Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

Cooked
by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

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

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War

 

by Annia Ciezadlo
Free Press, 2012
416 pages
ISBN: 978-1416583943

Review by Leo Racicot

Our grandmother, an Ottoman Syrian, born in Alexandria, Egypt, imparted to my sister and me an exotic philosophy from what we imagined was an exotic land. Whenever she sought to apply a verbal salve to our youthful, little wounds or to deflate a bit our chests roostering over some small, youthful triumphs, she would caution us with the Arabic maxim, "Remember, kids. Life is unpredictable -- 'One day, honey; onions, the next'." Then, with sure and loving hands, she would fish out of the refrigerator something good for us to eat: malfouf, a sandwich (usually Syrian bread with zaytoun), a plate of Turkish Delights, a simple, bright piece of fruit. These acted as a white flag over whatever wars, wins and losses the day had brought us.

Annia Ciezadlo exacts this very dynamic in her confident and evocative Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War, a book that captures you instantly and holds you in the folds of its assured and reassuring pages. You will be hard-pressed to find a food-based book that is this moving. A New York City career girl, the author somewhat suddenly finds herself in love and married to a Middle East man and living in the countries of his origins, the war-ravaged (and much-misunderstood by Easterners) Lebanon and Iraq.

Ciezadlo, a journalist, lands a precise and knowing eye on all that she surveys, be it the way her husband eats when he doesn't know she's watching, to the way children's faces clench when they become too hungry to cry. The great food writers—M.F.K. Fisher, A. J. Liebling, Waverley Root—were, first and foremost, reporters, able to work and process under pressure and deadline. These tricks of the trade work well, especially when a writer needs to dig beneath the surface and observe a people and their ways, however foreign. The aim is to see beyond a country to its spirit of place, and Ciezadlo excels at this. Her powers of observation are original and immediate and always on point, and you feel comfortable and secure in her company.

Transported to her new husband's native Beirut, Ciezadlo finds herself in the midst of a war-torn people, their streets, her neighbors, their neighborhoods. Disoriented, turned upside down by all she is seeing and experiencing but too in love with her husband to leave him, her first and most beautiful response is to head for the stove, to cook. For what else is there to say or do in the face of chaos, destruction and war? Ciezadlo's answer is that there may be battles outside us (and sometimes inside us, too) alienating us and everyone around us, but that, gathered at the table, hands clasped, letting reassurance and common sense wash over us like sunlight, mouths full of good soup, good bread, good wine—the sound of troops laying down their arms, or not taking them up in the first place—is easier to imagine. The chaos, the obscene casualties and calamities of conflict and subversion are helpless next to the quiet and comfort of a homemade meal shared with those we love. Because food and eating, Ciezadlo teaches, are civilized acts in what has become more and more an uncivilized world.

The worth of a food memoir, I have always thought, lies in its ability to evoke, in the reader, feelings and people and needs they had forgotten they knew or had. By the time you finish Day of Honey, your memory banks will be overflowing, transporting you home to the person you used to be, to the peace you used to know, to families and friends who shared their love by letting you sit at their tables, to grandmothers who fashioned feasts from whatever they had in the fridge.