Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Taste of Iran in Ireland

Recently I discovered two books written by Marsha Mehran - Pomegranate Soup and Rosewater and Soda Bread. Readers of Maeve Binchy books would probably enjoy these two titles.

The books are set in the Irish village of Ballinacroagh where three sisters from Iran open the Babylon Cafe much to the delight of some of the villagers who quickly succumb to the new cuisine and welcome the newcomers. However in a village where rumour and gossip reigns supreme a section of the population led by Dervla Quigley and Thomas McGuire strive to close the cafe.

Marjan, Bahar and Layla Aminpour persevere with the help of their landlady, Estelle, and the local priest, Father Mahoney. Stories of their life in Iran are revealed as the three sisters establish a new life and new relationships in Ireland.

Romance and religion are dominant themes in Rosewater and Soda Bread. Estelle finds a young woman with mystical powers washed up on a deserted beach and takes her home to care for her and protect her with the aid of Marjan. Bahar decides to study Catholicism and Layla and Malchy further develop their relationship while Marjan meets a writer who is rebuilding his family home. The wide cast of characters combined with the revelations of past events enrich the main storyline in both books providing an account of interweaving of two cultures.

In Pomegranate Soup recipes for the food described appear at the end of each chapter while in Rosewater and Soda Bread a selection of recipes appear at the end of the book.

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