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!

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