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Uzbek Kompot Recipe

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot Recipe

Today, we enjoy an autumn fruit punch from the heart of Uzbekistan’s Kyzyl Kum desert, shared with me by Paul Salopek, National Geographic fellow and journalist. The chilled punch quenches with ripe pear, apple, and plum, while a sprig of basil lends the memory of summer.

An opportunity for our children

At my grocery store, punch typically comes in a bottle or, more commonly, a box with a straw. At seven-years old, Ava has never considered what “punch” is, or how it might be made. This a good opportunity to remind our children that fruit punch is made from soft, sweet fruit – a seasonal thing, reliant on agreeable weather and the absence of pests. Punch came before refrigerators and standardization, each batch unlike the next, tasting only ‘of the moment.’

Once young children “get” the concept behind punch, they may begin to taste the individual fruits (or at least show interest in trying). Let them play with the recipe, and encourage them to invent their own favorite punch. After all, it’s as simple as stewing hunks of fruit in a sweet pot of water.

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot Recipe

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot Recipe

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot Recipe

A recipe with legs

Paul Salopek shares this Kompot recipe from the midst of the his  Out of Eden Walk— a storytelling trek across four continents in the footsteps of the first humans who colonized the Earth, carried out in partnership with National Geographic.  The recipe arrives in the same way the best recipes do – from personal recommendation, in this case, from Paul’s walking partner’s wife.

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot Recipe

The remainder of this post features Paul’s words and photographs, direct from Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

Walking some 22,000 miles across the world requires decent hydration. So when it comes to beverages, I pay special attention. Starting in Africa for the “Out of Eden Project,” I have walked through water well cultures, coffee cultures, tea cultures, and lately, kompot cultures.

What is kompot?

Kompot is a refreshing, natural, and energy-rich beverage made from boiling seasonal fruits in a large volume of water, sweetening to taste (and perhaps adding a spice or two), and, finally, chilling to sip on a thirsty day. Kompot was popular in Eastern and Southern Europe, Russia, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia—all societies that in the past have know the bite of food rationing. (Kompot was, among other things, a tasty way to preserve seasonal fruits in the era before globalized agriculture and refrigeration.) I began encountering the drink while walking through former Soviet-bloc countries. Today, it is losing ground against industrial soft drinks and bottled water. But it is still hugely popular in Uzbekistan—the fruit basket of Central Asia.

Choosing the fruit at a bazaar in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, an ancient oasis on the Silk Road. | Paul Salopek

Azizbek choosing the fruit at a bazaar in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, an ancient oasis on the Silk Road. | Paul Salopek

Buying the sugar at a bazaar in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. | Paul Salopek

Azizbek buying the sugar at a bazaar in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. | Paul Salopek

A happy hallucination

The following simple recipe is prepared in the Silk Road city of Bukhara by my Uzbek walking partner, Azizbek Khalmuradov. Walking recently through the blistering Kyzyl Kum desert, Khalmuradov told me: “I have this hallucination. I see a refrigerator, and when I open the door, there sits a large bottle of my wife’s cold kompot!”

Thank you, Paul and Azizbek, for sharing Silk Road Punch with us. To learn more about Paul’s Out of Eden Walk, please explore his story, chapter by chapter, on National Geographic. Follow the Journey at @OutofEdenWalk on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Kyzyl Kum | Paul Salopek

Kyzyl Kum | Paul Salopek

Kyzyl Kum camp | Paul Salopek

Kyzyl Kum camp | Paul Salopek

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Kompot can be made with a variety of fruit and the amount of sugar added is variable according to taste. The original recipe uses purple basil, however my local shops were out - thankfully green basil tastes similar and does the trick. Also, the original recipe adds the basil after cooking, however I liked the floral note provided by cooking the basil together with the fruit.Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot
Servings Prep Time
3quarts 10minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
50-60minutes 1hour
Servings Prep Time
3quarts 10minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
50-60minutes 1hour
  1. Halve or quarter the fruit and place into a large cooking pot with remaining ingredients. Place over a medium flame to boil. This gentle heating takes about 45 minutes, during which time the fruit will begin infusing the water with color and flavor. Towards the end of heating, taste for sugar, adding more as desired.
  2. Once boiling, reduce the flame to low, seal the pot with a lid. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from flame. Cool, covered, until room temperature, then transfer to a large canning jar or pitcher and refrigerate. The drink is typically stored with the softened fruit.
  4. When serving, the softened fruit may be enjoyed by the spoonful - simply add a little to each glass. Otherwise, strain before serving.

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.

Nova Scotian Hodge Podge with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Recipe for Nova Scotia's Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge is a homey one-pot supper of fresh potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans. What takes it over the top? The addition of heavy cream and butter, along with a few pearl onions for mild sweetness.

A gardener’s delight

While there are different ways to go about making Hodge Podge, one thing is for certain: it’s best made straight from the garden, when vegetables are fresh and abundant, just as in the eastern Canadian province that lends its name to this dish.

Recipe for Nova Scotia's Hodge Podge, with Tuna

By Philip Barker, CC BY-SA 2.0,

A farm in Nova Scotia | Philip Barker

Fresh is fresh. In my research I discovered locals prepare Hodge Podge with baby potatoes just 50-60 days in the ground and the gangling carrots pulled to thin the garden bed. This is a foreign concept to someone who doesn’t grow their own vegetables, but it makes sense in verdant Nova Scotia. When a garden does well, it can produce so much food, it has to be used up throughout the growing season, not just in a final harvest.

Farm life is common in the province, as are farmer’s markets – and with names like Wild Mountain and Sugar Moon, Nova Scotia sets a dreamy standard for farm-life. The peninsula and a collection of islands on the edge of eastern Canada, no part of the province is more than 67 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Oh, and puffin sightings are a thing.

Recipe for Nova Scotia's Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Hodge Podge turned brain food

Hodge Podge’s rich base reminds me of those creamy casseroles we’ve all had at family gatherings, like tuna noodle casserole – one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Hodge Podge is often served with fish on the side, and I just knew it would taste wonderful with meaty hunks of tuna.

Now, before purists cry sacrilege, – tuna is a well-known brain food and has a strong connection to Nova Scotia.

When I was an undergrad at Wesleyan University, one professor practically prescribed the high-protein fish during exam season. Now that I’m a Research Fellow at Tulsa University, I’ve been stretching myself with loads of reading, poetry writing, and artwork.  If I’m ever going to make it through the year, I’m going to need to bulk up on brain food. That can only mean tuna (thanks to my old college professor, whose time-worn advice still rattles around between my ears).

Nova Scotian Hodge Podge Recipe - Including EZ-Open Genova Tuna

And then there’s the Nova Scotia connection. Fun fact: the largest tuna ever recorded was caught off of eastern Canada – in Nova Scotia in 1979, weighing in at 1,496 pounds. What. A. Fish.

So, there you have it. Two reasons to add some hearty hunks of tuna to a traditional Nova Scotia recipe.

The best Hodge Podge is a hodge podge

Nova Scotian Hodge Podge with Tuna

Recipe for Nova Scotia's Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Just like no two gardens are alike, no two Hodge Podge’s are exactly the same. The only hard-and-fast rule with Hodge Podge is to use a hodge podge of vegetables. Potatoes, carrots and beans are standard. Most recipes include yellow and green beans, while a few others add turnip and onion.

There are two ways to go from there. First, steam or boil all the veggies to perfect tenderness, then toss with milk, butter and cream. This gives you more control over the veggies (and they are less likely to fall apart). The second option is to cook the veggies directly in the milk, butter and cream. This option provides richer flavor throughout the vegetables, but does require a gentle flame as indicated in this recipe from 1784:

If you let this boil fast, it will waste too much; therefore you cannot do it too slow, if it does but simmer.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse.

I went with Glasse’s approach, giving the vegetables a gentle simmer in the milk and cream. If it’s too rich for your tastes, simply sub half and half or even all milk for the liquid. There’s no one way to enjoy the comfort of Hodge Podge.


The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy
Hodge Podge video
Hodge Podge simmered in milk & cream
Hodge Podge with Trout
This post in partnership with Genova Tuna.

