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Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  442 ratings  ·  106 reviews
For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Do ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Algonquin Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,401)
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sarah gilbert
Everything about this book said to me, "Sarah, love me!" Indeed, the idea still sings its exotic song to me. An immersion in the culture of Persia; an education in French cuisine; the exploration of a search for belonging through food. A family story, even; the story of Iranian daughters and their mother, living out her exile in America, with recipes.

Indeed, I wanted to be told this story and the story's hope still haunts me. But sadly, Bijan wrote the book without knowing what her own story was
...more
Jaclyn Day
If you’ve ever read a food memoir or food travelogue or any book by Anthony Bourdain, you may have come to expect certain things from the book. I know I do. I’ve read so many of these types of books that even the outstanding ones seem to blend into all the rest, what with their similar discussions of homemade cheeses or offal or France or great restaurants. It’s hard to write about food in an original way, and even those who do (Bourdain) are now being mimicked by hundreds of others eager for a ...more
Deborah
This is a memoir to savor. It's a breath-taking account of a young woman who lived the life of a cherished and richly encompassed child of the world at large. I became spellbound by Donia Bijan's life story immediately, and found myself holding my breath as I grasped her book, not wanting to read it slowly, but speeding through its pages like a delicious crepe filled with Turkish coffee ice cream.

While Ms Bijan's memoir is captivating in and of itself, her exotic recipes included at the end of c
...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I enjoy biographies and memoirs, and I love to cook. Recently, though, the "cooking memoirs" I've dipped into have often been cookbooks with a few "heartwarming" anecdotes here and there as a vehicle for the recipes.
This one is not. Yes, there are delicious-sounding recipes woven into the text, but it's more memoir than cookbook. While I didn't read it straight through, I will say it kept me up till midnight last night to finish it.

I went to a small state college in the Midwest in 1979, so it wa
...more
Sch. W.
Sad that the only Irooni narratives that seem to circulate in the public eye are those of privileged "Persian" royalists. Wanted to be excited about this book, loved the premise + topic, but that just totally deflated it for me. Monarchist hyperbole every other page and recipes that aren't as good as my grandma's.
Alison
What a lovely book. I read it one rainy afternoon and wished I could sit and have a cup of tea with Donia Bijan. Instead, I made her cookies. A bittersweet story with yummy recipes.
Julieann Wielga
I have a number of books about the Iranian Revolution in 1970: Daughter of Persia, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Persepolis. Also a cookbook by------on Farsi cooking. Donia Bijan looks back at the year when she turned 15, when her parents, a Doctor with his own hospital and his Nurse, leave Tehran for a vacation in Spain, and find that the world changes in Tehran while they are away.Donia is sent on the attend High School in New YOrk with Friends. Although, she had day dreamed about going to sch ...more
Grady
Another Aspect of Iran We All Need To Heed

Donia Bijan has done far more than write a very tender and entertaining memoir, a progress record from a child who loved her mother's Persian cooking to successfully creating her own restaurant (L'Amie Donia) that marries the flavors of Persian, French and American cooking and ambiance. Donia Bijan gives us the insight into the real history of Iran, a country we too often see as a 'threatening other' in the world. Though not a candy-coated image of a cou
...more
Literary Mama
Bijan's account of growing up in pre-revolutionary Iran is a gorgeous homage to her mother and to Persian culture. Trained in England as a nurse and midwife, Bijan's mother worked tirelessly by her husband's side in the Tehran hospital that he built and where he worked as a doctor. The early chapters of Bijan's memoir offer a captivating picture of Iranian culture and the community lost to her family after the revolution. In the garden of their hospital, her parents "threw elaborate parties... w ...more
Daisy
Apparently, ancient aunts... a pretty start to a sentence

Tehran--Paris--San Francisco
food
mother
exile
pomegranates walnuts lentils quince

