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Origin

The Language of Baklava

A Memoir, 2005, 352 pages

Synopsis

My childhood was made up of stories-the memories and recollections of my father's history and the storybook myths and legends that my mother brought me to read. The stories were often in some way about food, and the food always turned out to be in some way about something much larger: grace, difference, faith, love. This book is a compilation of some of those family stories as it traces the ways we grew into ourselves. I believe the immigrant's story is compelling to us because it is so consciously undertaken. The immigrant compresses time and space-starting out in one country and then very deliberately starting again, a little later, in another. It's a sort of fantasy-to have the chance to re-create yourself, but it's also a nightmare, because so much is lost.

To me, the truth of stories lies not in their factual precision but in their emotional core. Most of the events in this book are honed and altered in some fashion, to give them the curve of stories. Lives don't usually correspond to narrative arcs, but all of these stories spring out of real people, memories, and joyously gathered and prepared meals.

I offer my deepest gratitude to the friends and family I write about in these pages and give thanks to everyone who knows we each have a right to tell our stories, to be truthful to our own memories, no matter how flawed, private, embellished, idiosyncratic, or improved they may be. I also offer apologies to all the dear ones whose experiences I may have shared and recorded here without asking permission. I offer up these memories in hopes that others will feel invited or inspired to conjure up and share their own. Memories give our lives their fullest shape, and eating together helps us to remember.

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