QUARANTINE BOOK CLUB — you’re invited! Mostly food & SF/F.

QUARANTINE BOOK CLUB — you’re invited! Mostly food & SF/F.

a) I’ll post my schedule of books to discuss in the next month

b) I start a thread once a day on each book, so people can participate asynchronously

c) I open a Zoom chat in the evening, around 8 CST, for people who want to discuss it synchronously

Just join for the ones that interest you — I’m not expecting anyone else to read a book / day! (I have a lot of reading to catch up on, and now is a good time.)


Wednesday 3/18: BEST AMERICAN FOOD WRITING 2019, Samin Nosrat, first 5 essays. (Anderson, Arax, Aribisala, Bilger, Binelli).

“Good food writing evokes the senses,” writes Samin Nosrat, best-selling author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and star of the Netflix adaptation of the book. “It makes us consider divergent viewpoints. It makes us hungry and motivates us to go out into the world in search of new experiences. It charms and angers us, breaks our hearts, and gives us hope. And perhaps most importantly, it creates empathy within us.” Whether it’s the dizzying array of Kit Kats in Japan, a reclamation of the queer history of tapas, or a spotlight on a day in the life of a restaurant inspector, the work in The Best American Food Writing 2019 will inspire you to pick up a knife and start chopping, but also to think critically about what you’re eating and how it came to your plate, while still leaving you clamoring for seconds.



Thursday, 3/19: THRILL ME, Benjamin Percy. (Essays, so you don’t have to read the whole book to participate.)

“After writing two short-story collections and a literary novel, he delivered the werewolf thriller Red Moon and the postapocalyptic epic The Dead Lands. Now, in his first book of nonfiction, Percy challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many readers fall in love with fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J.R.R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy’s own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is “literary” and what is “genre.” Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue.”



Friday 3/20: FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS, Nalo Hopkinson. (Short stories, so you don’t have to read the whole book to participate.)

“In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall with unfulfilled ghosts, or herding chickens that occasionally breathe fire, Hopkinson continues to create bold fiction that transcends boundaries and borders.”



Sunday, 3/22: TENDER AT THE BONE, Ruth Reichl (food memoir in brief essays; content note: manic-depressive parent)

“Beginning with her mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first foie gras, to those at her politically correct table in Berkeley who championed the organic food revolution in the 1970s.”



Monday, 3/23: WILL DO MAGIC FOR SMALL CHANGE, Andrea Hairston

“Cinnamon Jones dreams of stepping on stage and acting her heart out like her famous grandparents, Redwood and Wildfire. But at 5’10” and 180 pounds, shes theatrically challenged. Her family life is a tangle of mystery and deadly secrets, and nobody is telling Cinnamon the whole truth. Before her older brother died, he gave Cinnamon The Chronicles of the Great Wanderer, a tale of a Dahomean warrior woman and an alien from another dimension who perform in Paris and at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.”

(I loved the linked novel, Redwood and Wildfire, so really looking forward to this. A treat!)



Tuesday, 3/24: HOME COOKING: A WRITER IN THE KITCHEN, Laurie Colwin

Weaving together memories, recipes, and wild tales of years spent in the kitchen, Home Cooking is Laurie Colwin’s manifesto on the joys of sharing food and entertaining. From the humble hotplate of her one-room apartment to the crowded kitchens of bustling parties, Colwin regales us with tales of meals gone both magnificently well and disastrously wrong. Hilarious, personal, and full of Colwin’s hard-won expertise, Home Cooking will speak to the heart of any amateur cook, professional chef, or food lover.



Wednesday 3/25: BEST AMERICAN FOOD WRITING 2019, Samin Nosrat, second 5 essays. (Carmen, Chadburn, Dyroff, Fielding-Singh, Frazier).


Thursday 3/26: THE BLACK GOD’S DRUMS, P. Djélí Clark (a novella, so short!)

“In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.”



Friday 3/27: HOW TO COOK A WOLF, MFK Fisher

“Written to inspire courage in those daunted by wartime shortages, How to Cook a Wolf continues to rally cooks during times of plenty, reminding them that providing sustenance requires more than putting food on the table. M.F.K. Fisher knew that the last thing hungry people needed were hints on cutting back and making do. Instead, she gives her readers license to dream, to experiment, to construct adventurous and delicious meals as a bulwark against a dreary, meager present.”



Saturday 3/28: THE LESSON, Cadwell Turnbull

“An alien ship rests over Water Island. For five years the people of the US Virgin Islands have lived with the Ynaa, a race of superadvanced aliens on a research mission they will not fully disclose. They are benevolent in many ways but meet any act of aggression with disproportional wrath. This has led to a strained relationship between the Ynaa and the local Virgin Islanders and a peace that cannot last.”

