Why all the soaps, Mary Anne? Well, one reason is that I’m planning to give some to some healthcare folks as a little thank you. Another is that I’ll put some in the spring surprise packages shipping out with book orders next week.
But I admit a third, perhaps most powerful reason, is that I’ve been holding off on experimenting with making interesting cocktails until the last big batch of paper grades is done.
This is incredibly responsible of me, I’ll have you know. I didn’t know I had this much willpower in me.
Anonymous Donor Book Giveaway for A Feast of Serendib!
People are reaching out with wonderful, creative ways of helping. Two anonymous donors have offered to help make A Feast of Serendib available to people who want the book but can’t afford to buy it right now. Together these generous folks have donated a total of $1,000 in books for this purpose!
To make the donations go as far as possible, and because we want everyone to be able to access the book in the format that is best for them, we’ve dropped the price too, so we can offer a combination of 15 hardcovers and 30 paperbacks; Serendib Press will match the physical book donations with 50 additional eBook copies as well.
From one of the anonymous donors: “I’m doing this because I have found Mary Anne’s cookbook to be so key in helping me feed myself good food this year and I want other people to be able to care for themselves in the same way.”
We’re going to do this on a first come, first serve basis, for people who want the book but can’t afford to buy it right now, on the honor system. Physical books can only be shipped within the U.S., but eBooks are available internationally!
If you’d like a copy of the book, please comment on the post at the link below and let us know if you’d prefer hardcover, paperback, or eBook. We’ll contact you within a day or two to get your mailing information.
(The paperback doesn’t have photos in the book, but comes with a link to a full web archive of color photos. The eBook reviews indicate that people are finding it works really well for them as an option for a tablet, esp. on a stand in the kitchen.)
A Feast of Serendib launched officially March 6, 2020, and we hope it’ll be widely available in bookstores and libraries. You can request it from your local bookstore or library! Please do! It’ll also be available on Amazon US, UK, and Canada; you can order it online.
978-1-64543-275-3 Hardcover (distributed by Ingram)
978-1-64543-377-4 ebook (on Amazon, etc.)
2370000696366 (trade paperback; only available directly from me, at Serendib Kitchen site; you can also buy the hardcover or ebook there)
2) REVIEW OR BUY IT HERE (reviews are hugely helpful in boosting visibility!):
3) JOIN THE COOKBOOK CLUB: If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: https://www.patreon.com/mohanraj. For $10 / month, you can subscribe for fabulous treats mailed to you! (US-only).
5) PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY starred review: “Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), a literature professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, introduces readers to the comforting cuisine of Sri Lanka in this illuminating collection of more than 100 recipes. Waves of immigration from China, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal influenced the unique cuisine of Sri Lanka, Mohanraj writes, as evidenced by such dishes as Chinese rolls (a take on classic egg rolls in the form of stuffed crepes that are breaded and fried); fish cutlets (a culinary cousin of Dutch bitterballen fried croquettes); and English tea sandwiches (filled here with beets, spinach, and carrots). With Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, curry figures heavily, with options for chicken, lamb, cuttlefish, or mackerel. A number of poriyal dishes, consisting of sautéed vegetables with a featured ingredient, such as asparagus or brussels sprouts, showcase a Tamil influence. Throughout, Mohanraj does a superb job of combining easily sourced ingredients with clear, instructive guidance and menu recommendations for all manner of events, including a Royal Feast for over 200 people. This is a terrific survey of an overlooked cuisine.”
Thanks so much for your support! Indie publishing is absolutely reliant on word of mouth and the support of friends, family, and friendly internet acquaintances.
ALLITERATIVE FLASH SALE! Serendib Spring Surprise Boxes (US-only for this one, sorry!):
a) Small: a random assortment of sweets, postcards, and a handmade soap, plus an ebook of Feast (if you have one already, feel free to gift this) – $19.99 + $8 shipping and handling
b) Medium: same as small, plus bath salts, a paperback of Feast & a 4 oz. bag of curry powder – $34.99 + $15 shipping and handling
c) Large: same as medium, plus body butter, a hardcover of Feast and an 8 oz. jar of curry powder – $54.99 + $20 shipping and handling
Comment on the *main post* to order; I’ll confirm in comments and give you info on payment options. I think I can do about 15-20 boxes, based on the supplies I have on hand; it’s a little hard to estimate, since I don’t know what size boxes people will go for.
