After a trip to the library last week, I took home a novel titled Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran, as well as Nigella Lawson’s Italian inspired cookbook Nigellissima.
Pomegranate Soup tells the story of three sisters that fled revolutionary Iran, and found themselves in County Mayo, Ireland. There, they open The Babylon Café in honor of their Persian culture. The women come to terms with their troubled past while they simultaneously face prejudice and adversity in their present. Eventually, though, the sisters find family and love in the small village community of Ballinacroagh. The novel shares similarities with Laura Esquivel’s novel Like Water for Chocolate, in that each chapter begins with a recipe and both books are rich with colorful prose and cultural significance. Whenever I opened Pomegranate Soup, I escaped for a time to The Babylon Café, where descriptions of one particular golden samovar, herbed pancakes, the scent of cinnamon and rose, and fried dough elephants’ ears enticed me. I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
Nigellissima proved enticing as well. Flipping through pages of sweet, Italian inspired desserts in full color had me dreaming of Struffoli and Semifreddo for days, not to mention Panna cotta, chocolate olive oil cake, and a particular Torta di mele (affectionately called Italian apple pie) that I just had to bake. So, as usual, all too late last night I stood at the counter pouring ingredients into the food processor to mix up a creamy cake batter. As I have mentioned before, Nigella is quite effortless in the kitchen and isn’t ashamed to take shortcuts from time to time. At nearly 9 at night, I decided to save the hand stirring for another day in favor of having a sweet bite to eat that much sooner. Will and I shared our own Golden Girls moment later that night; the two of us sat together in the dark at the dining room table, indulging in our still warm dessert. What I love about this recipe is how easy it is to throw together, without compromising taste or elegance. The crumb is very moist and not cloyingly sweet, and the beautiful apple slices spiraling around the top turn crisp and brown with a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. The cake (because it is more of a cake than a pie) can, as Nigella mentions, double as a teatime snack– so it is quite versatile.
Since this trip to the library I have since made another, and now I am buried in the adventures and romance of Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. We have recently watched the movie, and I am already discovering how much the film and book differ (of course). Still, I am enjoying myself as I find nothing quite as comforting as a good book — and recently, I have been lucky to find several.