I'd pass this sweet book on for someone else to enjoy except I must keep it for the recipes. I'd like to try almost everything in here.
My copy is an ARC with the same illustration on the cover but the background is white. The only suggestion/hope I have is that the final edition included an index for the recipes like Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret
...more
Leslie
This is a book by a chef who was born and lived in Iran till 1980 when her family (a colorful, talented, amazing lot) was forced to flee due to the whole Shah/revolution thing that happened. She goes to school in America and eventually to Paris to become a chef. She has always loved cooking and has a special knack for it. She devotes her entire life to it, which breaks her father's heart. He was a difficult and disappointed man, whose life did not treat fairly. The book is full of her lovely rec ...more
Toni
A lovely memoir and tribute to the author's mother. Not only is Bijan a talented chef, to her credit she is also a very good writer. I felt as though I was with her, perched on a stool in her mother's kitchen, tasting and smelling the exotic and wonderful aromas. The bonus is that Bijan has added recipes for some of her Persian inspired foods - which also happens to be one of my favorite cuisines!
Wendy
Enjoyable, but not as polished as some. I liked the parts in Iran best; the parts with the author as an adult seemed to lack focus, though I really liked some of the glimpses into her positions as a stage in rural France. Her extreme level of focus felt exhausting. She switches between extreme self-deprecation to slight self-promotion in a way that made me feel like I never really got to know the author. And like other reviewers, I thought the recipe choices were odd... I like to cook, but these ...more
Sanya Weathers
My public library confuses me. This book, by a celebrated chef containing more recipes, was in the biography section. The Art of Soviet Cooking, on the other hand, by a food writer with some recipes, was in the cookery section.

But I digress.

This was a deeply evocative book about life in pre-revolution Iran, and the complicated life of a family that came to America afterwards.

Absolutely worth reading for anyone whose knowledge of the era begins and ends with the simplistic Americanized version of
...more
Pamela Okano
Many years ago I overheard a friendly conversation between a Starbucks barista and a customer. What are you, he asked her. Persian, she replied. And it struck me right then that she wasn't comfortable telling an American that she was from Iran. This story came back to me as I read the delightful Maman's Homesick Pie, Donia Bijan's memoir about growing up in Iran, the daughter of a medical doctor and his wife, a nurse. The family eventually ended up in the US after the revolution, where Bijan eve ...more
Sara
Aug 20, 2011 Sara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: obp
From Thanksgiving feasts to Halloween candy collected in pillow cases, food carries us through the year from holiday to holiday. For Donia Bijan, food is the lifeblood of her memories--both from at home in Iran where she grew up before the revolution that overthrew the Shah, and from her chaotic introduction to American life at age 16 in 1978.

In Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen you will find a memoir of Donia's life as an Iranian immigrant in a time when self-identify
...more
Denise
Maman's Homesick Pie is Donia Bijan's very personal memoir of being forced to leave her home in Iran as a teenager during the revolution in the 1970's. The story begins with her charming, quirky and busy childhood. Her parents built a hospital and almost singlehandedly ran it, doctoring, cooking, bandaging, and administering all while raising their family in an apartment on the top floor. It continues through her family's exhile to the US, her own struggles to become a chef and her mother and fa ...more
Danielle
My one continuous thought throughout my reading of Maman’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan was, “is this really non-fiction?” None of it seemed particularly outrageous, but Bijan’s novel lacked the “stale factor” I often come across while reading non-fiction. It was incredibly refreshing. Not only was the story engaging, but it allowed an exploration of a culture and time I never understood before. In addition to the intriguing history there was also the added aspect of food, which readers here at C ...more
Rachel
I will admit that I originally picked this up for the recipes, because I love Persian food. Once, I got into it though, the story was excellent as well. It is a memoir about the author and her parents, and starts with Donia cleaning up her mother's kitchen after her death. From there she tells her story and how so many of her memories were wrapped up in food, especially those of her mother. The author tells of her childhood and early teen years growing up in Tehran, Iran with her parents and sis ...more
Virginia Campbell
"Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen", by Donia Bijan, is exquisite. If I could, I would give it a "10 star" review! Both beautiful and heartbreaking, this very personal story is as emotional as it is entertaining. More than a memoir, it is a celebration of food, life, and indomitable human spirit. No one has a perfect family. The more we try to deny that we are like our mother, the more we become our mother. I don't think we really appreciate our elders until we have ou ...more
Brenna
Ok. This was pretty good. I kinda blanked out about halfway through because it repeated itself a bit with the internships and cooking jobs but it was a neat read.

