Review of Dinner of Herbs by Carla Grissman

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Reading Carla Grissman’s memoir Dinner of Herbs took me back to my first long stay in Turkey in 1990. I was in Göreme, still a small village back then with a population of 2000 and a nascent tourism sector. Most Göremeli still grew their own vegetables on plots of land wedged between fairy chimneys, ate meat once a year if at all, sold their grape harvests to the vineyards and considered an outing to the Nevşehir weekly market a big event. While the villagers there weren’t as poor as those Grissman lived with in the 1960s, reading her account reminded me of the enormous warmth and generosity I experienced, even though it was more than thirty years after the events Grissman describes took place.

Have you read Dinner of Herbs yet?

Grissman spent more than a year living in the small farming village of Uzak Köy, some 249 kilometres east of Ankara. Unlike many memoirs by foreigners which focus on the differences they find about living in Turkey and their difficulty settling in, she writes only about what she found – a generous people, a strong communal spirit and much happiness, despite living in mud houses with few resources. Life was basic at best yet Grissman expresses no judgements or desire to change things. As a result she provides a unique glimpse into a way of life that still continues in parts of Anatolia today.

Why is it called Dinner of Herbs?

The book gets its title from Proverbs 15:17 which reads, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than feasting on a fattened ox where hatred also dwells”. Grissman wrote it using the original notebooks she kept when she was in Uzak Köy and it was first published in 2001. This 2016 reprint includes photos from her stay and an additional essay. The pages are imbued with the sounds of women laughing and babies crying, men slurping strong sweet tea and the lowing of animals emitting earthly smells and warmth. Grissman has the gift of making you believe you’ve entered her room in Uzak Köy and are sitting alongside her right next to the villagers, munching on an apple, every time you turn a page.

Title: Dinner of Herbs
Publisher: Eland Publishing
Date: May, 2016
ISBN: 978-1780600437

For more suggestions of books to read about Turkey go to the review page (at top of post) and also check out my list here.

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    1. Hi Christa,
      Yes, it’s really very good. Unfortunately I haven’t been out and about very much lately so I can’t tell you where you might be able to get it in Turkey. I ordered mine via Amazon, but you could also try the Book Depository.

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