Available in bookstores nationwide.
The author starts the book with an overview into an unconventional childhood. Independent at an early age, she quickly develops the travel bug, spending most weekends travelling while spending the weeks in a corporate job. She ends her corporate career when she opens a cooking school – priding itself on teaching authentic cooking. Her travels are now research for her day job, and her next stop is Iran.
Jennifer is excited to visit Iran, she contemplates and prepares by practicing wearing a headscarf. She is keen to fit in when she arrives as she senses this will be the key to a successful trip. On arrival she quickly meets Vahid, a local who speaks to her, practicing his English. She is invited to join Vahid and his uncle for sightseeing, and this quickly turns into an invitation to join Vahid’s mother for cooking lessons. The cooking lessons are supplemented by trips with Vahid to sample eyeball soup and to visit a slaughterhouse.
It becomes obvious that Jennifer is interested in Vahid, and a relationship quickly develops (it is hard to remember that the trip the book is based on lasts only a month). In a country without a dating culture, commencing a relationship is dangerous. For Vahid, there are some very real dangers − from the bureaucracy of the state and the disapproval of his family. The temporary solution that they find (the title of the book relates to this solution) was fascinating. I do not wish to spoil the story, so will merely note that I spent awhile online researching this concept.
Jennifer is not always a sympathetic character, and does not flinch from writing about her thoughts and actions when they do present her in a difficult light. Her experiences, culture and upbringing mean that she feels it is OK to pursue a relationship with Vahid − even though she is acutely aware of the problems and devastation that will follow. I found these parts slightly awkward. I became quite concerned for Vahid! But if you enjoy ‘love conquers all’ storylines then you will perhaps not share these concerns.
I was quite disappointed that this memoir of a cooking teacher learning about Iranian food had mouth watering descriptions of food but no recipes!* Jennifer Kilnec writes about food so beautifully, the meals felt alive to me. She is so clearly knowledgeable about food, and so keen to learn about the places she travels to. She is contemplative and deliberate and her writing is exquisite and alluring. It is a travel and relationship memoir, rather than a food memoir.
*There is one recipe on her website for a dish called tahdig.
Reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming
The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran
by Jennifer Klinec
Published by Virago