What book makes you to cry? I know of three. The first two are by Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Dave Eggers’ What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, is the third book. The stories center around unstable governments, conflicting religious beliefs, wars and family grief. All of the books are emotional. Particularly, when reading the first chapters about families who were living in peace with their daily routines and yearly cultural celebrations. Then the next chapters proceed to tell of tragedy, grief and lost. They end with the characters adapting to new lives, while living with vivid memories of their past. I once was reading one of Hosseini’s books in the middle of rush hour on the 4 train with tears welling up in my eyes. These books are page-turners. Eggers story is a true autobiography about one of Sudan’s Lost Boys. The other two have fictional characters, in which the stories are based on true events. All of the books capture a certain awareness about life. They’re reminders of what’s truly important in our so-called busy schedules: family and friends.
Today, the characters, stories and backgrounds are almost forgotten. I wish for a photographic memory that never forgets minute details. My heart does jump when I see the front covers of these books in stores or on a bookshelf in my apartment. They trigger a vague emotional sadness. Then, scant details are moved from the corners of my mind to the front.
What I remember are lives being interrupted by violent warfare started by outside cultures or extreme beliefs. There once was a time, in which Afghanistan and Sudan were lands of peace. Sudan’s rich history is part of ancient Egypt. Afghanistan was the center of another ancient civilization, Persia. It was a place of poets, writers and Sufis. It was also known for its flavorful nuts, bright pomegranates, oranges, apricots, berries, grapes, and plums.
…You couldn’t stretch a leg here without poking a poet in the ass. – A Thousand Splendid Suns, Chapter 1, in reference to Afghanistan’s past
The Spiced Golden Plum Sorbet recipe is neither Afghani nor Sudanese, but both cultures are inspirational. The plum is an ancient fruit found throughout the world. Cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, one dried chili pepper, lemon juice and star anise have uplifting fragrances. Most are traditionally used in savory dishes. Although, in Western cultures, cinnamon is usually a dessert spice. These aromatic flavors were steeped in simple syrup. Adding the spiced simple syrup to a gingery, golden plum purée made a refreshing sorbet. The flavor is bright and big. It’s an unforgeable taste.
…How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don’t want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist. – What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, Chapter 26
One day, when Afghanistan and Sudan shed their war-torn image, I wonder what the history books will write. Will these wars be forgotten or memorialized in stories told to generations of the future? I do remember when these books were read, donations were made and prayers were whispered for peace. In my heart, peace will exist one day. It’s a known reality.
Spiced Golden Plum Sorbet
1/2 to 1 cup spiced simple syrup*
1/2 to 1 lb. golden plums; discard seed and stems; chopped
1 to 2 inch fresh ginger; peeled
1. Place plums and ginger in a food processor and puree until smooth. Don’t worry about bits of skin.
2. Place in the refrigerator to cool overnight.
3. Depending on preferred sweetness, whisk 1/2 to 1 cup of spiced simple syrup into the plum puree.
4. Place in an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
5. Freeze well and enjoy cold.
*Spiced Simple Syrup
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
The juice and zest of one lemon
1 whole, dried, red chili pepper
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1. Place all ingredients in a pot over medium heat.
2. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and let syrup cool.
3. Place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
4. Strain before using in favorite sorbet recipe.