cover image Memories of a Lost Egypt: A Memoir with Recipes

Memories of a Lost Egypt: A Memoir with Recipes

Colette Rossant. Clarkson N Potter Publishers, $21 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-609-60150-1

Reading this slim volume is like spending an afternoon in the kitchen with a beloved older relative. What could be better than hearing tales of an exotic past while preparing the foods that are at the core of the shared memories? Rossant, a cookbook author and columnist whose article on Egyptian cuisine in Saveur formed the basis of this poignant memoir, certainly had a colorful young life. Born in 1932 to affluent secular Jews, at age five she was taken from her maternal grandparents' Parisian home to live with her father's extended family in Cairo. Her father died soon afterward, but Rossant stayed safely with her grandparents, the Palaccis, throughout the war. Meanwhile, her singularly indifferent mother traveled about, sending her resentful ""little pagan"" to a Cairo convent boarding school after the war and then back to dreary postliberation Paris for matriculation in a lyc e. Fittingly for someone who grew up to be a cookbook writer, Rossant's happiest memories from her childhood in Egypt center on food, from the baguette dipped in garlic and oil that she preferred to the French petit pain au chocolat, to the Ful Medamas (fava beans cooked with pickled turnips, onions and hot peppers) and Boiled Blue Crabs with Ginger Scallion Sauce prepared by the Palaccis' Arab cook, to the Tomato Salad (made with tarragon, chives, lemon juice and olive oil) that won her future husband's heart. Rossant indeed offers a tasty treat for both body and soul. (Apr.)