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Hodge Podge is a colorful addition to the table - my family loves the rich, chowder-like flavor. Adding the vegetables in batches might seem a bit fiddly, but this makes sure each vegetable cooks in the perfect time. While you can eat it right away, letting the Hodge Podge rest works nicely to give the cream and milk time to settle. I've seen some recipes let the Hodge Podge rest all afternoon before reheating at dinnertime! This recipe can serve six hungry people, but will easily stretch for 10 or 12 people as a side.Nova Scotia's Hodge Podge, with Tuna
Servings Prep Time
6-12people 20minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
35minutes 30minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-12people 20minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
35minutes 30minutes
  1. Add the new potatoes, carrots, and turnips to a large, heavy-bottomed pot along with butter. Heat over medium and stir to coat vegetables in butter.
  2. Pour on the milk and cream, then season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently for 20-25 minutes (until the potatoes are nearly tender). Do not boil or the milk will separate.
  3. Stir in the green beans, peas and pearl onions. Cover and cook 10 more minutes, or until vegetables reach desired consistency.
  4. Stir in tuna and let mixture rest, covered 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

A tip on working with fresh pearl onions - simply cut off the root end and cook in boiling water for 2 minutes. The onions will slip right out of their skins.


Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.


What does it mean to eat in peace?

Woman harvesting wheat by Yann Forget

What we put on our tables tells a mighty important story.

In my time so far as a Research Fellow at University of Tulsa, I’ve come to appreciate globalization of our food on an entirely new level. Everything is connected – seeds, weather, harvests, shipping, pricing, grocery store availability, history, cooking, healthy digestion. If there is turmoil in just one part of this system? Everything falls out of whack.

Fluctuations in the price of bread have brought about revolt. Even Mr. Death, himself, reflects the importance of the system; he carries a scythe – tool of the harvest.

He is the reaper.

If we are ever to realize peace, it must be from field to stomach.

Embroidered in 1929 on this sack: "My great-grandmother Rose, mother of Ashley, gave her daughter this sack when she was sold at 9 in South Carolina. It held a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans, a braid of Rose's hair. Told her 'It is filled with my love always.' They never saw each other again. Ashley told this to my grandmother Ruth Middleton." Photo by Kelly Crow.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture | Photo: Kelly Crow

Our food tells a story, heartbreaking at times. Embroidered in 1929 on the sack above:

My great-grandmother Rose, mother of Ashley, gave her daughter this sack when she was sold at 9 in South Carolina. It held a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans, a braid of Rose’s hair. Told her ‘It is filled with my love always.’ They never saw each other again. Ashley told this to my grandmother Ruth Middleton.

What wrongs might we right in our lifetimes? What space might we hold for each other?

A meditation on peace

Overwhelmed with the complex food systems around us, I wrote this meditation and poem: “If there is to be peace.” It is based off of the “Prayer for Peace” by Chinese Philosopher Lao-Tse (also Lao-Tzu, 6th-5th c. B.C.). *

If there is to be peace, by Sasha Martin // If there is to be peace in the world There must be peace in the fields. If there is to be peace in the fields There must be peace at the mill. If there is to be peace at the mill, There must be peace among customers. If there is to be peace among customers, There must be peace in the kitchen. If there is to be peace in the kitchen, There must be peace at the table. If there is to be peace at the table, There must be peace in the stomach.

*Here is Lao’s original poem:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace among neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

For more of my thoughts on peace at the dinner table, you may read my guest blog on the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities web site.

In peace and love,


Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: A tail of her own

The Science & Geography of Mermaids: A Birthday Party

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Challenge checklist

My daughter loves science and mermaids; when she couldn’t decide on a birthday theme, we agreed on an epic sci-fi mashup of mermaids, science, and geography.

Mermaid goals

Science of Mermaids: Mermaid goals

A pool party seemed inevitable when Ava wrote in her writing journal that her “greatest aspiration” was to become a mermaid. My goals were similar at 7 years old. Many nights I’d dream I was a mermaid, sunning on a rock, only to wake up abruptly whenever I splashed into the ocean, finding that I’d thrown myself off the bed and, instead of landing in a coral palace, I face-planted onto the hardwood floors.

Not all mermaids have red hair

Mami Wata

I really wanted Ava to think beyond the stock image of “Ariel,” so we spent some time this spring learning about merfolk around the world. We began our study with the Zambian mermaid Chitapo, followed by the Selkie of Scotland (and a few other neighboring countries) – their stories are here and here on the blog, along with recipes to match. As she learned about these amazing merfolk and ate food inspired by them, her excitement grew.

A tail of her own

The Science of Mermaids: A tail of her own

In early summer, we went to Florida to visit her Aunt and Uncle, the twins. Bringing her dream a little closer to reality, we all chipped in and got Ava a mermaid tail. When she opened her present she burst out “This is the best birthday ever!” We all laughed to see her flip her new fin with so much enthusiasm. (Secretly, we all wished we had a mermaid tail, too.)

Ava decided her mermaid name would be Emerald.

Science of Mermaids: A tail of her own

Getting crafty

When we got home, Ava and I spent part of our lazy summer days imaging and then creating the party games and decor… a summer camp of our own. As we were unfortunately unable to make contact with real-life mermaids during our gulf coast family vacation, we did our best to make the mermaid “science” as realistic as possible. The final result was better than I could have ever done on my own (or found at a party store), because my daughter’s imagination operates at 1000%. As an added bonus, we were able to use a lot of materials we already had on hand, which made this party fairly affordable.

Without further ado, here are our favorite details from her Science of Mermaids party:

1. Mermaid Anatomy 101
(a.k.a. Pin the organ on the mermaid)

Science of Mermaids: Pin the Anatomy on the Mermaid

Mermaids are living creatures which means they have organs, just like humans. They think with their brains, digest food with their stomachs, and love with their hearts.


How to create a magnetic Mermaid Anatomy Puzzle:

  1. Paint a mermaid on a piece of canvas (this is a great project for older children)! My daughter went all out, adding glitter, shells, and fabric oysters. Just be sure to leave plenty of room on the torso for the magnetic organs.
  2. Stitch a piece of sturdy fabric to the back of the canvas to make a large pocket. Slide a magnetic sheet from the hardware or craft store into this pocket. The magnetic sheet should fit snugly in the fabric pocket and should extend past the mermaid on all sides by a few inches (in case children miss the proper area while playing).
  3. Make magnetic organs – You can find rubber human organs at some craft stores or online. I glued the organs to small, round magnets with super-strong e6000; this worked perfectly for us. Tip: Test to make sure the magnets stick to the magnetic sheet through the canvas. If not, use larger magnets.
  4. Play! Older children might want to play blindfolded, while primary and elementary children might want to keep their eyes open and use this as a puzzle challenge.

2. Mermaid Habitat Toss

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Habitat Toss

Mermaids can live in salt water or fresh water. They eat seaweed. They use shells and coral reefs to build their homes. Like all creatures of the wild, they feel best in their natural habitat, where their surroundings are familiar.


How to create a Mermaid Habitat Toss:

  1. Cut 3-4 holes in a large sheet of plywood or cardboard. Each hole will represent one habitat. Make sure they are a few inches bigger than the soft mermaid toy you’ll be throwing through them.
  2. Paint a scene to bring the habitats to life. Again, Ava chose to go all out and glued on shells, sand and seaweed she collected on our family trip in Florida.
  3. Play! See if you can toss the mermaid back into each of her habitats. Older children can try this from further back for greater challenge.

The Science of Mermaids: Habitat Toss

3. Mermaid Economy (a.k.a. Treasure Dive)

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Treasure Hunt (Economy)

Mermaids don’t go to the bank, like humans. They collect treasures and hide them in wooden chests, underwater caves, and in bottles. Mermaids use this treasure to barter with other mermaids for food and other goods.


How to create Mermaid Treasure:

  1. Clean and remove labels from a plastic gallon-size juice bottle.
  2. Fill with play treasure (jewelry, coins, and gemstones). Top it off with water to make the bottle’s contents “float” around.
  3. Decorate lid and bottle if desired. We attached a fabric cover to the lid to discourage the children from opening the treasure. You could also use duct tape.
  4. Play! Drop the treasure at the bottom of the pool for the kids to find. They’ll do this over and over again!

4. Mermaid Reproduction (a.k.a. Dive for mermaid eggs)

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Mermaid Reproduction (Diving for Eggs)

Like a fish, mermaids lay eggs. This process is called spawning. They hide their eggs in protective foam in the bottom of the ocean.  Like humans, mermaid babies take 9 months to be born. Mermaid mothers care for their babies the same way human mothers do.


How to set up Diving for Mermaid Eggs:

  1. For the eggs, use water-safe lights, preferably spherical in shape and colorful. These can be found at craft stores and online. Add several to one or more small mesh bags. The bag represents the foam, will make the eggs easier to find, and keeps the kids from messing with the light mechanism.
  2. Play! Hide the bags around the pool and let the kids dive for them over and over again.

