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Apricots on the Nile
By Colette Rossant

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Apricots on the Nile
A Memoir with Recipes

By Colette Rossant
ISIS Large Print, (2003)
Alternative Title:
Apricots on the Nile:
Memories of a Lost Egypt
ISBN: 0-7531-9881-9
Genre: Autobiography

Other Editions: Standard Print - Hardcover | Standard Print - Paperback

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - April 13, 2004

Colette Rossant led a turbulent and unsettled life. Her father was an Egyptian Jew who left his home to study in France. Breaking with his family's traditions of going to Turkey to find a wife, he married a French woman. Although born Jewish, his wife later converted to Catholicism with the knowledge of her family. Rossant was born in France, and when she was very young her father took ill, and she was sent to live with her French grandparents. In 1937, when she was five, her family moved to Egypt in the hopes that her father's health would improve in his native country. This was not to be. He died in 1939. Since their arrival in Egypt, Rossant had been living with her Egyptian grandparents, and once her father dies, her flighty mother totally abandons her to their care. When her mother returns, three years later, she takes Rossant from the stable home of her grandparents and send her to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Cairo. There she is indoctrinated by the nuns and pressed to accept baptism as a Catholic by her mother, which she does. In 1947, Rossant returns to Paris with her mother, and is reunited with her brother, and French grandparents, whom she's not seen in eight years.

In her memoir Apricots on the Nile, Rossant chronicles her turbulent, yet pampered youth. The main constant throughout her life is her love of food, and this memoir is filled with mouth watering recipes and reminiscences of the men and women who first introduced her to the various dishes, which range from Semit (sesame seed topped pretzels) to Cherry Fondant. In the process of telling her story, Rossant provides a unique glimpse into the home life of upper-class Jews in Egypt during World War II. She recounts events ranging from her cousins' weddings and card games to her aunts helping a servant 'pass' as a virgin on her wedding night. From her narrative, it seems as if she was barely aware that a war was even going on, and she was even less cognizant of the fact that she was Jewish.

Rossant's story is interesting, but the main strength of this book is the recipes. The recipes are easy to follow and most of the ingredients should be easy to find. These are not 'Jewish' recipes, and most are defiantly not kosher. Rather they represent a sampling of Egyptian and French dishes that Rossant was especially fond of growing up or which are associated with fond memories.

In Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes, Colette Rossant presents a fascinating social and culinary history of her youth. There are a few inconsistencies with her chronology of events, but these lapses do not notably detract from the intimate, and compelling, portrayal of her life. Focusing primarily on the period from 1937-1947, the book concludes with a brief overview of what happened 'afterwards' taking the reader up to the present day when she wrote her memoir.

Apricots on the Nile can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of ISIS Large Print.

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