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Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut

– tekijä: Salma Abdelnour

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
604342,723 (3.32)13
'In a way, food has always been my road home. The Beirut scenes I remember most vividly from childhood are of hanging out for hours over fragrant platters of juicy chargrilled meats and just-caught seafood, piping-hot loaves of fresh pita, and pistachio-topped pastries oozing with cream and honey and orange-blossom syrup...' Salma Abdelnour was just nine years old when, in July 1981, as bombs exploded around them, she and her family fled the bloody civil war in Lebanon for a quiet, safe new life in surburban America. Now, thirty years later, she returns to the place where she hopes to never feel like a stranger. In Jasmine and Fire, Abdelnour shares her intimate journey of rediscovery as she explores today's Beirut, one of the world's most hauntingly beautiful, dynamic and troubled cities, and of witnessing up close a year of dramatic changes in the Middle East and the rise of the Arab Spring. Against a backdrop of turmoil and uncertainty, she takes comfort in some of Beirut's enduring traditions, especially its legendary love of food. Through rediscovering the favourite dishes of her childhood, she slowly begins to find her way home and a new sense of belonging. Like the best Lebanese meal, this unforgettable love letter to a fascinating city full of beauty, tragedy and hope will leave you wanting more.… (lisätietoja)
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näyttää 4/4
For anyone who's uprooted themselves and moved to another city or another country, this book will resonate because it handles the primary issue we'd all face about where we consider 'Home'. How long does one need to live in a place before we feel at home in it and not an outsider? Does one need to be born in a place? Does one need to have family around before it's considered home?

This is a memoir of the year the author spent in Beirut, the city in which she was born and from which she and her family fled when she was a child. Now a successful journalist and food critic living in New York, she nonetheless doesn't feel she belongs anywhere. Yearning to capture the feeling she had living in Beirut as a child, she makes a decision to sublet her Manhattan apartment, maintain a long distance relationship with her boyfriend and move into her parents' apartment in Ras Beirut.

As she rekindles her relationship with family members and old friends in Beirut, she also rekindles her love affair with Lebanese food. Her food descriptions are lush and so detailed you can almost smell and taste the food she describes. Bakery specialties, old childhood favorites cooked by her aunts or mother's friends, festive food served during holidays and parties are all lovingly describe. We're treated to a avalanche of textures, color, flavors and aroma. Thankfully at the end of the book, she kindly shares some recipes of her favorite Lebanese dishes.

In addition to her own soul searching, she also shares Lebanese political history, the rich and colorful culture built on Christians, Shiite and Suni Muslims and others living shoulder to shoulder in Beirut, the at times indifference of the Lebanese government towards improving the country's infrastructure, the multi-cultural edge on which the Lebanese live, the Palestinian support and Israeli contempt from some quarters, and the strength of the Lebanese not to allow political unrest to stop them from enjoying life. Or perhaps it's the uncertainty of another war that motivates them to defiantly and boisterously celebrate life and each other.

The one thing that stood out though, was her rather frequent trips back to the US during her supposed year in Beirut. I wondered how her feelings for the city may have been different if she had to actually spend an entire year there without any opportunity to leave.

When I finished reading though, I was assailed with an incredible desire to seek out the nearest Lebanese restaurant. ( )
3 ääni cameling | Jan 9, 2013 |
Salma and her family were forced from their home when she was a child. The fighting made Beirut
unsafe. Their family had the resources to relocate to the United States, to live and work near an uncle in
Houston, Texas.

Despite having had a childhood that was in all respects fairly normal and in fact, it seems slightly privileged,
Salma was never quite comfortable with her fit in this new homeland. Her family was able to go back and visit
their old home in Beirut, which they kept, despite their move. There they lived among friends and family once again.Each visit however, was just that, and back they went to the United States.

The family's stable financial position allowed Salma and her brother to pursue good educations, and in time she found herself living in New York City, among friends that she enjoyed, with an apartment where she felt comfortable, and a job in journalism that allowed her to have much more freedom than most do do what she ultimately did. She chose to sublet her little apartment and return to Beirut for a year. She would live in her family's old home, once again among friends and relatives. Due to her freelancing occupation, her income would not be a problem. This would give her the opportunity to see if living back in Beirut was something she really did want.

