Tag Archives: food

The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  211

Published:  September 4, 2014 (in the UK)

Expected Publishing date in USA:  February 2017

Format: Softcover book

 

 

 

This is an interesting little memoir about a young woman who grew up in Ontario  and had happy memories of her mother cooking her native food from Yugoslavia.   Her mother stopped cooking elaborate meals when their business took off, but Jen forever afterwards sought out interesting foods and cultural traditions surrounding them.  As her parents were mostly absent after Jen’s early years, she developed independence young and found opportunities to study abroad both for high school and college.  On her breaks, she would visit the most obscure places she could find.  In her twenties, she had landed herself in a high paying corporate job, however, there was little love for it.  She abandoned this to begin  teaching cooking classes out of her tiny flat in London.

In her thirties, she goes on a largely unplanned trip to Iran, hoping to learn more of the culture and Middle Eastern cooking traditions.  Immediately, Vahid, an energetic Iranian man, 6 years younger than she, sparks up conversation with her and invites her to his mother’s kitchen.  Initially she is put off by him, however with time,  a love interest develops.  Through this relationship, a glimpse into the cultural rules regarding relationships is thoroughly explored in this land.   Their relationship must remain a secret from his family and Iranians at large, until Vahid has the idea of a “temporary marriage.”  They go to great lengths to get a Mullah to grant them this, so that they may be allowed to be together and have something to show the police with whom they’ve had many confrontations.  Even once they’ve gone public with their relationship, it is not accepted among Vahid’s family and their being seen together causes great consternation in Vahid’s home town of Yazd.

The book quickly shifts from a memoir about a love for food to a memoir about a love for a boy.  It is a book about “yaaftan,” finding something beautiful in a place where it is least expected or where you had to struggle.  It is about “payvand zadan” the act of locking two things to each other to keep them both safe, an old fashioned word for marriage.

 

A map of Iran with the areas circled that were visited: Yazd, Esfahan, and Tehran.

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Klinec, the author

Photo taken from the Guardian

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Discuss the importance of the hijab and manners of dressing in Iran.
  2. Discuss the expectations regarding marriage in Iran.
  3. Discuss Vahid’s how personality changes amongst different people.  Why does he show different sides of himself in different scenarios?
  4. What is your opinion of sigheh marriages or temporary marriages?  Do you think such a marriage contract could work in Western countries?   How is this at odds with the Islamic culture in Iran?
  5. Why are Vahid’s parents vehemently opposed to the idea of a relationship between Vahid and Jennifer?
  6. Jennifer and Vahid enter a Noor Mosque where people go to mourn.  Discuss this tradition of public outpouring of emotion in a society that is so private.

Review from the Guardian

Jennifer Klinec’s website

Recipes for the dishes mentioned in this novel as posted on Jennifer Klinec’s website

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

26192646

Pages: 368

Published:  May 24, 2016

Format: E-book

 

 

 

 

 

“Appetite is not a symptom,.. It’s a state of being, and like most, has its attendant moral consequences.”

Sexy, racy, indulgent.. .an enlightening dive into life within a restaurant.  It felt authentic and raw, a full sensory & gustatory experience.. for which reason, I recommend this book be read accompanied by a glass of wine.  With all the drinking, drugging, and embarrassing mistakes made by the protagonist, you will need it.  She bares her soul and the soul of the restaurant industry.  I have not had the pleasure of working in a restaurant, but have had friends who have and this novel definitely sheds light on the subject.

“Sweetbitter” was written by Stephanie Danler drawing on her own experience as a backwaiter in NYC.  The protagonist in the novel, whose name you do not learn until half-way through is Tess.  She presents herself as naive, unpretentious, inexperienced and unworldly, but is out to prove herself to survive and achieve in the restaurant which is modeled after Union Square.  She comes under the wing of Simone, who is older, experienced, worldly and uncomfortably close to the bartender that Tess is fixated on.  Tess learns about terroir, and develops an appreciation of food and wine.  She gets swept up in the late night partying, which is part and parcel of working in the restaurant.  She becomes involved in a love triangle.  She makes ridiculous choices.  She is a character you root for, though.  Through her, you gain insight into the secret life of a restaurant, how it becomes all-encompassing, lending itself to late nights with drugs and alcohol, to relationships that lack depth, and self harm.

I felt transported to the time after college where there is so much to learn, to experience, where anything can happen, where so many relationships are fleeting.  I cannot imagine being Tess, alone and new to a city without any friends or family nearby, not returning home for the holidays.  My heart ached for her loneliness, her desperate yearning to fit in, her poor choices.  However, I also felt the energy and excitement of this time in life, the possibilities, the opportunities, the relationships.

I loved the book for the most part.  It’s an exciting and fun read.  I recommend it to anyone interested in the restaurant industry, who enjoys reading about food and wine, who’s looking for a spicy book to read.images-2

 

Wines & Spirits discussed during the book

Fernet – an Italian type of amaro, made from a number of herbs and spices with a base of grape-distilled spirits & colored with caramel coloring.  It is often served with coffee or espresso.

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Manzanilla – a variety of fino Sherry made around the port of Sanlucar de Barrameda in Cadiz Andalusia (Spain)

150px-Lustau_Papirusa_Manzanilla_Sherry

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Champagne – sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France.  The primary grapes used in its production are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meaner, but white Chardonnay is also used.

Beaujolais – generally made of the Gamay grape (a cross of Pinot Noir & the ancient white wine variety Gouais); light bodied red wine with high amounts of acidity.

Louis_Jadot_Cru_Beaujolais_in_glass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sancerre -grown in the eastern part of the Loire valley; made from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir;  described to have flinty, citrusy and spicy notes.

bouteilles-sancerre

Pouilly-Fume – vineyards are in the Nievre (east of the Loire); made purely from Sauvignon Blanc, described as “smoky bouquet”

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Pouilly-Fuisse – from Burgundy region in south of France; grown from Chardonnay grapes;  Hints of oak and clay

Pouilly_fuisse_from_Macon

french-wine-regions-map-simplified

 

Discussion Questions:  Please see the back of the book for some great ones.  No need to add more.

Vanity Fair’s Interview with Stephanie Danler

New York Times Review of Sweetbitter

Reading Group Guide from Doubleday