Category Archives: All About the Food(ie Books)

Foodie Book Review: Some Reflections on Rice, plus Jennifer Klinec’s “The Temporary Bride”

This is the only rice that I have in my cupboards, and it's been there forever and a day. Why? Because...gird yourselves...I don't like rice.

This is the only rice that I have in my cupboards, and it’s been there forever and a day. Why? Because…gird yourselves…I don’t like rice.

Today’s post is a leeeetle bit of a departure from the usual, but it’s about a book about food…so close enough, says I! The book? Jennifer Klinec’s “The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Food and Love in Iran”.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t like rice. Never have, not even as a child. To me, rice is just unappealing. I do like a few bites of steamed sticky rice, and rice is sushi is a-ok, but otherwise…blech.

So for me to say that after reading this book, I wanted to go out and eat some rice…well, that says a lot about the power of the book.  But not just any rice! No, just the Iranian rice, the rich, buttery, crunchy, golden rice crust at the bottom of a dish of Iranian-style rice. This is not just any rice, and after reading Jennifer’s description of this rice, I really want to eat some

The Temporary Bride is the first book from this author, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed with the writing. Want to know more about the book? Here’s my version of a synopsis:

Growing up as the daughter of hard-working Canadian immigrant parents who ran a successful but demanding business, Jennifer was very independent from a young age. Studying in Europe as a teenager, she taught herself how to cook, and never looked back. After working in the banking industry in England for several years, she quit the corporate life to start her own cooking school. While successful, this was a big departure from the sort of work (and lifestyle) she previously had. (Btw, the pomegranate martinis she talks about? I want one. Now, please.)

Wanting to learn new cooking techniques, Jennifer travels to Iran, where she meets up with Vahid, a young Iranian, whose mother teaches her how to cook traditional Iranian dishes. Over the course of the weeks that she visits with his family, she and Vahid learn about each others cultures, and a slow-burning but strong flame sparks between them. Jennifer extends her stay in Iran, and Vahid joins her, and they sneak stolen moments together, trying to hide from the censorious eye of the government.

But how to be in love and express it? This is where an old custom/law comes into play: the temporary bridal contract. I first heard about it years ago, as a way for people to have sex within the religious and cultural laws of traditional Islamic countries. Of course, I read about it in a feminist context, which saw it as a way for men to have sanctioned sex, while the women were seen as blemished for not being a virgin if they then got married, permanently, later. Or, you know, if anyone ever heard about it. The way I learned about it, it was almost sanctioned prostitution, with concomitant social judgements. Like I said, I first learned about it in a feminist context.

So it was interesting to see how Jennifer and Vahid, two modern people from such different cultures, used this old custom/law/what-have-you, and made it work for them. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I will say that it was not what I expected, and it was interesting to see how their relationship started and grew.

That said, can I talk about the food? Oh, the FOOD! Jennifer writes about food in a such a way that you not only know that she loooooves food and loves everything about it, but you really want to eat the dish that she’s making, right now, because OMG it sounds sooo gooood!

Like that rice dish. I mean, really. Me, wanting to eat rice? That’s some powerful foodie writing, right there!

My recommendation? Five whisks up! Read this book and enjoy the descriptions of the food. Ah, food — glorious food!

Next Post: More glorious food! Homemade peanut butter cups and wine jelly bonbons? Or Grind-Your-Own Garam Masala? Subscribe and find out!

All About the Food(ie Books): “This is What You Just Put in Your Mouth?” by Patrick Di Justo

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a voracious reader. So when I came across something called Blogging for Books, I was all over that! Especially once I realized that they had books about food, that I could get for free. FREE BOOKS ABOUT FOOD! Basically my dream, because a) books and b) food.

I’m a hardcore bookworm. I can easily read a couple of books in an evening, and often do. While I’m not a speed-reader, I think my record to date for reading a book is 45 minutes for a pocketbook paperback. Which is actually pretty darn fast!

That said, it took me a couple of weeks to get through this book, mostly because I was just reading it whenever I took public transit anywhere. It’s so easy to pop my little e-reader into a purse and then pull it out. Definitely less bulky than carrying a paperback around. Although…I confess to actually preferring paperbacks. I just seem to absorb them differently, you know? I remember what was on which side of the page, and I think that helps me remember things better. But maybe I’m just a visual learner.

This ties into the book that I was reading, which was “This is What You Just Put in Your Mouth: From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising Secrets of What’s Inside Everyday Products”, by Patrick Di Justo.

The version that I was reading was apparently an uncorrected proof, and didn’t have any pictures, although it did refer to illustrations. I wonder whether the fact that it was an uncorrected proof affected the layout of the book as well, because the version I got was pretty awful. Very disorienting to the reader, with oddly placed sidebars. I’m sure if I saw the final version, or a paper version, I’d have a different reaction, but on that alone, I’m giving the book a bit of a thumbs down. Which is too bad, because there’s so much great information in it!

The author talks about what goes into the food that we eat such as Cool Whip, Hot Pockets Pepperoni Pizza, and Red Bull, as well as what ingredients are in some other household products like Axe Deodorant, Febreze, and Play-Doh. I have to say, I’m not a big eater of processed foods, so I don’t think I actually eat any one of the foods that he wrote about. Still…it’s interesting to note what makes up the food that I DON’T eat! (Side note: This is why I’m all about the home-cooked whole foods. Most of the time, anyway!)

There’s one more criticism that I have to level about this book, and that is that it’s unclear whether some of the items that he lists are actually ingredients or just component parts. Take coffee for example. He writes about “coffee”, and lists all these different chemicals, including putrescine and 2-ethylphenol. It’s unclear though – does each coffee company put those chemicals into the coffee, or are those just the chemical breakdown of a coffee bean? Because anything is going to sound horrible if you list all the chemical components of it. Even the most organic of whole foods will sound gross if you chemically analyze it. Upon rereading, it becomes clear that he is indeed talking about the chemical breakdown of coffee, as opposed to a certain brand, but it’s not immediately obvious.

For some items that he talks about, like Cool Whip, it’s very clear that he’s talking about the ingredients, and it’s fascinating! I love that he talks about the “Backstory” of how he got the scoop on that particular item. When he talks about googling old ads from 1956 to get the original ingredient list for A1 Steak Sauce you realize how dedicated to his craft he is, and well, it’s just plain fascinating!

Would I recommend this book? Well, yes, but with reservations. One, read the book in paperback, so that the awkward spacing is fixed. Two, be aware that while he writes about the component parts of items, those aren’t necessarily the ingredients, but the, well, component parts. And once you know that…enjoy! You’ll never look at these items the same way again!

________________________________________

Btw, a disclaimer: the picture of the book at the top of the post? It’s an Amazon Affiliates link, meaning that if you click on it and end up buying the book, I’d get a small commission. I doubt anyone will use the link, but in order to be all ethical and stuff, I’m being totes transparent. Yay, ethics! Actually, the only reason I wanted to post the picture, is that I think people prefer posts with pictures, and I wanted to get be able to legally use the image. I thought about just taking a picture of my e-reader, but that’s kind of hard to do, and also, booorrrrrring! Anyway, back to food, yummy food! And tomorrow’s post.

_________________________________________

Next Post: Memories of Meals Past, in this case, last Saturday’s brunch – French toast from SUPER-scratch!