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019 in Science Fiction
A Library Journal Best Book of 2019 in Science Fiction & Fantasy
A Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy (2019)



Sunday, 3/29: A COOK’S TOUR: GLOBAL ADVENTURES IN EXTREME CUISINES, Anthony Bourdain (food memoir / travelogue essays — somewhat accompanies his TV series, No Reservations).

“Searching for the “perfect meal,” Bourdain writes with humor and intelligence, describing meals of boudin noir and Vietnamese hot vin lon (“essentially a soft-boiled duck embryo”) and ‘fessing up to a few nights of over-indulgence (“I felt like I’d awakened under a collapsed building,” he writes of a night in San Sebastian hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar)…He also reminds his audience of the connections between food and land and human toil, which, in these sterilized days of pre-wrapped sausages, is all too easy to forget.”



Monday, March 30: MAGICAL WOMEN, edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan.

Indian women writing fantasy: “A weaver is initiated into the ancient art of bringing a universe into existence. Four goddesses engage in a cosmic brawl. A teenage shape-shifter learns to understand and control her unchannelled powers. A graphic designer duels with a dark secret involving a mysterious tattoo. A rebellious chudail makes a shocking announcement at a kitty party. A puppet seeking adventure discovers who she really is. A demon-hunter encounters an unlikely opponent. A young womans resolute choice leads her to haunt Death across millennia…”



Tuesday March 31: LITTLE AMERICA: INCREDIBLE TRUE STORIES OF IMMIGRANTS IN AMERICA, intro by Kumail Nanjiani. (Featuring me, among others — a set of short memoir-istic stories (easy reads!) from a host of immigrants. Eight of these stories were featured in the Apple TV+ Little America series as 30 minute episodes; more are currently scheduled for next fall. Book launches 3/17.)



Wednesday 4/1: Wednesday 4/1: BEST AMERICAN FOOD WRITING 2019, Samin Nosrat, first 5 essays. (Goldfield, Hill, Ho, Krishna, Lee).


Friday, 4/3: THE LUCKY ONE, Lori Rader-Day (murder mystery).


Tuesday, 4/7: A YEAR IN PROVENCE, Peter Mayle


Saturday 4/25: A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS, Jenn Reese (middle-grade fantasy) — launches 4/14, so pre-order now! It’ll be a quick read. 



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I think it’s important that my position be public

Just for the record, and I hate that I even have to say this, but should our libraries need to close for a few months, or go to minimal staffing, I am committed as a board member to maintaining pay, including for hourly workers, cleaning staff, etc., and have communicated that to staff.

(I speak only for myself here, and not for the rest of the board; we haven’t yet met to discuss this. But I think it’s important that my position be public.)

The money is already budgeted, and I’m sure we can find some helpful work for them to do from home, if this goes on for a while. At the very least, they can spend time watching tutorials on how to be better librarians and library staffers — there’s a ton out there. There’s always more to research at the library.

If any community members have issues with that, they can take it up with me.


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Final launch week giveaway: Worldwide ebook edition!


Okay, folks. So I meant to run giveaways on Sunday & Monday, but launch week is super-chaotic and the e-mails have been fast and furious, so I didn’t. For the sake of my sanity, let’s just say we’re doing one more monster giveaway for the run-up to launch week. Giving away 25 (!) copies of Feast.

AND out of that set, one lucky winner will ALSO be chosen to get a hardcover copy, no matter where in the world they live! I might even slip an extra little treat or two in there. Damn the shipping costs, full speed ahead. Details below!


A Feast of Serendib is my new Sri Lankan American cookbook, and the ebooks are perfect for referring to while cooking, using a tablet stand in the kitchen, or just browsing curled up on the couch. ($24.99 value!)

Just 3 days to launch! Tues / Wed / Thurs., March 3-5, ending at midnight CST.

We’re going to give you MORE chances to enter — you get entered once for each of the following:

– if you LIKE the post
– if you post a COMMENT
– if you SHARE it
– if you TAG in a friend!

So you can enter just once, or enter up to four times if you like! (It’s all about building visibility for the cookbook; people can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists…) 25 lucky winners (!) will be randomly drawn from the entries on this post.

AND we’re resetting the clock, so if you already won an e-book in the last month, it doesn’t matter — you can enter again between March 3-5; a fabulous gift for a friend or family member. Sounds great, right? Here we go!


