Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

As a seamstress and a reader, I was impressed by this book. Even though there might have been technical flaws with the timeline of the book, the story itself was astonishing. In our world today, most of us who sew have sewing machines, if not more than one. We also may have embroidery machines, all sorts of notions and gadgets, access to all sorts of fabric and the freedom to use them any way we like. Here is a story of women risking their lives to sew to provide needed financial help to their family. This book will make you appreciate your freedom to sew. This review is from my Amazon Vine book review.


The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

As a seamstress I was fascinated by this book. When their world has gone mad and life as they know it had changed, the women of Afghanistan found themselves in a peculiar situation. They could not leave their homes without a male escort, they could not work out, they had a new dress code that was so old fashioned many of the women had to borrow clothes to leave their home as they didn’t have the proper dress to satisfy the Taliban. As many of them found that they were widows with children to support they were left in a quandary. How do they support their families, feed their children and keep a roof over their heads and still follow the rules? If they didn’t follow the rules they could be beaten, tortured and killed. For women who were used to going to school (now no longer allowed), holding down jobs, and being able to shop and visit at will, not only were they in financial straights but bored beyond belief. They were essentially under house arrest.

For one family of many daughters, Kamela Sediqi found a way to be productive, earn an income and involve not only her many sisters but other women and girls from her area. She became a seamstress. With one sewing lessons from her married sister that was a tailor, she set up shop and made her first garment. Escorted by her younger brother, she went to the market, avoiding the Taliban soldiers, and took orders for the dresses she and her sisters would make. As someone who has sewed for 40+ years, she did something I would never even think of attempting. But she got orders and took them home and carefully she and her sisters cut the cloth and hand sewed and embroidered the garments. Her business grew, all being secretly done in her home, to the point she was able to hire other women and girls to help her and thus also help with their financial difficulties.

Sewing by lamplight and eventually with sewing machines during the times of infrequent electric power, Kamela and sisters and friends, beat their boredom, supported their families and showed that even when the chips were down, they could succeed against all odds,

I very much enjoyed this book although there were some areas that were confusing, especially the timeline. I was reading the advanced reading copy so I hope someone caught the discrepancies before actual publication. Other than that, it was a very inspirational true story that I enjoyed very much.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jubilee Dishes: Patriotic Recipes for the 21st Century by Marguerite Patten

Last year, I had mentioned to a friend that I was interested in learning more about the rationing of food that went on in England both during World War II and for many years after. She was kind enough to send me this book, Jubilee Dishes: Patriotic Recipes for the 21st Century by Marguerite Patten OBE. As I have to sit and take frequent breaks while cooking, I keep this book handy to read during the breaks. I was very surprised to find a recipe that I used to use fairly often. I had found the recipe in a Taste of Home magazine for frosting only the book calls it Mock Cream. This is a wonderful item that if made correctly becomes the texture and close to the taste of the white Twinkie or HoHo filling. Yum. The books recipe though, gave the ingredients in teaspoons and tablespoons of ingredients instead of cups, as everything was carefully measured to make it stretch and it calls for ingredients that were in short supply, sugar and fat.

Rationing of food lasted in Great Britain until 1954. If you would like to read about and actually experience the taste of food from that era, this book includes many recipes developed to use with the rationed food and with the food that was supposedly unlimited, or such things as powdered eggs as fresh eggs were rare and precious. One interesting recipe was for a mock banana sandwich filling made using parsnips.

Reading this book makes me very glad for the plenty I see in the grocery store and also makes me realize what a spoiled nation we are. Most of the items, we couldn't get our children to eat. Obviously no chips, no pop, no candy, no abundance of anything. Yet during this period of time the British people were very healthy as they had a low fat, low sugar, low meat, high vegetable diet.