Towers Falling, my novel for middle grade readers focuses on three friends: Sabeen, a Turkish American Muslim girl, Ben, a booklover and soldier’s son, and Dèja, a homeless girl who doesn’t know her father’s damaged lungs and her family’s subsequent poverty are because of his 9/11 heroism.
When Dèja and Ben cut school to visit the 9/11 memorial, Sabeen gives them a metal container of baklava to take on the train. The baklava is meant to be a sweet gift to offset Dèja’s tension-filled search to find out what happened to her father in the Twin Towers. The Turkish baklava recipe reminds Dèja and Ben of Sabeen’s Turkish and Muslim heritage and that she is a supportive friend.
However, Dèja, too nervous to eat the baklava, gives the food to a homeless man who, in turn, shares the food with the other train passengers who represent America’s diversity. So while Dèja and Ben are off on a mysterious adventure, the train passengers bond over a sweet dessert, one that reminds readers of America’s multi-culturalism and how food serves as a bridge to build community.
Food historians agree that phyllo dough originated in Turkey. Turkish pistachios have a small, slender shell and are a natural splendid green inside.
Baklava recipe by Melissa Clark, reprinted from NYT Cooking