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S E C T I O N 2 People October 5, 2011 ■ A LSO I N S I D E CA LE N DA R 28 |RE A L ES TAT E 29 |CL AS S I F I E D S 37 Donia Bijan picks low-hanging apples while her husband and son, Mitchell and Luca Johnson, help harvest harder-to-reach fruit from an abundantly producing tree in the family’s backyard. Below, this whole wheat apple bread, cooling on the backyard picnic table, is one of several results of the apple harvest. A t the time former restaurateur Donia Bijan began writing down memories of her parents’ lives, she was wracked by grief over the unexpected and gruesome death of her beloved mother, Menlo Park resident Atefeh “Amy” Bijan. Ms. Bijan, the owner and chef of the highly regarded L’Amie Donia restaurant in Palo Alto, now closed, felt compelled to leave a record for her son and her sisters’ children about their grandparents, who immigrated to the United States after being exiled from their homeland in 1978, at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution. The project of remembering through writing germinated as Ms. Bijan sorted through her mother’s possessions, eight days after Amy Bijan, still vital and fit at 75, was struck and killed by a car while walking in a crosswalk on Santa Cruz Avenue in January 2004. Entering her mother’s home a few days after the funeral, Ms. Bijan worked somberly amid the scent of tea and roses, “sorting and packing the boxes I had lined up by her cabinets like little coffins, filling them with cups and saucers wrapped in newspaper, and spoons, spatulas, and whisks,” she would write later. During the course of packing up, Ms. Bijan came across a collection of papers Finding a place at life’s table Former restaurateur Donia Bijan describes in a new memoir her family’s journey of exile and quest for belonging By Renee Batti | Photos by Michelle Le tucked into a kitchen drawer — newspaper clippings from food sections and loose pages from notepads with recipes written, in English and in Farsi, in her mother’s hand. They were recipes for American dishes, dating back to the year her parents arrived in this country, leaving behind all their possessions, including the hospital they built and operated, to be looted in the frenzy of revolution. It was then that Ms. Bijan began musing about the connection between food and belonging — the link between the ritual of the table and the ability to find one’s place in the world. “I knew when I found those recipes that something was there, and that I was going to find that something — I was going to find the key to open the door,” she says during a recent interview in the sunny backyard of the Menlo Park home she shares with her husband, artist Mitchell Johnson, and their 10-year-old son, Luca. Her mother, she says, “had Persian cuisine down,” but when she lost her homeland, she had an instinctual understanding that embracing the cuisine of her adopted country would allow her to find a place in the new, sometimes baffling world in which she found herself transplanted. Continued on page 27 October 5, 2011 N The Almanac N25

The Almanac 10.05.2011 - Section 2

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