Travel literature review: Day of Honey

Day of Honey — A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Reviewed by Jessica Boland

Annia Ciezadlo was a special correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor in Baghdad and The New Republic in Beirut, and now lives in New York. In 2003, she married another foreign correspondent, had her honeymoon in Baghdad, and spent the following six years living in Baghdad and Beirut.

While living in and reporting from occupied Baghdad, Ciezadlo yearns for a married life that is normal. She struggles to set up a happy home for herself and her husband amidst the violence and bloodshed in Iraq.

Ciezadlo manages to find some semblance of normalcy when she and her husband relocate to Beirut, her husband’s birthplace and home to his immediate and extended family. She feels a strong connection with her new family, particularly through the rituals of cooking and eating. Umm Hassane, Ciezadlo’s stubborn mother-in-law, agrees to teach Ciezadlo how to cook recipes that have been held tightly for generations.

Through learning to cook these rare and wonderful dishes, Ciezadlo finally finds a feeling of home. While the kitchens of the tiny apartments and expat hotels she lives in leave much to be desired, she somehow manages to put together traditional Lebanese meals to bring some sense of a normal life to the unpredictable and unstable reality she and her husband are living, as sectarian violence takes over Beirut.

In this book, Lebanon and Iraq are brought to life through stories about food, survival and the celebration of life. Ciezadlo has a wonderful voice – her descriptions of the Middle Eastern dishes are mouth-watering. There’s even an extensive appendix of Middle Eastern recipes, although it would be almost impossible to recreate these dishes to Ciezadlo or Umm Hassane’s high standards!

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War is a strong and revealing look into the lives of residents of Baghdad and Beirut during times of great fear and upheaval. The book has a fascinating cast of characters, all dealing in their own personal ways with how to carry on their everyday lives amongst the misery of war-time. Through her characters’ stories, Ciezadlo depicts a Middle East that is not solely about violence and destruction.

Jessica Boland works as a publishing manager at Lonely Planet.

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