The Language of Baklava Update and Discussion Questions

28 01 2009

Hello Cook The Books Participants,

I hope the New Year is going well for everyone and you are cooking and eating lots of delicious food and reading great books like our current Cook The Books pick; The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber. A few more weeks to go until February 15th when our posts are due for this book. Hopefully your creative juices are flowing and you are deciding what incredible dish to make to represent this wonderful book. I know we have at least one entry posted already (Thanks Arlene!) and we look forward to seeing more.

I came across some book group discussion questions and I thought it would be fun to post some of the more food-related ones so that we can get some good dialogue started and add to our Cook The Books experience. Feel free to leave a comment (or comments) with your thoughts on any of the questions. (The questions came from: “Let’s Talk About It–We Are What We Eat“, a food related book club and were created by Susan Swetnam, Idaho State University, 2007). Of course you are not limited to just these questions, please feel free to share your thoughts on any aspect of this book and your overall impressions.


1. In the memoir, Abu-Jaber’s father Bud, constantly uses food to reassure himself that his connection to his origins and family are not lost, and to attempt to connect his children to that heritage. Why, do you believe, does food hold power to forge such connections? What foods remind you of such connections?

2. Some immigrant children reject their ethnic foodways (at least temporarily) in an effort to become Americanized. Despite Diana Abu-Jaber’s temporary rebellions, she never does. Why might that be so, given her larger feelings about her father and her family?

3. One important theme in this book is finding one’s place as a person between cultures. Do you believe that such accommodation happens for Diana? If so, how does she accomplish it? Or does she end up identifying herself more one way than another?

4. Although the themes of The Language of Baklava are serious, the book is full of humor. What does the humor add? Do humor and food go together, in some ways, for you?

Happy eating, reading and discussion! We look forward to seeing everyone’s delicious dishes by February 15th! We are looking forward to Diana Abu-Jaber’s help in choosing our winner for this round! Prizes and glory await!




15 responses

29 01 2009

I am so loving this book! I want to cook and eat EVERYTHING! Great discussion questions, I shall go away and continue.

29 01 2009

… and when I say continue I mean continue reading and contemplate. I hit submit too soon!

29 01 2009

I did a book review post about the book on my book blog, The Book Trout, and now I have to get going on my food post for The Crispy Cook. One thing I was puzzled about was how quiet Diana’s mom was. She’s so completely overshadowed by her outsized mother and husband, yet I sense she is the rock that kept the family together and sane during all their moves and tribulations. I wonder why she was such a minor character in all of this.

29 01 2009

I thought the same thing about her mother.. that was something I did notice all through the book. Also the fact that she skipped past her marriages, but I guess she was concentrating on her childhood more. Makes me want to read a part two.

31 01 2009

I am absolutely loving this book! I published my first post about it this evening: . Thanks for choosing this!

31 01 2009

I suspect we’ll see more of Abu-Jaber’s mother in another memoir or novel. I would like to know more about how Bud and his wife met; how they overcame what must have been tremendous opposition to their marriage; and, how they funded their many moves. None of these are answered in any detail in this memoir. I’m not surprised that they fell in love. None of the couples I know well deviate from this “opposites attract” phenomenon. I suppose one flamboyant character per couple is more than enough.

4 02 2009
maria verivaki

1. food was one of the few things Bud could hold onto from his past, everything else was different: clothing, weather, houses, school, children, etc
2. ethnic foods usually have no place in daily westrernised life. the children of immigrants are immersed in the western life of the country their parents immigrated to, and when they discover their position in society – in the midst of two cultures, being neither one or the other – they tend to reject their parents’ culture (it’s only natural, it isn’t the norm), food ideas being one of them
3. through her writing,, and possibly her second trip to jordan, diana did indeed find her position in between cultures. she doesn’t identify one way or the other, she is an american arab from what i read (rather than an Arab american), in a similar way myself (i feel very much new zealand greek, not a greek new new zealander, which is what i thought i was when i was growing up)
4. the themes are serious, and SO is the food! humour goes very well with food – as long as it isn’t kolyva, for example, in greece, which is associated with death. the humour in the book shows how comfortable diana is in her world. food is always funny in my house, in diffierent ways for everyone (my children are amused when i make something intricate, my husband is amused when teh same dish doesnt come out the same way as i cooked it the first time, i am amused that everyone eats my food)

i’ve posted, and i hope i’ve cross-linked correctly!

8 02 2009

I found a great interview with Ms. Abu-Jaber at this link: and she gives a little more insight into the characters in the book and how she wrote it. Very interesting.

9 02 2009

I posted today, here.

14 02 2009
14 02 2009
15 02 2009
Tina Culbertson

I made my entry for the book on my site today. Can’t wait to hear discussion from Ms. Abu-Jabar. Hopefully she will writen a part 2. I’d love to hear more about her mother! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan to get more of her work. My entry is the site below and I linked to Cook the Books.


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5 07 2014
Healthy Middle Eastern Fare for Cook The Books: The Language of Baklava | Fresh Cooking Ideas

[…] second selection for Cook The Books, (the foodie book club, founded by Rachel at The Crispy Cook, Johanna from Food Junkie, Not Junk […]

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