The Last Days of Cafe Leila

Donia Bijan

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Thanks to Netgalley for ARC.

I read this book slowly, trying to make it last, the way one does with a delicious pastry, taking small bites of it at a time. This bittersweet tale of an Iranian’s return to home of her childhood moves between the now and the past of Noor, daughter of Zod and Pari,  owners of Cafe Leila. Along the way we learn of their history, too, and the bittersweet relationship of Noor and her daughter Lily.

Sprinkled in the text are not-quite-recipes, mouth-watering descriptions of the dishes served at Cafe Leila. They are enough to make you wish there was a restaurant near you serving such wonderful dishes.

As Noor negotiates the challenges of contemporary, post-revolutionary Iran, and her daughter’s sullen teenager opinion of being yanked out of today’s southern California freedom, we feel for Noor and want her and her daughter to be happy. Noor’s love for her daughter and her ailing, elderly father, form the central conflict of this story.

This is truly a book to be savored.

 

 

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Tender at the Bone

Ruth Reichl

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This account of Reichl’s early years is a compelling story of an unusual childhood. Her experiences include a stint in a Canadian boarding school where she learned French, to time in a commune in San Francisco. Always food is at the center of her life, whether preparing it or eating it with friends. I think having read her tribute to her mother colored my reading of this book. Her mother suffered from mental illness, and Reichl’s understanding of her mother’s state after her death, gave a light-hearted and amusing slant that she portrays differently in her later account.

The book is interspersed with fascinating and delicious recipes for dishes that I will never cook but enjoy reading about.