Feast: officially supporting SAMBAL Sri Lanka

As we’re getting ready to more formally launch Feast, I’m trying to think through what I want the cookbook to do in the world.

One thing I’d like to do is give back concretely in some way. I thought about directing a percentage of profits to Ajit George‘s wonderful Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, but I think that’s primarily based in India, and I really do think it’s more appropriate that it be a Sri Lankan nonprofit this particular book supports.

My cousin Genisha Saverimuthu and my aunt Marietta Saverimuthu support SAMBAL, which does education work with disadvantaged children in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. (That’s my aunt in red at the head of the class in the second photo.)

SAMBAL seems like a really great fit with Feast — even the name is appropriate! And I know that I can trust them to do good work with any funds raised.

My aunt travels to Sri Lanka regularly to work with the children in these village schools. After all the heartache our country has been through, it’s good to see some smiles on these sweet faces.

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“OUR MISSION
Sponsor A Mind Build A Life (SAMBAL) was established to provide charitable assistance to children who are disadvantaged due to war, poverty, natural disasters and other calamities primarily in Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

We partner with organizations around the globe to identify children in need and develop coordinated efforts to nurture their physical, intellectual, emotional and social growth. Through sponsorships and program donations from individuals like you, SAMBAL builds lives and empowers underprivileged children to reach their full potential.

WHY SAMBAL?
In many parts of South Asia, rice and sambal is a staple food–the Eastern equivalent of bread and butter. A spicy side dish made with chilli peppers, sambal is eaten from Sri Lanka to Malaysia by young and old and considered the bare minimum for a regular meal.

We believe that every child should be afforded a daily bit of rice and sambal but also the sustenance to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally despite their hardships. By feeding a mouth and feeding a mind, SAMBAL builds a child’s path to a better life.”

More about SAMBAL: http://www.sambalnow.com/page-about1.php

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Sri Lanka Food and Travel Retreat

I think I figured out what I want to do for my 50th birthday (in 2021), though the specifics are still a little blurry. This year, 2020, is going to involve lots of short trips, as I do book tour. Given various other scheduling elements, I probably can’t be away from Chicago for more than 10 days at any given time, which is honestly a little frustrating, as I’d really like to go off and do a deep dive of some kind into a book. 10 days is kind of the minimum, I think, for that. More time would be better, but this year, 10 days is the most I can manage. (I’m hoping to do a stretch of that in either May or June.)

I’d been planning to run a Sri Lanka writing & food retreat in 2020, but I think I have to push that to 2021. This would be a rather fancy kind of thing, where I’d host 10-15 people in beautiful boutique hotels on the south coast for 10 days. I’d give them writing prompts every day, lead those who were interested on cultural expeditions every few days, take them out for delicious meals, and host evening conversations for those interested, centered on the craft and business of writing. We’d also, I imagine, spend a lot of time writing, resting on the beach, and swimming.

I don’t have firm pricing yet, but it’d be at least $200 / night, so minimum $2000 + airfare. If you’re interested in reserving a spot for summer 2021, do let me know; if I can get some concrete commitments early on, it’ll make it much more likely that this will happen; it’ll also mean that you can help shape our plans (dates, etc.) if you get in early. We’re going to try to fund at least one scholarship, giving priority to a Sri Lankan diasporic writer, and I’ll be inviting a few local Sri Lankan writers to give guest talks (with an honorarium) and join us for evening conversations.

*****

Relatedly, I realized that I want a few things in my life:

a) more time processing and planning and reinventing our lives with close friends (mostly, but not entirely, girlfriends) — I’m feeling a real need for that lately; I guess it’s my version of a mid-life crisis. Not a crisis, exactly, but a desire for more intentionality, and structure for our ambitions.

b) more time to be alone and go deep into a writing project

c) more time to take Kevin and the kids to Sri Lanka — introduce Kevin and Anand to the island, and let Kavi revisit

I *think* I can actually address all of that if I plan to spend 4 weeks in Sri Lanka next summer. It’d be sort of a combo thing:

• one stretch of 10 days of quiet writing time by myself (ideally staying at Galle Face Hotel, which I love beyond all reason) — I might be okay with another writer or two along for this stretch as long as we’re mostly ignoring each other except for meals)
• one stretch of 10 days with the writing & food group
• one stretch of 10 days with my family, along with whichever girlfriends / sisters / cousins / friends want to come celebrate my 50th with me

This is a very preliminary plan, and obviously needs Kevin‘s sign-off (and I still don’t know what he wants to do for *his* 50th, which is this year), and Jed‘s sign-off too, since I hope he’ll be joining us. But this plan feels…good. I hope we can make some version of it happen.

(Photos are from two possible hotels I’ve been researching: Cinnamon House in Weligama, and Tallala Retreat. Note: Most rooms aren’t air-conditioned, which shouldn’t be an issue generally, given sea breezes, but if you’re very temperature sensitive, you should let me know when booking, to see if I can get you an air-conditioned room for a slight surcharge. There are limited ones available at these hotels.)

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