falafel and kebab. But we can hardly name 1-2 dishes of the Iraqi cuisine, for instance, even though according to this book, it is the area from where we have the oldest cookbook. 
Following the advice of one of Annia's teachers according to whom 'if you want to write the story you have to eat the meal', the author invites the reader to taste a new food every chapter as every bit brings new understandings and perspectives on the world she is writing about. 
The short stories of Annia Ciezadlo are mouth-watering and I hardly resisted the temptation to run out of the house and go buying some good rich hummus and pitot to accompany my long hours of the lecture. The smells and tastes of the food are the best way to get accustomed to the world. For example, Annia's first encounter with the family of his boyfriend, in Lebanon, is described in the following way: "The whole place smelled like garlic, beef steak, simmering vegetables, and lemons; to me it smelled like home". 
The lesson learned for the chef-in-process is to use more lemons for the chicken and to understand better the  benefits of good spices added at the right place.
My unhappiness with the book is the absence of sweets as you can often find a lot of main tasty dishes but not too much insights about the dessert culture of the area - at least according to my humble and not-too-sophisticated tastes. 
The verdict of the reader: you need to read this book, whether you are in love with good books or/and food. Especially for those included in the last category, there is more on the book for them. At the end, you will find some of the recipes mentioned in the book waiting for you to try, taste and try to make them better again.
Bon Appetit! Only the memory of this book makes me very hungry again...