Go HERE to order: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10160683118589616
We’re hoping to get the Shopify set up in the next few weeks, which will make it easier to ship internationally, etc. So if that’s you, hang in there — though I’ll have to do more research on what’s involved on shipping food internationally before I can offer that, so that bit might be quite a while.
Had a weird morning — I woke up at 7, per usual, went back to sleep, and didn’t wake up again ’til 11. I had tried taking a sleep aid last night, doxylamine succinate, so I’m guessing it was a combo of that + being really underslept the last few days, mostly due to free-floating stress. I feel more rested, which is good, but also a little groggy.
But I did get the Patreon subscription boxes finished and out the door, so that was good — I totally would not have been on top of it, but Stephanie has been keeping my little indie business on track. So helpful! Hopefully they’ll bring subscribers a little joy. I’m starting to think about what to put in the June subscription box — I think I shouldn’t ship chocolate that late in the year, so maybe shortbread and other cookies, plus some passionfruit caramels? My violas and pansies are blooming — I should pick and candy some of those. Hmm….
We were also shipping out 5 hardcovers of Feast from the latest GoodReads giveaway — hopefully they lead to a lot of happy cooking. If you do cook from Feast, I’d love to see photos! Tag me in, please. I think we could all use some happy cooking photos right now.
And of course, reviews are always welcome at GoodReads, Amazon, etc. I just checked and Feast currently has 12 (!) 5-star reviews. You guys. I am verklempt. Various people have asked me recently how the cookbook release is going, and honestly, I’ve barely had time to even think about it this last week — it seems like such a low priority, in the face of coronavirus. And yet — we have to eat.
I also realized this morning that I have enough sweets and soaps left that I should probably do a flash sale and get those out the door. I had made quite a few sweets for cookbook launch events this month that I’ve now cancelled. So see the next post for details on that!
2) my publisher, Mascot Books, just sent me a note saying that Amazon is prioritizing medical and other important household needs and deprioritzing stocking / shipping everything else. Which I fully support, for the record, though it will be hard for many micro businesses; we need those essentials to move out quickly, especially for those in marginalized and underprivileged communities.
– You’re still more than welcome to buy through Amazon (which also helps keep my Amazon numbers up and therefore makes the book more visible on Amazon and more likely to be picked up by casual browsing shoppers (and of course, there’s no delay in ebooks!)
– But if you’d like it sooner (maybe because you’re stuck at home and thinking now is a good time to get more into cooking?), you can order directly from the Mascot Books site, or from my Serendib Kitchen site, and we’ll likely ship it out to you faster.
– If you order from me, you also have the option of getting it signed / personalized, and if you’re in the U.S., you can add on some hand-roasted small batch Sri Lankan curry powder.
Okay, cooking lesson to distract myself from reading news obsessively.
How we made 1 dish into 5 different meals this week:
1. CHICKEN WITH RICE AND GREEN BEANS. While I was out of town, Kevin made my ginger-garlic chicken for the kids. (I don’t have any details on that, but I assume he followed my basic simple recipe — cut up chicken thighs, add some ground spices (ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt), sauté in hot oil. We make it probably once a week around here; the kids reliably love it, and that makes it a precious commodity. Serve with rice and a steamed or roasted vegetable. (I don’t have a picture of that from this weekend, but it’d be similar to the one at the recipe link below.)
2. CHICKEN, RICE, and GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE. At some point Kev must have ordered takeout, because the next day, he turned the chicken into a casserole to use up leftover cooked rice. He added cut up green beans. I don’t know exactly what his process was, but probably something like put the chicken in a pan, probably with a little oil, start it sautéing, add the vegetables (cut up carrots, peas, bell pepper, pea pods would all also work great, ditto a bag of frozen mixed vegetables) and sauté them too, add the rice, probably add a little water to help the rice rehydrate (maybe adding some extra salt or other seasonings then), then stir until the water is evaporated. (Oh, I just asked him, and he said there was also a fair bit of butter. Smart man.)
NOTE: Don’t cook the veggies too long, or they’ll dull in color and become mushy and less flavorful; a few minutes is plenty.
3. SPICY CURRIED CHICKEN, VEGGIES & RICE. I came home the next day, and there was a fair bit left (he’d had a LOT of rice to use up), and I ate some, but after five days on the road, I was craving curry, and I wanted it hot.
(I keep thinking that I should do a cookbook promo challenge called “Can She Curry THAT?” Where people ask me to curry unusual food items, and I see what I can do. Shall I?)