4. Geography of Merfolk

Science and Geography of Mermaids Party: Geography Garland

Not all mermaids have red hair. There are stories of mermaids from every continent in the world to captivate your guests. Each has unique characteristics, whether it be seaweed hair, snake tails, blowholes in the back of their necks, or removable seal skins.


How to create a Geography of Merfolk display:

  1. Download and print my PDF Merfolk around the World.
  2. Google images of mermaids. Search by the mermaid names (Chitapo, YawkYawk, Ningyo, Iara, Mama Glow, and Selkie), but also add quirky searches (look for “vintage mermaids” and Chagall mermaid paintings, for example).
  3. Cut and glue the mermaid images to colorful card stock, then modge podge to give them a finished look. String them up on tulle or yarn to complete the garland.
  4. Display the mermaid stories near the mermaid garland. You can add images of the mermaids, if you want. Note: I didn’t get a photo of this at the party – but I do have one below of it all tangled together with the cutouts, waiting to go out the door with the rest of the decor.
  5. Kids can try to match the merfolk stories to their image, or simply enjoy reading about them.

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Geography of Mermaids Display

5. Mermaid Photo Opp

Science of Mermaids Party: Mermaid Photo Opp Cutout

“Becoming” a mermaid was by far the biggest hit at the party. Perhaps this was because her organs were exposed, giving the kids an almost-creepy look-inside. This would make a great Halloween decoration, too!


How to make a mermaid cutout:

  1. Use a large piece of fabric, cardboard or wood.
  2. Trace the outline of a mermaid and paint or hotglue fabric to create the art. Be sure to add the inner organs to go with the science theme. I used scrap fabric from a bunch of projects – a great way to clean out my stash.
  3. Set up the photo opp so kids can stand behind it and take photos (we hung ours from a rafter and kept a step stool in the back since it was so tall).

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Anatomy photo opp

5. Crowning glory

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Driftwood Crowns

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Seashell Crowns

When the children finished their games, they were awarded with a homemade mermaid crown. We gave them their crown right before cutting the cake so that the real shells wouldn’t get damaged during water play (and had a better chance of making it home safe).

How to create mermaid shell crowns:

  1. Cut out foam into crescent shapes with a hot foam cutter.
  2. We hot glue the crescents to dollar store headbands (3 for $1) to create a sturdy, waterproof backing. Try to find headbands with a chainlink type pattern; this will bond better than a smooth surface.
  3. Hot glue shells, pearls, and blue netting to the foam, as desired.

How to create driftwood crowns:

  1. Sew fabric headbands. Use elastic to make them fit better. Make sure the fabric you choose doesn’t bleed color in the water.
  2. Hot glue on pieces of driftwood. We made “driftwood” by boiling sticks in salted water for an hour or two. (Ava actually thought for a minute that we’d be having sticks for dinner – ha!). Once the sticks were cool to the touch, I peeled off the bark to expose the pale wood.
  3. Decorate with starfish from the craft store.

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Seashell Crowns

6. Fun Summer Challenge Sign

To encourage the kids to try all the games, we created a “Fun Summer Challenge” sign. The kids were invited to add tally marks to show what they’d done (or decided not to do). This was also a secret way to help them realize what activities were available to play.

One little girl – just about three years old – asked what she was supposed to do. Understanding, in her own way, she was later found adding all the tallies, filling in every row, ever possible inch. When done, she stepped back from her masterpiece and added, with a content smile “There, I did it.”

Yes. Yes, you did.

Science of Mermaids Fun Summer Challenge Party Sign

Decor: Skelly the skeleton

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Skeleton Makeover

Mermaid skeletons show the upper skeleton of a human and the lower skeleton of a fish. They use their strong tail to swim great distances. Most mermaids have gills on the sides of their torso. Some mermaids have blowholes on the back of their necks – just like a dolphin or whale.

How to adapt a skeleton into a mermaid skeleton:

  1. Unscrew the legs from a standard skeleton.
  2. Use air-dry white clay to form a fish tail for the skeleton.
  3. Attach through the skeleton’s pelvis with zipties.
  4. Disguise the ziptie with a whimsical skirt. Add a hat and jewelry. Give her a name. Ours is Skelly.

Marzipan Cake Topper

Science of Mermaids: Marzipan mermaid cake topper

I made my first marzipan cake topper and omgosh I had so much fun. Marzipan cake toppers can be made way ahead (weeks or even months ahead if kept clean and covered in an airtight container), making for stress free party planning. This little gal (meant to be my daughter as a mermaid) was shaped with plain marzipan. She is stacked onto a straw for stability and decorated with color dust. A little edible “glue” was used to keep things like eyeballs and bathing suit in place.

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party: Marzipan cake topper

I put her on a cardboard base wrapped in aluminum foil. To help her stay put on the bundt cake, I gathered a handful of the foil below the cardboard to make a wide handle. This way, when I put her on top of the bundt cake, the foil handle went into the bundt’s center. I covered any visible aluminum with more marzipan (made to look like sand and rocks).

The sweet almond flavor went perfectly well with Ava’s cinnamon bundt cake with maple drizzle. As a bonus, she held up in super hot weather all afternoon. Much preferable to buttercream and more delicious than fondant.

Party Favors

Science of Mermaids Birthday Party Favor


A few salt water taffys, stickers, the homemade mermaid crown, and these Water Conservation Tips(PDF) went home with Ava’s friends, along with a hug and a thank you!

So that’s about it. Phew. Except for this (important) note

For lack of a better term, this is what I’d call a “slow birthday party.”

Ava wasn’t in many summer camps this year. We had a lot of time to play and create at home, which is part of why we were able to go all out with the handmade items. The experience lasted from spring through half the summer. It was about building projects and memories together over many months, not just a 2-hour party. Ava learned how to use a glue gun and made beautiful art. She learned how to use colored dust to decorate marzipan. She did some woodworking with her father. She tried a few international recipes while reading new stories.

The party was simply the culmination of her study of science and mermaids – an “art show” of sorts, showcasing everything she’d learned and experienced in the months prior.

I am a firm believer that parties are not about going as big as you can… but they should always be about something bigger.

Along those lines, this year Ava donated her birthday to animals in need. Here she is with one of the many animals that will benefit from her and her friends donations to Tulsa’s Animal Welfare center.

Donate your birthday party

I’m proud of our girl and grateful to share our experience with you. Sending love to you and yours for all your celebrations!


A fellowship of food

A Fellowship of Food

Expressions of peace through the art and poetry of food

This is my cat, Malky. Sitting on my homework.

Moments later, after some gentle kneading, he fell fast asleep, fuzz down on “The Language of Food,” by Dan Jurafsky. I debated the merits of waking him. But instead I’ve decided to use his catnap to tell you about my latest adventure.

A Fellowship of Food

I am proud (and honored) to announce that this week starts my journey as a 2016-2017 Research Fellow at the The University of Tulsa through the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. That’s right – Ava isn’t the only one going back to school this fall!

The powers that be at TU dubbed this year’s fellowship The Year of Food. Every Tuesday myself and 8 other fellows will gather together to discuss our research. Each of us will have a unique perspective: some will look into food law, others food history or geography, still others food art. It’s going to be delicious for the belly and the mind.

The Peaceful Table

Year of Food Fellowship: Expressions of Peace at the Global Table

My research will focus on Expressions of Peace & War at the Global Table – in other words, what we need to “bring to the table” for a peaceful meal and world. I will examine how we use food to create identity and borders (emotional and geographic), and what that means to the conversation around peace. Since we can’t talk about peace without talking about her opposite – war – the scope of my project will include some consideration about the challenges we face on our journey towards peace.

Throughout the year, I will create art pieces and poetry that speak to my findings. In the spring, my work will be exhibited here in Tulsa – the idea is to present an art show and poetry reading so that the public can engage with these ideas. I don’t particularly want to provide definitive answers to these broad questions, but open up a dialogue about them.

My plan is to keep you updated throughout the year, so you can see what I’m learning and creating.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this passage from my first reading assignment, in which Dan Juafsky shares one of the characteristics that unites all humans – the fact that we’re all immigrants, and that no culture is an island:

Quote from Dan Jurafsky from "The Language of Food" | "So it seems that it's not just melting-pot America whose favorite foods come from somewhere else [...]. I'd like to think that the lesson here is that we're all immigrants, that no culture is an island, that beauty is created at the confusing and painful boundaries between cultures and peoples and religions. I guess we can only look forward to the day when the battles we fight are about nothing more significant than where to go for ceviche."

