Jasmine and Fire
A Bittersweet Year in Beirut
By Salma Abdelnour
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780307885944, 336pp.)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
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As Beirut exploded with the bombs and violence of a ruthless civil war in the ’80s, a nine-year-old Salma Abdelnour and her family fled Lebanon to start a new life in the States. Ever since then— even as she built a thriving career as a food and travel writer in New York City—Salma has had a hunch that Beirut was still her home. She kept dreaming of moving back—and finally decided to do it.
But could she resume her life in Beirut, so many years after her family moved away? Could she, or anyone for that matter, ever really go home again?
Jasmine and Fire is Salma’s poignant and humorous journey of try-ing to resettle in Beirut and fumbling through the new realities of life in one of the world’s most complex, legendary, ever-vibrant, ever- troubled cities. What’s more, in a year of roiling changes around the Middle East and the rise of the Arab Spring, Salma found herself in the midst of the turmoil, experiencing it all up close.
As she comes to grips with all the changes in her life—a love left behind in New York and new relationships blossoming in Beirut—Salma takes comfort in some of Lebanon’s enduring traditions, particularly its extraordinary food culture. Through the sights, sounds, and flavors of a city full of beauty, tragedy, despair, and hope, Salma slowly begins to reconnect with the place she’s longed for her entire life.
Salma Abdelnour is a writer and editor based in New York City. She has been the travel editor of Food & Wine, the food editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, and the restaurant editor of Time Out New York.
“Salma Abdelnour writes with grace, intelligence and wit about what it means, in this day and age, to call a place home. Jasmine and Fire gives readers the lucky chance to follow this foodie writer on a raconteur’s moveable feast from Houston to New York to Beirut and back again. This is the perfect summer book for vacations virtual and real. Just be sure to pack a snack, you don’t want to read this book hungry.” -- Veronica Chambers, author of The Joy of Doing Things Badly and Mama’s Girl
“This is a sweet, heartfelt book by a writer who finds herself both insider and outsider at the same time. Salma Abdelnour beautifully evokes the mood of the city she left as a child and the memories brought back by its wonderful food. A delicious read!” --Moira Hodgson, author of It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
“Salma Abdelnour captures the flavors of Beirut - the familiar mixed with the exotic - in her year-long search to rediscover her culture, with recipes that will let you experience the sublime flavors of Lebanese cooking...no matter where you are.” --David Lebovitz, author of The Sweet Life in Paris
“A year in Beirut allows Salma Abdelnour to ponder everything from family and love to loneliness, home, and the strategy necessary to consume several extraordinary meals in one day. Frank, contemplative, and confiding, Jasmine and Fire makes for a delicious and absorbing investigation of a fascinating place.” --Michelle Wildgen, author of You're Not You and But Not For Long
“Jasmine and Fire takes readers on an unforgettable journey to home, family, and identity. Along the way we’re also treated to glorious meals, political analysis, and some stirring reflections on the nature of becoming a global citizen. Salma Abdelnour is a wonderful host to a region that so many readers long to understand and connect with on a newer, more profoundly meaningful level.”-- Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise and The Language of Baklava
“Abdelnour brings her skills as a travel and food writer to this delightful look at Beirut life from the perspective of a native daughter returned after a long stay in America.” – Booklist
“A piquant mix of memoir travelogue and culinary adventure…A multilayered portrait of a complex, chaotic, and contradictory city.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“[A] page-turning account of Abdelnour’s return to her home city, which her family left in the 1980s to escape war-ravaged Lebanon for the U.S. But the grape leaves and eggplant fateh have to share room on the table with a quest for self-discovery, reconnecting with family and friends, and navigating the rippling effects of the Arab Spring. It's an unlikely recipe for a great book, but Abdelnour's diary-like tale is gripping, in large part because she's so honest. The book should come with a warning: "Do not read while hungry — especially if you like hummus." – Food Republic
“In Jasmine and Fire, Salma traces the challenges and triumphs she experienced in the process of rediscovering a place (and a past) she had always longed to access. Whether reveling in the pleasure of a perfect cup of strong Arabic coffee or contemplating the meaning of “home”, she chronicles and interprets her year’s events with disarming sincerity and generosity of spirit.” - Indagare