That little teaser the other day, the one with the recipe and the picture of the author, needs a follow-up. The recipe I’ll do shortly, after the tasting and possibly even with a picture of my attempt at ruining a good dish.
But what I won’t be ruining are the memories that our author puts into that meal. She had been in Kabul, in dangerous times, accepting hospitality from her driver, her translator and people who became friends; people with whom contact after she left is virtually impossible.
We looked at Anna Badkhen’s recent writing from travels in Afghanistan recently, and I had a quest to find more of her works. Peace Meals is a collection and a recollection. It covers her days in the danger spots of the world, broadly between 2001 and 2008. So we find ourselves in places with names that we all knew from our TV screens then, in Mosul and Tikrit, Gaza and Jerusalem, Kabul and Kandahar.
Born and raised in St Petersburg, daughter of a Jew, writing in English for American publications, Badkhen left her young son at home and put herself in the front line, to bring stories back. Wherever we find her, military camp embedded with the troops, open hillside, funeral or bullet-ridden hotel compound, she has words for us.
Peace Meals is a collection of tales over a number of trips into the danger zones, events that seem consigned to history now, events that shame us perhaps. She takes her memories and thinks of her friends through the meals that they shared. Some of the recipes tempt and titillate. I almost thought of finding a place in the kitchen bookcase for the recipes alone, but the writing, the writing… I like her style.
In terms of war correspondents, and messages home, I’d put Anna Badkhen up there with Feargal Keane and Asne Seierstadt. Christina Lamb too has found wonderful words from dark places. But Anna Badkhen, there’s something else about her, a bit more personal perhaps. Maybe it’s the recipes. Or maybe it’s because I read All the World’s a Carpet last year, and she had me hooked.
I haven’t forgotten the promised Mantwo. Just a few ingredients to get, and some hours in the kitchen to find. But it’s mid-term, and I may have help in the kitchen. Back soon.