I followed my basic approach to making a curry sauce — chop onion, sauté in oil with cumin seed and mustard seed. (I set half of it aside to use later. Spoon into a bowl, then transfer into a tupperware-type thing, or to a Ziplock bag for freezing.)
Add cayenne and Sri Lankan curry powder and salt. If I’d had tomatoes, I might have chopped and tossed some in, but without any on hand, I went with the standard shortcut of ketchup (which is just cooked down tomatoes with vinegar, salt, and sugar) + Worcestershire sauce (that bit of dried anchovy adds excellent umami), lime juice, and some water.
At this point, you have a basic Sri Lankan tomato-based curry sauce that you can slip many things into, such as hard-boiled eggs. Instead, I added the rice and chicken casserole, which had gotten a little dry (as rice things often do in the fridge), stirred it all together, and cooked it down a bit on medium high, stirring occasionally. That brought the rice back to a spicy, tomato-y, tangy goodness, soft and flavorful. I ate it for dinner Sunday night, breakfast and dinner on Monday, and breakfast today.
4. SPICY CURRIED CHICKEN, VEGGIES & RICE BOWL w/ FRIED EGG. By dinner today, I was getting just a little bored with it, even though I’m usually pretty tolerant of repeated food. (The lean grad school years would’ve been much more miserable otherwise, I suspect.) Eggs to the rescue! I took about 3 minutes to heat butter and fry an egg with salt and pepper. While it was frying, I microwaved some curried chicken & rice, tasted to make sure it didn’t need a squeeze of fresh lime (seemed good still, but sometimes it needs more lime), and then slipped the fried egg on top. When eating, I tried to get a little crispy, buttery egg white and golden, creamy yolk into every bite of curried chicken & rice — so good. And a pretty nutritious meal overall, since it still had plenty of protein and green veggies.
5. TBD. This one is a little bit of a cheat because I haven’t actually made it yet, but tomorrow, I plan to take the other half of the sautéed onions and do something with them. Probably a quick curried fish (maybe 10-15 minutes to make, with the onions ready in advance), although another good option would be to chop some green chilies and fry them in, then add some eggs for a nice scramble to go over buttered toast (5-10 minutes). Mmm….
I stopped by Sugar Beet Co-op this afternoon to get spices that I can toast in preparation for my Feast event there this Friday. From 4-7, I’ll be at a counter showing people how to grind spices to make a curry powder mix, and just talking about spices and South Asian food in general.
I thought about cancelling it, but since it’ll be 1-2 people at a time, most likely, and we still have very low incidence in my area, it doesn’t seem like a high-risk activity for Covid-19 transmission.
Plus, there’s a certain sense that of all the things I can be doing right now that might be helpful, teaching people how to make delicious, healthy food at home is surely one of the most useful. I picked up some flowers too, to cheer my mood. The woman at checkout commented that she envied my organization of spices, that she wished she knew how to cook. I told her to come to my workshop — it’s free!
I am really very touched by all the friends and relatives who have gone to extra effort to boost Feast. I still can’t quite believe that we actually did get to Amazon bestseller status on launch day (even though I know that’s not nearly as hard to do as you might think). I mean, I was going to try, but to actually do it? Wow. I mean, WOW!
(It’s not #1 right this second, but that’s okay. As Hertz’s ads say, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder!”)
Feast is also now up to 8 (!) 5-star reviews on Amazon. You folks are so generous, and so kind.
Thanks so much, everyone, for turning out and taking the time to talk up my project. Ping me when I can do the same for you! I want to hear about all your excellent work!
Hey, quick q. I kind of what to do a post that’s something like “Five Things You Might Not Know About Sri Lankan Food,” although that’s clunky and I’d rather find a better title. (Suggestions welcome.)
But for example, I’ve been really startled to realize how many Americans assume all our food is spicy, and that it’s not worth eating if you don’t like heat, or if you can’t eat capsaicin, etc. So I want to write a paragraph about that, how you can modulate the spice level of almost any dish to your taste, and how you can use black pepper instead of capsaicin, etc.
I suspect there are a few more misconceptions out there, and of course, there’s also just things people don’t know because they’ve never thought about Sri Lankan food at all (from Chicago, I think the nearest Sri Lankan restaurant is 8 hours away in Minnesota).
I’m curious what I might be missing too. So if this is sparking something, like “Oh, I remember being surprised to learn *this* about Sri Lankan food,” I’d love to know what the *this* was for you.
This also goes to other Sri Lankans — what ideas / assumptions / misconceptions have you run across in this arena?