book review: Heartburn by Nora Ephron 7


“Merry me and you will never have to pretend you know the difference between Iran and Iraq.” A man declares in a lavish expression of love in the novel. The main character is married to a journalist that covers politics in Washington DC. Rachel constantly feels out of her depth around her husband, and so his romantic rival is trying to lure Rachel away. I suddenly realized that many people in Vancouver must be blissfully in love, for I keep encountering those who don’t pretend they know the difference between Iraq and Iran. I constantly receive well wishes on Persian new year. Some know a few expressions of greetings in Persian and insist on practicing them when they meet me. I used to correct people: “I am not Iranian, I am Iraqi, I don’t speak Persian. I speak Arabic.” But I found myself correcting the same people, again and again and again. It’s like the information doesn’t want to sink in. So now I don’t resist. I wish people happy nirooz back with a smile. I even learned a few basic greetings in Persian to use for my in-love-white-Canadian friends who insist on greeting me in a language that is foreign to both of us so as not challenged their blissful happy ignorance. In the process, I became somebody who pretends that she doesn’t know the difference between Iraq and Iran.

Love is intoxicating. It makes us do weird things. Crazy stuff. Rachel is thinking about potatoes when her friend calls to chat. In mid conversation Rachel invents a disgusting gynecological disease and hints that the women who is sleeping with her husband is afflicted with it. A revenge of sorts. The story then proceeds to describe the intricate significance of mashing potatoes.

Most people do not have nearly enough mashed potatoes in their lives, and when they do, it’s almost always at the wrong time. (You can, of course, train children to mash potatoes, but you should know that Richard Nixon spent most of his childhood making mashed potatoes for his mother and was extremely methodical about getting the lumps out.

As soon as I read that, I knew I had to make mashed potatoes. I was craving making it more than eating it. All that peeling and mashing is meditative. I entered a trance and found myself dreaming about a world where I pretend I don’t know the difference between England and France. I profess that I can’t tell French and English language apart, both sound the same to me. And then I meet somebody who agrees he will pretend with me. And then another and then another. Finally we are a group. We keep saying bonjour to English people and hello to French people. We call french fries English food. Yorkshire pudding becomes french food. This confusion makes us feel happy. We form a bond of brotherly love. Our ignorance is the source of our bliss. We refuse to give it up. I mashed and mashed until my arm got tired and all got mixed up into a buttery creamy bland consistency.

Mmmmmmmm!
Sometimes you need those mashed potatoes.


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7 thoughts on “book review: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

  • Marc

    Trippmadam, France and Belgium have been arguing (since chips began) about who the has the historical right to the ubiquitous chip. If you are from Belgium, they definitely come from Belgium. If you are from France, they definitely come from France. It’ll never be settled. I think that they come from France, but then, I’m a chef in France 🙂

    Otherwise, you are correct, it’s the Americans who call them “French Fries.

    Amusingly enough, when the French, Americans etc. etc. use the word, “Chips”, they are talking about what we call, “crisps”