Author: Sasha Martin

A book signing for children

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

Creative writing is peace education. The process of creating a world on paper helps children understand the real world. When a child imagines themselves in strange situations – or better yet, when they imagine what another person would do in their story – they learn to “walk in other people’s shoes.” A question like “What would your character feel like in the desert, looking at up at a massive pyramid” gets at a deeper question – what is it like to live in another part of the world? Suddenly, a child who has put no thought into what it would be like to be born into a different situation is considering it. Creative writing helps children learn empathy. When done with care, creative writing is also a lesson in conflict resolution.  Writing exercises should be built around traditional story structure, meaning the children must put their characters in some sort of peril. If a character’s boat tips over, then the child must imagine a way to get their characters to safety. If two characters have a disagreement, …

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Zambian Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

Zambian Pumpkin n’ Peanut Oats: To keep Mermaids away

Forget what you know about The Little Mermaid. Zambia’s infamous mermaid, Chitapo, is no dewy-eyed, red-haired princess. To set eyes on this fierce water spirit, paddle along the Zambian/Congolese waterways – along Lake Namulolobwe, down Victoria Falls, into any number of smaller ponds. You might even find her cresting the salty Atlantic. How will you know it’s her? See that shadow caught up in a whirlwind? An elusive figure sunning on a rock, with the body of a woman and the tail of a fish or serpent? That’s Chitapo. Beware: Beautiful Chitapo is not content to observe humans from afar. Pay attention if things seem amiss in your village. Did a woven mat or a few beloved baskets vanish, then reappear a few days later? Is a neighbor’s missing collection of pots and pans now floating on the murky lake? Chitapo pushes this shiny bait in the shallows, luring unsuspecting victims to their untimely death. Tempted to wade into the water to retrieve these prizes? Think you can outwit, or out-muscle this water spirit? Good luck. Even those with unflinching biceps and …

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Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese Culinary Masters

Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese culinary masters

My favorite time to obsess about my parenting choices is when I’m washing dishes, a mixture of warm soapy water and tomato sauce soaking my belly. Am I raising my six-year old right? Should she be doing more than yoga and dance? Or is she already too busy? Does she have time to let her mind wander? Should she be helping me with the dishes? Or would she be better off making mud pies? Then I began reading Rice, Noodle, Fish, by Matt Goulding. The subtitle to this book is not Parenting for Chefs… Nor did Anthony Bourdain Books / HarperCollins, the publisher, intend this book to have an interdisciplinary application. But the best books do. This is not some gentle text. Pursuant to the actual subtitle, Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture, this is not some gentle text, allowing the reader to sit comfortably in whatever generalist assumptions we might have about Japanese cooking. This is a 1,000-x magnification, showing crumb-level texture of the food scene in several major Japanese cities. From Tokyo to Noto, we sweep quickly past …

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Maori Fish Salad | New Zealand

Māori Fish Salad & the legend of New Zealand | Ika Mata

One of the largest fish ever caught is the stuff of Māori legend. Today, this fish is known as New Zealand’s north island. The fisherman able to haul in such a prize?  Māui, the mythological hero. As the story goes, Māui paddled his canoe far out into the ocean in search of a big catch. He used his ancestor’s jawbone as a fish hook, coating it with blood from his nose. Down, down, down went the hook, into the depths of the deep blue waters.  After some time, the slack line tightened. It took all Māui’s strength to reel in the heavy fish. Stumbling under the effort,  Māui had to brace himself on the edge of his canoe as he pulled the line up, up, up. When the fish finally rose out of the water, Māui gasped. It was the largest sea creature he’d ever seen, big enough to blot out the horizon, with shiny green scales. Māui decided to leave this precious prize with his brothers while he set out in search of a priest to bless …

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featured

Peace is grace for what you *can’t* see

Last month I received some bad news – enough to shake me up pretty good. We’ve all been there: maybe someone you love gets in a car accident, maybe you blow an important work deal, break a leg, or lose your job. It’s bad news, but ultimately something you can get through, work out, and – hopefully – survive with grace. Grace for yourself and grace for those around you. This is different than experiencing death or other profound loss.  This drudgery of grief grinds at the spirit but doesn’t destroy us. As a coping mechanism many bury their emotions and just… move on. They protect themselves by “holding it together.” But grief finds the cracks and shows up in unexpected ways. After an hour of cleaning the kitchen (my first line of defense against stress and grief), I drove to the craft store, thinking I’d get some supplies to do a little art therapy. I stared at the black ink pens for so long that it would be reasonable to think I was either a shoplifter or had fallen asleep. …

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Peruvian Quinoa Salad | A gift from the stars

Step out under the sky tonight and scan the heavens. Seek out a star, winking in the darkness, livelier than all the rest. This, my friends, is the proud, playful star-sister who brought quinoa to South America. Legend has it that, long before hip, suburban health food stores stocked this comma-shaped seed, the Aymara people* of the Andes were given the gift of quinoa. It was the Aymara’s first harvest, near Lake Titicaca. While toiling in the fields, the farmers noticed that someone had dug up and stolen some of their potatoes.  Determined to catch the thief red handed, one young man decided to stay up all night and keep watch over the fields. The young man hid behind some bushes and waited. The hours slipped slowly by, leaves rustling in the moonlight, tempting him with sleep. He eyes began to droop, his back began to hunch. Suddenly, the sound of laughter rang out. He bolted up and peered through the brush.  On the far side of the field he saw several young maidens – the star-sisters – come …

