Pomegranate Soup is the story of 'new beginnings'; of planting seeds, letting the roots take hold and rejoicing in what blooms. Sometimes it isn't all that was expected and sometimes it's even better.
The year is 1986 and the Aminpour sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla have traveled from their birth home, Tehran, Iran (via Lewishan, London) to the small village of Ballinacroagh, Ireland. The home they have left behind was at the height of revolution and unsafe for three parentless young women. They escaped with their wits, a few possessions and memorabilia, and a few bruises (inside and out).
In Ballinacroagh, they meet an interesting array of town's people, some that welcome them with open arms and others who wished they never came. The tight-knit family opens up the Babylon Cafe featuring Persian food to entice and enliven the senses of the villagers. They choose to open the restaurant on the Iranian New Year (first day of Spring) for luck. Traffic is slow to non-existent at first but soon they are attracting a lively array of patrons.
I fell in love with these three sisters and the quirky folk whose lives they touched and vice versa. Marjan Aminpour is the eldest at 27. She acts as the surrogate mother since the early demise of both their parents. She is a natural cultivator and food preparer. Bahar Aminpour is 24. She jumps into things quickly, including assumptions. At times she seems like a deer caught in the headlights. And if that wasn't enough she suffers from stress-induced migraines caused by always looking over her shoulder for the abusive husband she left in Iran. Layla is the youngest at 15. She is also the most beautiful of the three. Her natural cinnamon rose scent is an aphrodisiac for men who pass by. Within her heart she carries the hope of the future.
Some of the town folk include Estelle Delmonico, an Italian, childless widow who takes the girls under her wing after renting out the old pastry shop her and her husband ran until his death. Dervla Quigley is the incontinent town gossip with a vengeance. And Malachy McGuire is the tall, dark and handsome love interest for young Layla who's also the son of the town bully, Thomas McGuire.
Between each chapter is a special recipe, thirteen in total and as you delve into each chapter you find further details relating to the recipe, cooking, and anecdotes on the spices or herbs used. So far I've only tried the baklava and red lentil soup (fabulous) but I'm collecting the ingredients to try more. I've also been inspired by Marjan's efforts into starting my own herb garden. What a great concept incorporating recipes into a novel.
Here is a listing of the recipes tucked within Pomegranate Soup's pages:
-red lentil soup
-dugh yogurt drink
-migraine headache remedy
-after dinner lavender-mint tea
Marsha Mehran is a good story teller and her words are effortless, uncluttered and smooth. This is one of my favorite books this year. I enjoyed this book so much I wish I had read it sooner. This is the first book in a series Mehran plans to continue and I look forward to reading more about the Aminpour sisters and the Ballinacroagh crew.
Random House, 2005
Purchase Pomegranate Soup from Amazon.com.
Purchase Pomegranate Soup from Amazon.ca.
M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada. If you are going to find this eclectic reader and writer anywhere it is probably at her computer. For more information visit her official website.