Thanks, as always, for being a part of our community. Remember, we’re all here to support you, whatever your journey might be. Share your experiences and cheer each other on Instagram and Facebook with #GlobalTableAdventure.



What if you could live off Victory?

What if you could live off Victory? | Simone Biles of USA, by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 br,

Simone Biles of USA (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil).

The Olympics celebrate the human form: bodies that move – blood pumping through veins, muscles twitching, brains firing. A place where gravity seems to be as awestruck as the rest of us.

What if you could live off Victory? |Kōhei Uchimura of Japan, by Agência Brasil Fotografias.

Kōhei Uchimura of Japan (Agência Brasil Fotografias).

What if you could live off Victory? |Kōhei Uchimura of Japan, by Agência Brasil Fotografias | Kohei Uchimura of Japan, by Roberto Castro/ -, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kōhei Uchimura of Japan (Roberto Castro).

What if you could live off Victory? | Diego Hyplito by Roberto Castro/ -, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Diego Hyplito of Brazil (Roberto Castro)

What if you could live off Victory? | Kai Qin and Yuan Cao of China. By Agência Brasil Fotografias - BRITÂNICOS VENCEM E BRASILEIROS TERMINAM EM ÚLTIMO NO TRAMPOLIM DE 3M SINCRONIZADO DOS SALTOS ORNAMENTAIS, CC BY 2.0,

Kai Qin and Yuan Cao of Chin (Agência Brasil Fotografias).

Even as newscasters contextualize the athletes by their nations of origin, the games are a rare chorus in an often discordant world, its very premise a celebration of effort and victory over the latest political skirmish. John Williams, theme composer for four Olympic games, quite possibly said it best:

The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that’s wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us.

What if you could live off Victory? | Germany vs. Canada, by Agência Brasília - Alemanha x Canadá - Futebol feminino - Olimpíadas Rio 2016, CC BY 2.0,

Germany vs. Canada (Agência Brasília).

What if you could live off Victory? | Neda Shahsavari of Iran & Aleksandra Privalova of Belarus, by Javid Nikpour -, CC BY 4.0,

Neda Shahsavari of Iran & Aleksandra Privalova of Belarus (Javid Nikpour).

What if you could live off Victory? | Colombia vs. Nigeria, by Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil -, CC BY 3.0 br, São Paulo - Colômbia vence a Nigéria por 2x0 na Arena Corinthians (Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil)

Colombia vs. Nigeria (Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil).

The food of Victory

As I watch the players struggle and triumph, I can’t help but consider the food that makes those heroic bodies move. Despite some athletes endorsing frosted cereals and golden arches, I know the truth about good nutrition is far more complex. Back when I used to lift weights (another, bizarro lifetime ago), there was a lot of oatmeal, fresh fruit, eggs, and leafy greens in my life.

I shopped for produce obsessively.

San Francisco Farmer's Market by Sasha Martin

Shopping with a mind towards nutrition takes more time, energy, and money.

When any of these resources are thin, a person’s diet will be lacking – and we don’t have to be athletes to suffer the consequences.

In my career as a food writer, I try to shake up the world’s food story. Instead of focusing on poverty and war, relief efforts and famine, my goal was (and is) to unlock beloved recipes from all nations – to shine a light and honor their culinary victories. To tell the good stories. I began in February 2010 with Afghanistan and, by November 2013 I’d cooked more than 650 recipes from 195 countries, ending with Zimbabwe. Many of you have been with me since the beginning (Shoutout! Hugs and love to you!). As you know, the recipes are here, free of charge, to serve you and your families.

This collection of international recipes is another sort of victorious arena – a culinary Olympics, an edible chorus in a sometimes discordant world.


Recipes from every country in the world


The truth is that no one can live off of victory alone. We must make a global effort to ensure that there is adequate nutrition for all. And, fact of the matter is, right now there isn’t.

Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said:

We live in a world today where the state of nutrition is relevant and important to each other country. […] In a world in which each half knows what the other half does, we cannot live with hunger and malnutrition in one part of the world while people in another part are not only well nourished, but over-nourished.

She said this back in 1970. And it’s true today.

But I promise the situation is not hopeless.

How can you help?

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lights the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs.

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lights the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Tim Hipps)

We need to light a fire under this issue.

We can start with nutrition education in our homes and schools – so we can raise a new generation of policy makers who give a darn (yes, yes, yes – lunch, snacks, after sport treats are educational opportunities!).

And then we can continue our efforts by taking part in global movements that put pressure on today’s global leaders. I’ve chosen to be a part of the #HungerFree movement to ensure good nutrition and the right start for all children in the world.

#HungerFree & the Olympics

Here are two simple ways for you to get involved and make a difference while enjoying the Olympic games.

1. This Olympics, lift your voice

One voice is lost in the wind, but many voices change the world. Join in on the #Nutrition4Gold conversation as we call on world leaders to #InvestInNutrition by increasing financial investments in nutrition, scaling up interventions that are proven to work and targeting the most vulnerable, ensuring a #HungerFree future for all children!

TWEET NOW: “World leaders: take action to ensure good nutrition & the right start for all children #nutrition4gold #Olympics2016”

2. Share a global meal

At your next Olympics watch party, cook a healthy meal inspired by your favorite athlete’s home country and then SHARE A PHOTO using the hashtag #nutrition4gold – then get all your friends to share too!

FOR RECIPE IDEAS and a party resource kit, visit my friends at HungerFree. They’ve put together an awesome collection, as well as these 10 other reasons to host any Olympics party.

All that’s left is to begin…

Rio de Janeiro - Cerimônia de abertura dos Jogos Olímpicos Rio 2016 no Estádio do Maracanã. (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Torch lighting at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, 2016 (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Until the next time, cheering you on with much love and good health to you and yours.



Sweet Apricot Bites - Turkish stuffed apricots

Turkish Stuffed Apricots – Sweet Fairy Food

turkish-apricot-recipe-01These golden morsels are inspired by a place where giant fairy chimneys rise above yellow brick roads, leading travelers past a network of underground cities. It sounds like fantasy. But this surreal scene lives – as real as you and me – in Cappadocia, Turkey.

What are Fairy Chimneys?

Uçhisar in Cappadocia, Turkey, by Wolfgang Moroder.

Uçhisar in Cappadocia, Turkey, by Wolfgang Moroder.

The fairy chimneys of Turkey (Peri Bajası) are geological remnants created by volcanic debris. These colossal outcrops can be as tall as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil and almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty on the eastern US coastline. But unlike those human made structures, fairy chimneys were sculpted over millions of years by rain and wind, in the end weathering the elements better than the dinosaurs.

"Castle" Uçhisar in Cappadocia, Turkey, by Wolfgang Moroder.

“Castle” Uçhisar in Cappadocia, Turkey, by Wolfgang Moroder.

This not to say humans never set chisel to chimney; over the last millennia humans carved into the fairy chimneys to create secure homes and places to worship. These weren’t basic dugouts – many of the cave dwellings are connected with a network of tunnels and vent shafts, and decorated with mosaic floors and frescoes. The underground city at Derinkuyu, for example, is large enough to hold 20,000 people spread over seven interconnected levels, while the underground city at Kaymakli has nearly 100 tunnels.

A Churche in Göreme By Antoine Taveneaux - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A church in Göreme, photo by Antoine Taveneaux.

View of the Christological cycle in the New Church By Georges Jansoone JoJan - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

View of the Christological cycle in the New Church, by Georges Jansoone JoJan.

Kaymakli underground city By © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kaymakli underground city, photo by Nevit Dilmen.

Communication moved fast in these dimly lit dwellings; all it took was one fire to turn a fairy chimney into a beacon. In turn, other chimneys lit their beacons and, in seconds, a visual alarm could spread to all citizens – and sometimes to other cities – warning of imminent danger or other news.

Fairy Chimneys Today

Today, tourists flock to Cappadocia to marvel at the interweaving of civilization and rock. They stay in cave hotels, pray in stone churches, and wander the underground cities. Some might even study up on St. George the dragon killer while visiting – he is said to be from Cappadocia.

Beyond the typical tourist stops, the towns of Cappadocia offer traditional communities built on agriculture. The dusty, parched landscape gives way to fertile canyons, where villagers painstakingly tend their gardens and orchards – mostly a tapestry of apple, plum, pear and apricot trees.

What, then, is the yellow brick road?

By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen - Own work by uploader,, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Apricots drying in the sun in Cappadocia. Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.

