Published: September 4, 2014 (in the UK)
Expected Publishing date in USA: February 2017
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
- Discuss the importance of the hijab and manners of dressing in Iran.
- Discuss the expectations regarding marriage in Iran.
- Discuss Vahid’s how personality changes amongst different people. Why does he show different sides of himself in different scenarios?
- 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?
- Why are Vahid’s parents vehemently opposed to the idea of a relationship between Vahid and Jennifer?
- 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.