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Ava's first food

What my baby thinks about eating the world

We began cooking the world with Afghanistan, when my daughter was 7-months old. We completed the final country, Zimbabwe, when she was 4 1/2. Now she’s 6 1/2 and we continue to try new foods weekly. Below is a unique look into my daughter’s perspective about our Global Table Adventure – as I like to imagine it. This first installment is her perspective in the first six months of the adventure, from 7-13 months old.  Who says you need teeth to eat the world? I’m only seven months old but mom tells me we’re going to eat a meal from every country in the world. That’s more than 195 countries! It’s hard to imagine – especially since I just ate my first foods last month and I don’t have any teeth. Mama talked to my pediatrician (as you should before giving your baby any new foods) and learned all about Baby Led Weaning.  Turns out I’m not destined to months of jarred baby food! Instead, I can gum my way through softer bits of age-appropriate …

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Life from Scratch book signing with Booksmart Tulsa

What really matters to authors

No one prepares authors for what can happen after they publish their first book. Of course they tell us lots of things in preparation for “magical” book launch day: Come up with a marketing plan (huh?); Pick out a favorite pen for signings (Oooo, how I adore my blue-ink fountain pen); Look presentable (learned how to use a curling iron at 35 years old – huzzah!). The advice is mostly the same whether you’re self published or going through a traditional publisher. None of this prepared me for what actually mattered to me as a first-time author. You see, I stopped checking sales early on after Life from Scratch came out. I couldn’t bring myself to care about statistics, weekly trends and blah, blah, blah.  Instead, I found myself running to my email and opening messages like this: I am in the middle of your book right now and I’m loving it!!! When I’m not reading it, I’m thinking about your story and your words all the time. We just started fostering little ones last August and …

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Recipe for Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani for my “Rickshaw Girl”

Cooking a pot of Biryani can be deer-in-the-headlights overwhelming – so much so, most people wouldn’t consider getting the spiced rice dish anywhere but a restaurant. But – ah! I recently learned a few tricks that make cooking this party dish less like facing an oncoming semi-truck, and more like conducting a well-orchestrated fireworks show. A lesson in perseverance Real talk: The first time I made biryani I crashed, burned, and vowed to never make it again. Though you can also find the recipe in India and other nearby countries, I first got the idea of tackling biryani while reading Rickshaw Girl with my daughter. This empowering Bangladeshi chapter book features a young artist who wants to help her struggling family. Though the little girl can’t make money with her Alpana drawings, she hatches a plan to drive her sick father’s rickshaw to supplement the family’s income. Though men traditionally earn the money in her community, she perseveres, proving that girls contribute as much as boys. When the girl’s family shares a platter of biryani on International Mother Language Day (February 21 – “to promote the …

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Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumplings: Medicine for happy hearts

Forget red wine! Whether your heart is broken or bursting with love, Cherokee Grape Dumplings provide the sweetest Valentine’s Day medicine, full of antioxidants known to improve heart health and reduce inflammation (among other cool things). Oh, and unlike red wine, Grape Dumplings are family-friendly… so go ahead, give your littlest sweethearts a bowl. It’s sure to make their hearts smile. But – wait! What are Grape Dumplings? I asked myself this exact question when my friend Deborah handed me a thin cookbook autographed by Cherokee National Treasure, Betty Jo Bean Smith. Constructed with 5 sheets of computer paper and two staples, Traditions in the Kitchen: Favorite Cherokee Meals isn’t available online or in bookstores, but it contains Cherokee treasures such as Poke Eggs and Fried Squirrel. Most of Betty’s recipes use ingredients that locals could easily forage in Oklahoma (as with poke, a leafy plant many might mistake for a weed… and, of course, squirrel, those innocent critters who practically offer themselves up for dinner at Tulsa’s Rose Garden, where I’ve witnessed them climbing people’s …

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Food Scrapbooking 101: Create a travelog of your cooking adventures

Cooking the world was the greatest gift I could give my family – full of delicious memories and learning opportunities. But what to do with all the pictures we took? As food tourists we armed ourselves with cameras and, just like real tourists trekking across the globe, we snapped pictures of every culinary landmark in our kitchens and around our dining tables. Hundreds of them! We uploaded our pictures here and on Instagram, feeling pleased with our work as parents. But children don’t live on Instagram. I had an uncomfortable realization the other day. My daughter, Ava, is just six years old. She ate a meal from the world’s 195+ countries by the time she was 4 1/2 years old. It is a scientific fact that, though her taste buds will always remember our adventure (making her much less picky than she otherwise might be), she might not. The only time Ava sees photos from our Global Table Adventure is when I explicitly sit down with her at the computer. Our lives are incredibly busy. As you can …

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Recipe for Tanzanian Coconut Potato Soup

Tanzania’s Fairytale “Coconut Potato Soup” | Supu Viazi

A spoonful of Tanzania’s Coconut Potato Soup garnished with moons of buttery avocado will transport you to the windswept slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Never fear: The howl you’ll hear as you chow down won’t be the wind on your face, or some dangerous beast – but rather the horn of the Wakonyingo, calling for help. Wakonyingo: Fact or fiction? More than a hiker’s haven, Mount Kilimanjaro is a wellspring of legends involving the Wakonyingo pygmies. The stories fall somewhere between history and fairy tale. History reports that the Wakonyingo were an early tribe inhabiting Kilimanjaro, driven out or absorbed by invading tribes. The fairy tales report a far more interesting story – that the Wakonyingo fled beneath the mountain, where they remain today. Legends claim they are still down there, hidden from sight in a network of tunnels and caves, living a life any gnome would love. They keep their cattle with them and even grow banana trees in their earthen lairs. Ladders from their caves are said to reach the heavens. Turns out this underground lifestyle isn’t so far-fetched. The Chagga people (also Chaga), who’ve …

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