If you work your way along the orchards of Cappadocia, you’ll find the yellow brick road: thousands of apricots, laying the sun to dry, blazing against the dirt like the hot strike of a match.  Turkey grows more apricots than anywhere else in the world, and the Cappadocia region is an important part of that tradition.

I thought it’d be fun to explore a recipe for stuffed apricots in honor of Cappadocia’s apricot groves. This traditional Turkish sweet (also known as Kaymakli Kayisi Tatlisi) uses just a handful of ingredients – apricot, lemon syrup, pistachios, and creamy cheese – making it a great appetizer for a dinner party or afternoon tea.

Making Turkish Stuffed Apricots

Sweet Apricot Bites - Turkish stuffed apricots

You can make Turkish stuffed apricots on a paper plate with a beach towel tablecloth. I know because we did! This summer Keith, Ava and I took a three-week road trip; we spent much of our time in Florida, with my brother, sister and her daughter and dad. With lots planned (the beach! Harry Potter at Universal! the pool! the planetarium!), we needed a recipe that would be easy to prepare.  Turkish stuffed apricots turned out to be a summer-proof solution.

There’s just a few steps: soak the apricots overnight, simmer them in syrup, and stuff with creamy, cool kaymak (or substitute marscapone). Garnish with crushed pistachios and you’re in business.

How to make Turkish stuffed apricots


The finished result combines the gentle sweetness of apricots with the lusciousness of cream. Pistachios add gentle crunch and a hint of salt. This is the sort of dessert folks who aren’t into sweets will love; it’s not a one-two punch of sticky sugar, but rather a wholesome, slow-burn energy treat.

In sum? It’s the type of dessert a granola bar would have a crush on.

A little help from family

Turkish stuffed apricots

My sister and brother (the twins known as Grace and Tim in my memoir) helped make the Turkish stuffed apricots on his Fort Meyers patio, the chlorine of the neighborhood pool still on our skin. The beach towel was my sister’s; the glass used to crush the pistachios, my brother’s. This was but one small recipe in a sea of homecooked meals, but as we stood there, on Tim’s patio, eating the apricots as fast as we could make them, I knew that even the simplest meals accomplish more than simple sustenance.

Making Turkish Stuffed Apricots

Cut into the facade of the apartment building, that second story patio was our own little cave dwelling… our own little fairy chimney. We found ourselves drawn to that space at all hours of the day, one night staying up until 5 am over several bottles of wine, incense trailing around our conversation. The flicker of candlelight was our beacon, allowing siblings who rarely see each other to really see each other.

A fairy chimney is about safety, community, about a little bit of magic.

Turkish stuffed apricots

Have you ever been the little sister? I am the little sister when I’m with my family. It’s one of my favorite feelings. My siblings reminded me not to worry so much. They gave me parenting tips. They’re creative, fun influences on my daughter. The tease me just the right amount and love me as only family can.

Their love is a cave dwelling. A safe place.

As you make these stuffed apricots, think about your safe place. Imagine the cave dwelling you might be taking for granted in the here and now. Then imagine Cappadoccia. Perhaps you are St. George, or a local farmer, or a villager hiding in the underground city from invaders. However you play it, these apricots will light the way to adventure… but, also, to deeper appreciation of what already is.

Turkish stuffed apricots

Resources & Further Reading:

Turkey’s Fairy Chimneys & Rock-Carved Churches in Kapadokya 
Cappadocia (Travel Guide), by Susanne Oberheu & Michael Wadenpohl
The Valley of Love and Dried Apricots
The Canyon of Cappadocia
Nose to Tail Cooking in Cappadocia

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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This Turkish appetizer is sweet and creamy - just right for a dinner party or afternoon tea. Start it the night before to soften up the apricots. There are three options for the stuffing, kaymak is the most traditional, while marscapone makes a great substitute. Some use strained Greek yogurt called labneh for this job (regular Greek yogurt will be too runny) - consider sweetening it with a little honey if you want to cut the tart flavor a bit.Sweet Apricot Bites - Turkish fairy food
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 15minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10minutes 8hours
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 15minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10minutes 8hours
  1. Soak apricots in a bowl of cold water for 8 hours (or overnight). Keep in the fridge. In the morning they will be plump.
  2. Drain off the soaking water into a small saucepan - there should be about a cup of liquid. If not, add a little water to make up the difference. Add sugar and simmer for ten minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add reserved apricots. Let sit in the syrup until cool to the touch (or until needed). The syrup will make the apricots shiny.
  4. Peel apricots halfway open and stuff with kaymak, marscapone, or Greek yogurt. You may find a few of the apricots are a little too soft - enjoy those while you work! For stuffing, I like to use a piping bag, although a spoon work work as well.
  5. Garnish with crushed pistachios and enjoy!

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.

New Orleans street art by Brandan Odums / Photo by Sasha Martin

Peace is not a verb

New Orleans street art by Brandan Odums / Photo by Sasha Martin

Peace is not a verb

Peace does not twist or rush
between bodies of water or flesh;
There is no giving
or delivering of peace.

Peace is not the catch in a mother’s throat
before her scream scales the body
nor does it rise from vacant eyes

Peace does not love or die.

Peace does not lift,
does not hoist.
There are no weeds peace uproots
and replants with purpose.

Peace is not something I do to you
or force upon you;
Though a lover makes love
and a rapist rapes,
Peace is without clambering,
bargaining, begging for change.

Peace is the weed being the weed;
Peace is mourning all morning
– if that’s what’s to be done.
Peace is knowing things aren’t well
and scraping breath over lung anyway.

Peace is stillness in the storm –
Finding the eye, the gaze;
Lone requirement for clarity
Lone requirement for change.


This poem came to me last night. My cat had just brought in a mouse, which my husband and I proceeded to chase around the bedroom before we finally caught and released it. Afterwards, I couldn’t fall asleep. I lay there as these words swum in formation, not wanting to ruin the spell by getting up to find a pen. In the morning it was as vivid as ever.

This poem is the result of feeling helpless in the face of tragedy – watching people shoot, watching people hate, watching people judge. I want there to be peace, yet I can’t, like some fairy godmother, bestow this gift upon the world. There is so much hurt and we all have a stake in it.

I can love you, but I can’t peace you.
If I could, I would.

Here’s the important bit: Since peace is not a verb we must start by cultivating peace within. Finding inner peace helps us gain clarity and act with love in the face of tragedy. When we can see each other with clarity real change has a chance. Peace of this sort might even be contagious, but that cannot be the condition for seeking it.

All my love to you and yours,

P.S. Here’s a poster of the poem if you’d like to save or share it. The art is by Brandan Odums – I stumbled upon it in New Orleans during this summer’s road trip.

"Peace is not a verb" by Sasha Martin

Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe

Falafel Scotch Eggs – Snacking with Selkies

Let’s travel to Scotland and enjoy a traditional Selkie legend paired with a Selkie-friendly recipe for Scotch Eggs.

But first… what is a Selkie?

By Claire Pegrum, CC BY-SA 2.0,

By Claire Pegrum, CC BY-SA 2.0,

On the cold, northern shores of Scotland you’ll find smoke-grey seals basking on the wet rock, backs glistening with ocean spray. On an ordinary day the seals might sit for a time then slip into the water, hardly making a sound as they go about … well… whatever it is that seals normally do. But when the light is dim or fog blankets the horizon, some report having seen the seal skins drop away, revealing men and women of great beauty, whose big, brown eyes give their gaze a look of dewy grace.

These are Selkies – merfolk who can shed their skins and walk about on land. But there’s a catch with the Selkie’s freedom: if they lose their skin, they cannot return to their natural form. Instead, they are trapped on land, destined to remain human until they discover their skin again.

A note on the Biology of a Selkie:

A male Selkie by artist Mapvee.

A male Selkie by artist Mapvee.

Unlike mermaids, selkies are either head to toe seals OR head to toe humans. To become human, they slip off their seal skins and store them somewhere safe until they’re ready to go home. (Totally normal.)

Over the centuries there have been many a marriage between Selkie and humans, most of which begin with a human stealing the Selkie’s skin and ending abruptly whenever the Selkie finds their skin. You see, no Selkie-human marriage can fully satisfy a Selkie. As soon as they find their skin, the homesick creature rushes into the ocean for good.

The legend of the Seal Hunter & the Selkies

In a small Scottish village, there once was a hard working man who did not believe in Selkies. In this way, he was able to make a living hunting seals and selling their skins with not even a prick to his conscience.

One day he snuck up on a particularly fine seal and made a stab at it with his carved hunting knife. Though the blade pierced the seal’s side, the creature lurched away, into the water, the knife disappearing with it. The man let out a cry of dismay: it would cost many week’s savings to purchase another as strong and as fine as the hunting blade he’d lost. He returned home sadly, mourning the loss with his wife.

