Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut by Salma Abdelnour was a disappointment to me. At first, I loved learning about the different food of Lebanon, and her experiences but as the book went on, I felt that her idea for a book was too thin.
Salma was born in the United States but her early childhood was spent in Beirut. At the time that the family decided to flee the capital because of the bombings and unrest in 1981 she begged them not to leave. She loved the feeling of Beirut, its foods, the rest of her family and friends who were remaining.
Her family moved to Houston which had a similar muggy intense heat. She never felt at home there. When she did go to New York to live she developed a love for the city for its complexity, its different ethnic foods and the extreme variety of people. She also had a relationship with a man in which she could not decide whether to commit to. Since she is a free-lance writer, she can do her job anywhere so she decided to go back to Beirut to find herself. Would she feel completely at home there and miss New York?
I was very interested in the story at first because I wanted to learn more about Beirut. Her perspective was from being raised Christian and I had previously read a book by an author who had been raised a Muslim. She has many wonderful recipes in the back of the book that I want to try. I do love Middle Eastern food. She has a gentle sense of humor.
But what I didn’t like was that the book after a great start, the book seemed to start spinning. Do I love New York or Beirut better? Should go to the next step in my relationship? Should I ever get married? Then there got too be too much food for me. In preparation for a test, I had to follow a liquid diet. She had descriptions of food on almost every page. Somewhere along the way, it became a chore to read.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Lebanese food but I would have preferred that the author had written a cookbook with beautiful glossy pictures of the foods. There were cultural tidbits but I didn’t think there was a thoroughly engrossing story.
I received this book as a win from GoodReads but that in no way influenced my review.