Due perhaps, to a lifelong interest in food, and her interest in writing about food and travel, you will be treated to vivid and mouthwatering descriptions of various dishes that she enjoys eating and preparing for herself and her friends. She does find a niche for herself in Beirut, among friends with similar interests and experiences, and feels comfortable having family close by. It seemed as if a pleasant year was in store.

To find out if all turned out as she hoped it would, I encourage you to give Jasmine and Fire a chance. Although the food takes, perhaps, a too prominent a place in the story, this is an enjoyable read. There are references to politics and some history that are intriguing and that enhance this memoir. I would recommend this without hesitation to anyone interested in the Mediterranean coast, and the way of life that is to be found there. ( )
6 ääni mckait | Jul 23, 2012 |
Home is where your heart is, so the old saying goes. But what if, by virtue of fate and war, your heart is divided between a pair of cities in countries separated by oceans, continents and cultures? This is the question author Salma Abdelnour ponders with absorbing style and wistful grace in her new book, "Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut."

Born in the States to Lebanese parents, then raised while young in Beirut before civil war forced her family to return to America, Abdelnour always felt slightly out of place as a child in Houston, a student in Berkeley, and an adult in New York. Nonetheless, she forged an admirable career as a writer and editor in New York, including stints as travel editor of "Food & Wine" magazine, food editor of "O, The Oprah Magazine," and restaurant editor of "Time Out New York." Her writing has been featured in publications such as the "New York Times," "Food & Wine," "Travel + Leisure," and "ForbesLife," and she has appeared on travel and food segments for CNN, CNBC, and the Fine Living Network. And yet all the while, a piece of her heart always tugged at her from Lebanon. It made her wonder what she would feel if she were to leave New York and return to Beirut decades after her family fled the war -- not to return for a week or two as she had visiting family on vacations past, but to return to one of the world's most unpredictable cities and live there for an entire year. Would Beirut feel like the home, wherever and whatever that may be, from which she felt somewhat unmoored since she was a girl? Or would the incessantly chaotic but undeniably fascinating city be only a capricious Lothario unworthy of permanently harboring her heart? With the considerable courage required for an unmarried woman in her late thirties to live alone in a society long dominated by unrepentant male chauvinism, Abdelnour packed her bags and committed to a year of living, if not dangerously, at least cautiously, in Beirut between the summers of 2010 and 2011.

With eloquence, passion and a sharp eye for detail, Abdelnour explores the joys and turmoils of looking for home. "Jasmine and Fire" will certainly please fans of expert travel writing. True to the author's calling as a committed foodie, "Jasmine and Fire" will gratify food aficionados too -- at the book's end readers will discover classic recipes for a dozen tantalizing Middle Eastern dishes. Like the adventures and food she describes so intimately, "Jasmine and Fire" is a read worth savoring. ( )
  RGazala | Jun 5, 2012 |
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. ( )
  Carolee888 | May 23, 2012 |
näyttää 4/4
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Katso lisäohjeita Common Knowledge -sivuilta (englanniksi).
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Henkilöt/hahmot
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Alkuteoksen kieli
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

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'In a way, food has always been my road home. The Beirut scenes I remember most vividly from childhood are of hanging out for hours over fragrant platters of juicy chargrilled meats and just-caught seafood, piping-hot loaves of fresh pita, and pistachio-topped pastries oozing with cream and honey and orange-blossom syrup...' Salma Abdelnour was just nine years old when, in July 1981, as bombs exploded around them, she and her family fled the bloody civil war in Lebanon for a quiet, safe new life in surburban America. Now, thirty years later, she returns to the place where she hopes to never feel like a stranger. In Jasmine and Fire, Abdelnour shares her intimate journey of rediscovery as she explores today's Beirut, one of the world's most hauntingly beautiful, dynamic and troubled cities, and of witnessing up close a year of dramatic changes in the Middle East and the rise of the Arab Spring. Against a backdrop of turmoil and uncertainty, she takes comfort in some of Beirut's enduring traditions, especially its legendary love of food. Through rediscovering the favourite dishes of her childhood, she slowly begins to find her way home and a new sense of belonging. Like the best Lebanese meal, this unforgettable love letter to a fascinating city full of beauty, tragedy and hope will leave you wanting more.

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