By Guinnog at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Orkney Islands, by Guinnog

Late that night there was a knock at the cottage door. When the hunter opened it, he discovered a gentleman, dressed in fine clothes.

The stranger bowed deeply. “Are you the seal hunter of Orkney Islands?”

“Ay,” nodded the hunter, straightening his ragged shirt.

“Then I would like to place an order of a dozen seal skins.” An order of a dozen seal skins would feed the man’s family for a very long time. The gentleman continued: “However, I need the skins before this night is over.”

The hunter dropped his chin to his chest. “As much as I would love to help you, I do not have that many seal skins. Even if I hadn’t lost my knife earlier today, I have little hope of gathering so many skins in one hunt.”

“In that case, I will lead you to a place where you’ll find more seals than you could ever imagine, and perhaps even a blade worthy of your hand.” said the gentleman.

The man eagerly followed the gentleman to a high cliff overlooking the sea. But when the gentleman invited him to step to the edge, the hunter became afraid.

"Orkneys seen from Dunnet Head 01" by Postdlf from w. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Orkney Islands seen from Dunnet Head, by Postdlf.

“I mean you no harm,” the gentleman said and gestured to the overlook again. “You will find all the seals  you can dream of at the bottom of this cliff.

As the man looked down the sheer cliff, he saw nothing but the moonlight on the empty waves, salt spray against stone. He stepped closer to get a better look.

Photo by Adam Ward

Copinsay, Orkney Islands. Photo by Adam Ward

At that moment the gentleman wrapped his arms around the hunter and dove over the cliff. They fell like shooting stars, splashing into the ocean.

Yesnaby scotland by Renata

Down they continued, at great speed, until they reached an enormous castle on the ocean floor.

The hunter had been holding his breath but now found he couldn’t hold on any longer. Gasping, he was shocked to find he could breathe under water as easily as he had on land. The gentleman released the hunter as they swam up to an iridescent hall made of mother of pearl. In the glow the hunter saw he was surrounded by hundreds of Selkies. He tried raised his hands as if in defense, only to find he had flippers where his hands had been. Turning to the gentleman, he saw that he, too, had become a Selkie.

The Selkies swam closer. “We mean you no harm,” they said, “In fact, we need your help.”

They led him to a side chamber where a Selkie was laying his back, gasping for breath.

“Our king is wounded and only you can cure him.”

The hunter saw his blade sticking into the Selkie’s side.  “I am no doctor, I know no medicine to cure him.”

“You are the only one who can help,” they insisted. “Remove your blade and press upon the wound.”

The hunter did as he was told and pressed his flippers onto the wound. To his surprise, the wound closed and the King’s breath steadied. They thanked him and, without further ado, the gentleman brought him up through the waters, the way they had come.

At the cottage door, the gentleman handed the hunter a heavy purse. “Please consider the Selkie, my good man, and save your blade for other purposes.”

The man peered inside the purse and found it full of gold. His hunting days were indeed behind him.

“Thank you,” he murmured in wonder, but when he looked up the gentleman was already gone. He never hurt another seal again, but often sat at the cliff, looking down in wonder at the sea. Whenever he saw a seal swimming below, it seemed to him their big brown eyes gave him a knowing look, almost as though they were smiling up at him.

Story adapted from Education Scotland

Snacking with Selkies: Let’s make Scotch Eggs!

Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe

I chose to pair Scotch Eggs with my retelling of The Hunter & The Selkies because Scotch Eggs are something a poor seal hunter could take to strengthen him on the hunt. Often enjoyed cold on picnics, they are considered to be “a poor man’s lunch.” So says Neil Chambers from the Handmade Scotch Egg Company, who goes on to say they’re “made from left-over meat and eggs, quite handy because they were so easily transported.”

Let’s dive deeper …

The original Scotch egg is found all over Scotland and Britain. History tells us the Scotch egg was most likely based off of a medieval north Indian recipe for eggs wrapped in spiced lamb (nargisi kofta) and was invented in (close to) its current form by Fortnum & Mason, a department store in London, way back in 1738. According to Larousse Gastronomique, a Scotch egg is made like so:

The finest sausagemeat or minced (ground) meat is wrapped around a hard-boild egg, which is coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden.”

Since The Hunter & The Selkies honors the precious life of our friends in the animal kingdom, I chose to adapt a vegetarian recipe for Scotch Eggs. While there are many, many possibilities, I opted for the falafel scotch egg. The chickpea coating has big flavor without being spicy and gets a springtime boost from the addition of green onion and fresh cilantro.

Move over deviled eggs – this is just the thing to slice up and serve at a potluck.

Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe

A few tips for making Falafel Scotch Eggs

In my experience, this is a relatively straightforward recipe – as long as you set yourself up for success.

1. Cook the eggs a little shorter than usual for perfect scotch eggs. Remember, they’re going to keep cooking when they get deep fried. Put them in a pot of cold water, then bring to a boil. Set the timer for 5 minutes and remove into ice water!

2. Save time by building the falafel coating while the eggs cool off. While the eggs cool, saute the onion with the garlic and spices until nice and soft, then blitz it together with the remaining ingredients (the breadcrumbs get stirred in at the end).

Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe

Ava loves adding ingredients to the food processor – she’s helped me in the kitchen ever since she could get her little fingers around food!

3. Lightly oil your hands and flatten the falafel mixture. This will make it easier to wrap around the eggs.

Don’t worry too much about perfection when working with a little one – it’s more important they get to help!

Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe

4. Make sure you divide the falafel mixture into 8 even portions. We used a scale – but you could eyeball it. This will help the falafel look the same and cook evenly.

Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe

5. Really press the sesame seeds onto the Scotch Egg. You’d be surprised how many fall off the eggs during the cooking process, even when you do.

Vegetarian Falafel Scotch Eggs Recipe


Watch a storyteller share a version of the Seal Hunter & The Selkies at Education Scotland
Discover a list of other Selkie movies & books at Selkie Stories: From Sea Songs to Tragic Romances
Watch the trailer for the beautiful animation Song of the Sea.
Learn more about the history of Scotch Eggs at Historic Foodie 

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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These falafel scotch eggs balance the earthy warmth of cumin and coriander with the brightness of fresh cilantro and green onion. 8 Scotch Eggs can be halved for serving, providing 16 pieces to enjoy. Consider serving over a bed of baby spinach or similar for an appetizing salad.Falafel Scotch Eggs - Snacking with Selkies
Servings Prep Time
8Scotch Eggs 30minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
8Scotch Eggs 30minutes
Cook Time
For the falafel coating
To prepare the eggs
  1. Set 8 eggs in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil. When it reaches a full boil, set timer to 5 minutes. Remove and set in cold water to cool down.
To prepare the falafel coating
  1. Cook the onion, garlic, coriander and cumin in the oil until very soft.
  2. Add to the bowl of a food processor, along with the chickpeas, green onion, fresh cilantro, egg and salt. Pulse into coarse mixture (everything is chopped but it's not a smooth paste). Scrape once or twice. Stir in the breadcrumbs and divide into 8. You can use a scale if you'd like.
  3. Peel the eggs. Press one section of the falafel coating until only about 1 cm thick. Lay the flattened falafel on your hand and lay the peeled, cooked egg on top. Press the falafel around the egg gently but with conviction. Work to seal all around. Roll in sesame seeds, pressing them on well.
For frying
  1. Preheat oil to 375F in a medium pot, making sure it goes 3" up the sides. This can be done while the falafel coating is going around the eggs, but be careful not to forget about it and get the oil too hot!
  2. Fry in Falafel Scotch Eggs in batches for 2 minutes each, until deep golden. Slice in half and place on a platter or take as-is to a picnic. Note: Some of my eggs were runny because my oil got a little cool (take note - don't rush this process!). At 375F, the Falafel Scotch Eggs come out crisp on the exterior and perfectly set on the interior. I recommend cooking a test one, then adjust frying time to your liking.
  1. Enjoy, with a view of the ocean and possibly some Selkies 😉

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.

"Ritual001" by NAEINSUN - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Dear Chris Kimball: Welcome to cooking the world!

"Ritual001" by NAEINSUN - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Dear Mr. Kimball,

At first, I was saddened to hear you left America’s Test Kitchen. Like so many, I’d come to rely on your impeccable standards and trustworthy recipes over the decades. They were a sure thing – dare I say, as sure as death and taxes but a lot more palatable. For me, this was more than a need for robot-like precision on my counter and in my oven (such an aim would be fruitless anyway: my oven runs hot – and it’ll be a long time before my pennies pile up enough to upgrade).

