Collette Rossant's memoir of her childhood in Old Cairo. An easy read I finished over a Shabbat afternoon in the sun while the boys napped upstairs.
I love food memoirs. People sharing their life stories and the all-important recipes and food moments that permeate the memories. I too treasure my own food memories, though, like most people I don't deem them worthy of a memoir (maybe some other bits of my life might be worthy of one...), that being said I am glad Rossant wrote her's.
With delicious (and, unfortunately, many nonkosher) recipes dispersed throughout, Rossant showed me a vintage Cairo in its best gold and pink colored light. Born to a wealthy Jewish family in France, Rossant moved to Cairo in the 1940s to live with her wealthy grandparents. She found solace from her extensive, austere family in the large, rustic kitchen in their mansion by the Nile. Tasting his creations and learning to cook under the care of the home chef Ahmet, Rossant's palette spans the width and breadth of Egyptian, French, Italian, and "Jewish" cuisines. I use quotation marks around Jewish cuisines because I find that Jews do not have one singlular cuisine but rather incorporate local cuisine into a part of our ancestral cuisine and work it into the framework of kashrut.
A wholly unkosher novel, Rossant's family does not observe the laws of kashrut so many of the recipes are for me objectionable, but there are many she references that have been carried over by Egyptian Jews immigrating to Israel and have become an established part of Israeli cuisine. Warm ful over hummus with pita and sliced onion, anyone?
Though her life is rather tragic in the sense that she doesn't seem to be truly loved as a child but rather just very well cared for by her wealthy extended family, to say nothing of her strange religious upbringing, she ended her memoir on a high point stating that she married, had children, moved to New York, where she discovered her passion for cooking and went on to write several cookbooks and become a renowned chef.
Don't pay full price for this one. Buy it used for a good price and only then I recommend it as a good read. Especially since the publishing company seemed to have printed it on copy paper with an out-of-focus print which made it pixelated and the whole book seems like a self-published home-printed work.
4 stars for this one. As a declared Francophile, gastronome, and resident of the Middle East, this one has a place on my bookshelf. You can view it on my virtual one here.
Here until the next review,
A. E. Hayoun
For those who are into this kind of thing: written while imbibing a 2018 "shel Segal" Pinot Noir