I liked the beginning the best when she spoke of her memories in Persia/Iran, it was nice to hear of how wonderful it use to be. I also loved her childhood involving food and her parents.
Once she became an adult and decided to pursue cooking I thought it would be a lot more, I don't know, romantic? Being it was in France in the best sc
...more
Carol
Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan is the telling of lives of Donna Bijan and her mother. Her father was a highly respected doctor who built a hospital for his obstetrical patients and her mother was a nurse. The author begins the story with her mother.

At the beginning, her mother was sent to England for her education. She knew only a few words of English and nothing of the culture. But she was resilient and strong; she mastered the language and relished
...more
Sheila DeChantal
For a girl who does not really like to cook, I sure do read a lot of cooking related books. :D Honestly that baffles me a bit too... but as I type this and really think about it, I am mesmerized by those who can cook...those who can take a table full of ingredients and create a master piece.

I don't think it is so much that I do not like cooking, as I have yet to find the patience it takes to do it right.

From the moment I laid eyes on this book I knew I wanted to read it. It sounded like the ju
...more
Deb
This one has been sitting on my "to-read" pile for far too long. What a great little foodie memoir--the story of the author's life and a tribute to her mother, food, family and Persian culture. Beginning in Iran, the family has to immigrate to America during the revolution. Later, against her father's wishes (he wants her to be a doctor as he was), but with her mother's support, author Bijan goes to Le Cordon Blue in Paris and goes back later on to apprentice there and eventually opens her own r ...more
Susan Johnson
This book made my mouth water. Her descriptions of food were so vivid that I could close my eyes and actually visualize it. That's pretty amazing since I've never eaten Persian food but I know that I would love to try it. I was so inspired that I tried to buy some cardamon but my grocery store didn't carry it.
You can tell a real chef by the way they talk about food. She practically makes love to it. She lived, for a time, just to cook. Who but a real chef would go to France and work for no pay?
...more
Lynn Coulter
I may not be a terrific cook, but I love to read books about cooking, and I love books by chefs who lure me into the kitchen with their evocative descriptions of pies with buttery, tender crusts; sweet plum jam; salads studded with peppery watercress and nasturtium leaves, and much more. So how could I resist the debut book by chef Donia Bijan, Maman’s Heartsick Pie?

When you’re welcomed into an Iranian home, Bijan tells us, you’ll likely be offered a cup of hot tea, served in a glass that shows
...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Although I'm not always a memoir person, I'm a sucker for stories involving food. Bijan's memoir about her mother, her own culinary memories, growing up Iranian, and setting out to be a chef against her father's wishes charmed me from the first page. When she closed the prologue with recipes for cardamom tea and orange cardamom cookies, I knew I was in love.

Bijan's book is a memoir and homage to her family; as she writes in her Author's Note, it is "an attempt to find answers to the questions
...more
Jen
I loved it. It was charming. The whole time I was reading I kept thinking of how much other people I know would enjoy this one. It's the story of a woman, whose mother has passed away, and she starts the novel cleaning out her mother's kitchen. She then reflects on her entire growing up. Throughout you see this wonderful mother supporting and loving her children though keeping extremely busy herself. They are from Iran but had to move during the revolution to America. Everything is all about the ...more
Roxy
I liked the first part better than the second. I enjoyed reading about the life they had in Iran. It sounded like the perfect childhood and the perfect family. The book reminded me a lot of Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard although they are pretty different. I realized why food is even more important when you move to a new country. Because it reminds you of home, of childhood, it connect you to your past and your roots. I remember how excited I was when I first discovered familiar foods in an Am ...more
Holly (2 Kids and Tired)
I had no idea who Donia Bijan was before I read her memoir, but I certainly loved her story. After the death of her mother, Donia reflects on her life as she begins the task of sorting through her mother's things. Those reflections take us to her childhood in Iran, her family's subsequent exile to America and their new life here and Donia's own experience opening her own restaurant.

Relationships and memories often involve food: the preparing, the eating and the sharing of it. Maman's Homesick P
...more
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Donia Bijan graduated from UC Berkeley and Le Cordon Bleu. After presiding over many of San Francisco's acclaimed restaurants and earning awards for her French-inspired cuisine, in 1994 she opened her own restaurant, L'amie Donia, in Palo Alto. She now divides her days between raising her son, teaching, and writing."
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“People stagger, but they pick up a tattered thread and wind it back onto a spool.” 1 likes
“It turns out, I don't need to forget to move on.” 1 likes
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