My interest in your work started in 1998, when I was 19 years old. My mother is the one who introduced me to you, your recipes and your bow tie – an introduction wrapped up in the messy business of getting to know a mother who I had only seen once since I was 10 years old.

Circumstances were challenging in my early childhood. My older brother and I slept in the living room, while Mom slept in the breadbox bedroom on the other side of the kitchen. The kitchen doubled as the living room, the trestle table used as much for cooking and eating as playing and sewing (at night Mom hauled out her old Singer to stitch odd jobs to make ends meet).

We were raised to make it work: Mom cut mold off crusts and cheese, hid weeping fruit inside delicate crepes, begrudgingly served fat blocks of welfare cheese. On good days, after scrimping and saving, we’d make something completely outrageous, like a 19-layer German Tree Cake. Not because we needed to blow money on almond paste and chocolate (or spend two days cooking and decorating the cake), but because she wanted us to see beyond our circumstances. Food, she knew, could take us wherever we wanted to go. And so, she taught me the difference between poverty of resources and poverty of spirit.

Unfortunately,  as a single mom, Mom’s quirky creativity was a gift and a curse. She had no partner to help deal with day to day stresses, and her response to challenges at school and in the community ruffled more than a few feathers at the Department of Social Services. After a few years in and out of foster homes, she sent us to live with family friends several states away. My brother took the separation hard. In a pungent cocktail of adolescence and grief, he succumbed at 14. Gone much too soon.

Soon after, my new family moved a continent away; I spent my adolescent in France and Luxembourg, far from everyone I’d ever known or loved (including my three beautiful siblings from my mother’s early marriage). Searching for a connection with my mother, I looked to food, wandering into boulangeries as though I’d find some madeleine of my childhood there. I never did, though I did ignite a passion for international cuisine.

Years later I showed up at my mother’s door – 19 years old, a young woman feeling like a little girl. There was no recipe for how to proceed.  In the face of our awkward “getting to know each other” phase, your magazine and the recipes inside were a relief. They were built on clarity and predictability. A safe haven. Much different than finding out my mother, still seeing me as a sweet ten year old in her mind, had tossed all my push up bras (years later I find myself exceedingly grateful for that one). Much different than trying to figure out how to love each other after the passing of time and space.

As one of many white flags, Mom gave me a worn copy of one of your magazines, strewn with post-it notes, asterisks and underlining. Together we’d discuss the kitchen tools you demystified in the front pages.  We discussed your editorial. We were awestruck with the precision of your team.

Focusing on food was easier than figuring each other out (and, might I add, a way into figuring each other out).

One day between the heave-ho, teeter totter of our relationship, Mom said she had a surprise for me. I was an impressionable undergrad at Wesleyan University – maybe a junior. We’d been arguing a lot and, though I should have outgrown the attitude by then, I had a teenage huff about me, impatient with whatever surprise she had at the other end of the car ride.

We parked on a quiet street in Brookline, Massachusetts. Someone buzzed us into a nondescript doorway. Suddenly we were there. The Test Kitchen for Cook’s Illustrated. And suddenly you were there. You gave me a private tour of the place. Not an assistant. Not a kitchen tester. YOU. Mom hung back (waited in the lobby) and let me have the experience. You probably gave hundreds of similar tours, but I was just some poor kid, raised in foster homes, struggling to figure out my emotions, my mother, my self. Who was I to have a tour in this amazing place you created?

That day left an indelible mark on me.

You led me into the gleaming test kitchen. Sitting on the counter was a simple chocolate pudding pie. You invited me to taste it. You did the same and asked me what I thought. Nervous but hopeful, I said I thought it was “pretty good.” You, however, had another opinion. You rattled off a list of adjectives – cloying, too this, too that – your exact opinions have faded now, but the important part remains: you had expectations, you were discerning, you paid attention to details few others would ever notice. That’s when I realized I had a long way to go. Pretty good wasn’t going to cut it.

We went back to your office and sat for a few minutes. You spoke little. You asked me about my goals, projects, dreams. I probably spoke too much, hoping to impress in that annoying, overeager way kids do when they really haven’t accomplished much but want to be noticed. You were patient. You nodded and encouraged me. I remember asking you then about international food. About historical food. You told me many home cooks weren’t ready for that (or, even if they were, they were so busy they couldn’t take it on). A few minutes later we went our separate ways. I thanked my mother with shining eyes, guard down for once.

In the last 15 years I continued to get to know my mother. I went to the Culinary Institute of America for a year. I started a family. I had ups and downs. As part of my attempt to find a sense of belonging, I spent four years cooking a recipe from every country in the world… which inspired my first book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. It turned out to be more about why I cooked the world – a chronicle of my childhood and relationship with my mother. Everything goes back to our childhoods, I think.

I even adapted one of your pound cake recipes for the scene when my mom tells my brother and me she’s sending us off to live with another family for good. That’s what she served and, though I resisted including a recipe for that chapter, having a reliable base to start from was a relief and helped me get through it.

Mom was excited about the book. In the year I took to write it, she helped me with dates and details. We bonded. And then I was done and something – fear of public opinion, perhaps – has led her into retreat. Missing her and knotted with emotion, but also trying to respect her space, I find myself feeling very much like I did when I was 19 knocking on her door for the first time in nearly a decade. Like I need something predictable. Something to bind us back together. Something to fortify my spirit. Something like your recipes. But I know not everything works the same way twice. This time I wonder what will, in fact, work.

And then I discover you are on a new venture – that you will be exploring culinary techniques from around the world. What a gift! The timing is perfect: home cooks are bringing the world into their kitchens at unprecedented rates; students can fill their course loads with the politics of food.  If I’ve learned anything from cooking 195 countries I can tell you this: you are in for a real treat. There are a myriad ways to extract excellence – as you know, our global neighbors have much wisdom to share on this front.

These days I feel less certain of the world than I did in those “pretty good” days. But thanks to that brief trip through your kitchens, I have stronger opinions and I’m more willing to voice them. I’m also more apt to celebrate when I discover excellence, for I realize what a rare gift it is. I want to thank you for helping a young woman learn some of these skills.

Enjoy your new venture. Enjoy that most humbling curiosity – a willingness to admit that sometimes there’s a better way to do things than the way we’ve always done things. And, always, a burning hope for the future.

With loving kindness,

Sasha Martin

Photo Credit: “Ritual” by Naeinsun
A book signing for children

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

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, they must resolve it (or they need to explain the fallout if they don’t – playing out consequences is an equally important lesson).

I worked with my daughter on her first book last summer and saw this learning process in action, as she took in knowledge about herself and the world at large. Here’s a video of her book reading, followed by an interview with me, her mama. The rest of this essay describes why she chose to write a book and how we approached the process.

How and why my six-year old spent last summer writing a book:

It all started at the book launch for my memoir, Life from Scratch, a few months before her birthday. There was a line of people waiting to have their books signed. Ava scampered up to my signing table, where I had my head bent over a book, and promptly announced that she wanted to autograph the books.

While I wanted to grant my five-year old (and her big brown eyes) her every whim, I couldn’t; as a rule, people want the author to sign the books.


I told her if she wanted to write a book, she could have a book signing.

Her eyes grew wide and she jumped a little, presumably with joy. And so, shortly after her sixth birthday, I set out on a summer quest to help my daughter harness her imagination with the written word.  Because of her young age, the book writing process was a delicate balance – trying to keep it fun while helping her create her BIGGEST project yet. In the end she had more than 20 illustrations and 5 chapters.

I thought it’d be fun to share what we learned in case you want to work with your child on a book.

How to help very young children write a book.

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

1. Help them choose a subject and main characters.

Their book should be something they LOVE. Ava loves everything Egypt, so this was a natural fit. Almost immediately, she decided her book would be about her cat, Malky, going on an adventure to Egypt. To help inspire her imagination, we got on all fours and “walked” around outside so we could see the world from a cat’s perspective. That’s when she saw a beetle – and so the adventure included a beetle friend named Rosie.

2. Teach them basic story structure

I like to teach young children about five-part stories in very simple terms.

a) We meet our characters and something happens to start their journey
b) They take the first steps of the journey
c) The exciting part (This should be an “Oh no!” moment)
d) They take the final steps of the journey
e) We end our journey and say goodbye to our characters

Each of the 5 parts should be one sentence. Have the child write each sentence on a separate page. Then they can expand on each idea over several sentences, ultimately turning each part of the story into a short chapter for their book.