TODAY’S QUESTION: What’s one dish or cooking technique you’d like to make, but are a little intimidated to try?

(Mine right now would include Sri Lankan kokis, a kind of deep-fried batter rosette cookie, made of rice flour and coconut milk, Dutch-influence. Roshani gave me a tool for it, and I have the batter, and I keep meaning to try it….but a little intimidated!)

If you don’t want to answer the question, it’s fine — any comment counts for entry!


Stephanie will be tracking, and will randomly pick and announce the 15 winners on March 6th.



1) ORDERING: You can order early copies of A Feast of Serendib (signed / personalized, if you like) directly from me right now, at www.serendibkitchen.com, or from my publisher, Mascot Books: https://mascotbooks.com/…/coo…/regional/a-feast-of-serendib/. The limited release paperback can only be ordered directly from my website. If you’re in the U.S., you can also add on my hand-roasted Sri Lankan curry powder.

A Feast of Serendib will be launching officially March 6, 2020, and we hope it’ll be widely available in bookstores and libraries. You can request it now from your local bookstore or library! Please do! It’ll also be available on Amazon US, UK, and Canada; you can pre-order it now online. If you’re planning to order from Amazon, pre-ordering or ordering on launch day (March 6!) would be super helpful for boosting its visibility on Amazon. Thanks!

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!):



Barnes & Noble


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).

My personal FB page: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/mamohanraj
Serendib Kitchen blog: http://serendibkitchen.com
Serendib Kitchen Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/serendib_kitchen/
Serendib FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/132029834135500/
Serendib FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/mohanrajserendib/

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. 

— Mary Anne

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Last day to subscribe on Patreon for the treat level

Quick note that today is the last day to subscribe at the $10 / month level to my Patreon, if you’d like a treat package sent out to you in March. (US-only, sorry!) Will definitely be including Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolate bars (dragonfruit, citrus, white pepper, and white chocolate) in this batch. 🙂

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Question about shopify and ebooks

Question re: Shopify and downloading ebooks — we were hoping we could set up Shopify so people could buy books directly from there. But the max file upload is 20MB; our ePub and Kindle versions are both larger than that for Feast. (Lots of photos.) Are we doing something wrong? Is Shopify just not a good platform for selling large files?

We can point people to a Google drive where they can download them, perhaps with a unique code to redeem their file, but I feel like this must be a solved problem — video games have to deal with this, right? I’m not sure how we should go about it for our books.

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Crepe variations

Crepe bar lends itself to many variations. I had quite a bit of ground lamb curry leftover from the curried lamb w/ curried spinach pizza I’d made Kevin for Valentine’s day, so I decided to turn that into classic Sri Lankan mutton roll filling. (Confusingly, ‘mutton’ rolls are often (generally?) made with goat meat in Sri Lanka, because it’s easier to source, presumably, but lamb does work just fine too.) It’s my absolute favorite party food, but so labor-intensive that I only get to eat it a few times / year.

Dice some potatoes small, sauté them in oil with mustard seed and cumin seed and salt, when they’re mostly cooked, turn in the leftover ground lamb curry and stir it in.

It came out fine, and Kev and I had a couple of crepes that night like this, but the lamb & potato curry filling was a little lacking in oomph. I ended up amping it up even more yesterday — I diced an onion (MOAR ONIONS), sautéed that, added some more seeds + cayenne + ketchup + salt, and turned the meat and potato mixture into that, stirring to blend. THAT was finally perfect. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get something right.  I filled twenty crepes with that filling and froze them.

One KEY thing that I think I have to add to the roll recipe in Feast if I do a second edition is that you *can’t* make the crepes, refrigerate them, and then try to roll them at a later date. I’ve tried that twice now for big parties, and both times, it was disastrous, because the crepes just kept tearing — once they’ve cooled down, they lose the elasticity they need to make a tight roll. SO FRUSTRATING, esp. in the midst of a big party and after days of prep. Never again.

Making batter and refrigerating it is fine. But once crepes are made, fill and roll immediately. Then you can freeze! (Stephanie, please add this note to the revision notes for Feast’s second edition — thanks!)

The next time I have a small party, I can pull those out, dip them in egg and bread crumbs and deep fry, and it will be delicious.

(There was a bit of filling left after I’d used up all the crepe batter, and I’ve been eating that with toasted pita for breakfast, lunch, snacks. SO GOOD.)

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If someone is kindly inclined to leave a review

Hey, it looks like people can post reviews on the Books-a-Million site now? Maybe? If someone is kindly inclined and wants to get the ball rolling (and let us know if it works), that would be GREAT.



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