The hidden agenda?

The initial 5 sentences serve as an outline; with these sentences in place, the child will always know where they are going with their story – and they will always have a satisfying beginning and end, with something exciting in the middle!

3. Let illustrations break up the writing process

Help your child write a book

Children love to draw. Make sure they get plenty of opportunity to create illustrations for their book. They can be made on colorful paper and taped into the book at a later date. Some days this might be all they feel like doing; that’s okay.

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

4. Research is your friend

Whatever topic your child chooses, and no matter how much they love it, they’ll occasionally get stuck. Maybe they’re bored. Maybe they have writer’s block. Help the story flow again by doing research with them, at home or at the library. Ava has several books on ancient Egypt so we looked through them to learn about possible things the cat and beetle could encounter. The books also inspired her drawings. That’s where we learned about goddess Hapy, a real figure in ancient Egypt, and what she looked like.

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

It’s also where she got the idea to add basboosa cake to the story, a recipe traditionally enjoyed throughout the Middle East, including Egypt. (As you can see below, I helped put a copy of the recipe in the back of the book … along with info about the real cat behind her story. We served the cake at her signing, along with traditional juices and hibiscus tea).

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

Basboosa cake and hibiscus tea

5. Do a little at a time

Children don’t need to try and complete a big project like this in one sitting. Ava’s book took all summer. Sometimes she worked for fifteen minutes, other times she worked for an hour and fifteen minutes. This should be fun, so don’t push your child too hard or they will resent the work and it may not get done.

6. Don’t worry about spelling.
7. Don’t worry about spelling.

Seriously. If they want to learn a word or two, fine (Ava wanted to learn Egypt and pyramid). But otherwise, trust me. The sweet spelling will be 100% cute when you look back on it, years from now. And any fussing over this sort of detail totally disrupts the creative process. Remember, the simple act of forming letters is still a challenge to many primary students… let’s save proper spelling for later.

8. Celebrate!

Celebrate your child’s success with a book signing party. We were fortunate to have Mr. Paul, a local story teller at Hardesty Regional Library, read Ava’s story. She was BEAMING – not only to celebrate with her friends but to have her words come alive with Mr. Paul’s vivacious reading. You know how kids think: Of course mom will love it, but seeing a story teller bring it to life?


A childs book signing (Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace)

A childs book signing (Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace)

Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace

A childs book signing (Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace)

9. Make copies of the book, for signing

You can make photocopies of your child’s masterpiece, or you could go one step further and have bound books made. We opted for the latter, making real keepsakes. To do this, I took photos of each spread of Ava’s book and placed them in a free book layout on Blurb* Using the softcover magazine option, each printed book cost about $5. We got extra made for Christmas presents.

*Note: This link gives me a small commission if you design and order a book from Blurb; new customers can use PHOTOMAY20 for 20% off their order this month.

A childs book signing (Book writing for children: Laying foundations for peace)

A childs book signing

10. Enjoy the finished result

Sit back and enjoy the pride and accomplishment your young child feels after writing their own book. Good luck and have fun with the process!

P.S. A few have asked and, yes, you can order a copy of The Adventures of Malky and Rosie by sweet Miss Ava Martin. The slight mark up will go towards Ava’s college fund.

P.P.S. I am developing a creative writing club for young children living in Tulsa, OK. Please contact me if you’d like to learn as plans are finalized.

Zambian Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

Zambian Pumpkin n’ Peanut Oats: To keep Mermaids away

Zambian Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

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.

Mami Wata

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.

"African Traditions Zambia" by Ninaras - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Zambian men in traditional clothing” by Ninaras

Even those with unflinching biceps and steam-engine thighs are unable to resist Chitapo’s iron grip.  Legend states she only has to snatch someone’s shadow to pull them in, rendering even the densest muscle as worthless as a bundle of kittens in a tuna factory.

Chitapo is particularly keen on capturing criminals – robbers, rapists and racketeers. Thanks to her quick judgement these rough types sink to new lows. Some become permanent inmates of Sandy Bottom Prison, no possibility for parole; others are fed to Muntu Mamba – a creature equal parts man and crocodile.

It would be easy to write off Chitapo as some cruel monster but – as with all good legends – this water creature redeems herself in surprising ways. That drowning child? She’ll save them. Women? Some believe they get a blank pass. Same for the loyal husband on his way home to his wife.

Come to think of it, I rather like this Chitapo creature.

Warding off Chitapo: keep your pots busy

"Lady of Zambia Makes Nshima" by Gerhard302 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Zambian woman makes Nshima” by Gerhard302

The best way to keep Chitapo from stealing your pots and pans (or YOU!) is to put them to good use. Today we’re going to do this by – big surprise – cooking.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you realize that Americans eat out an average of 4.5 times per week (Zagat). That means most nights your pots and pans are in reach of Chitapo. 

I’m not gonna say you’re doomed to a watery grave unless you make this meal, but… I’m not going to say you’re not.

In praise of Zambian breakfast

Zambian Breakfast: Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

As I researched a distinctive Zambian use for my pots and pans, I came across a recipe called Chipwatanga in the lovely Recipe book on Zambian Traditional Foods. This hot pumpkin porridge features ground peanuts and a touch of sugar, and is often served for breakfast. My desire to make the dish went from steady curiosity (I love pumpkin and peanuts, after all) to burning desire.

The turning point?

When I read about breakfast buffets in Zambia’s big city hotels adding a sweet scoop of chipwatanga to a piping hot bowl of oatmeal.

Sounded like the perfect treat for my daughter, who is now sporting her first pair of glasses and looking like 6 going on 16.

Zambian Breakfast: Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

This Zambian Pumpkin n’ Peanut Oats is a mother’s (and a nutritionist’s) dream – high in beta carotene, protein, and fiber. A pillow of ever-so-slightly sweet pumpkin porridge punctuates a bed of steel cut oats with quiet force, each bite a fortifying indulgence. Using chunks of pumpkin gives texture (a great choice in autumn), while canned pumpkin lends each spoonful ethereal silkiness all year round. Unless you pulverize your peanuts to a fine powder (which you are more than welcome to do), the crunch of peanut morsels make eating this breakfast a little bit like an Easter egg hunt.

Just. Need. One. More. Peanut.

Zambian Breakfast: Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

Good to the last morsel, so to speak.

While Ava was captivated by Chitapo’s story, I wasn’t sure what she would think of the crunchy bits. Turns out she loved them, adding even more peanuts, stirring her porridge vigorously and gobbling up an entire bowl.

Zambian Breakfast: Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

Zambian Breakfast: Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe


From what we can tell, this Zambian breakfast succeeds mighty well at deterring Chitapo.
No pots missing from the pantry. Not yesterday. Not today.

So where’s your next meal taking you?

Zambian Breakfast: Pumpkin and Peanut Oatmeal Recipe

Further Reading:

Waterspirits and Mermaids: The Copperbelt Case” by Brian Siegel
Sacred Waters” a book on African water creatures
Zambian Water Spirits
Books by Henry John Drewal
Mermaids around the world
Recipe book on Zambian Traditional Foods

Note: Chitapo (also Kitapo) is one of many local water spirits in Zambia and the Congo. Old stories about Chitapo are quite disturbing: parents delivered ill-omened babies to her (those children whose upper incisors broke through before the lowers).  In the 20th century, Chitapo became more of a mermaid figure thanks to the widespread Mami Wata legends. These stories spread to central and southern Africa from west Africa. While the legends are distinct, Brian Siegel (see Further Reading) thinks this is where Chitapo got her mermaid features, including the fish or serpent tale and human upper body.

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This Zambian Pumpkin n' Peanut Oats is a mother's (and a nutritionist's) dream - high in beta carotene, protein, and fiber. A pillow of ever-so-slightly sweet pumpkin porridge punctuates a bed of steel cut oats with quiet force, each bite a fortifying indulgence. Using chunks of pumpkin gives texture (a great choice in autumn), while canned pumpkin lends each spoonful ethereal silkiness all year round. PLUS it keeps mermaids away.Zambian Breakfast: Pumpkin n' Peanut Oats
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 5minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 5minutes
Cook Time
For the Chipwatanga
Serve on hot breakfast cereal
  • oatmeal(preferably steel cut oats)
  1. Add all ingredients to a pot and cook over medium heat. It will sputter because it is a rather dry mixture. You can add more milk if you'd like, but I like having some body to the mixture. Stir regularly to keep the bottom from scorching.
  2. Serve over freshly prepared steel cut oatmeal. Garnish with more peanuts, if desired.

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.