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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

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 

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Print Recipe
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.

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

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 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.

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.

Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese Culinary Masters

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 what we already know – ramen, udon and tempura – to get to know the people and their craft. The imagery is vivid and the language, at times, is colorful. There are lessons in the elaborate art of knife making, and details about why Japanese chefs believe “water is the most important ingredient in Japanese cooking.”

(Don’t be too quick to dismiss this concept – local water has it’s own flavor and is one reason why bagels, pizza, sour dough, and sushi rice tastes different from city to city. It’s also the reason why iced tea made with city water tastes no better than a slightly sweet mud puddle)

The main idea?


Devotion is the core of Japanese cooking.

In Rice, Noodle, Fish, food is the mechanism to get at the process of Japanese cooking and, with this, the book reveals a distinct way of being oriented around the idea of DEVOTION.  Even the author’s dedication points to this:

To the shokunin of Japan, pursuers of perfection, for showing us the true meaning of devotion.

What is a Shokunin?

The concept of shokunin, an artisan deeply and singularly dedicated to his or her craft, is at the core of Japanese culture.  […]

Hiding in every corner of this city and country: the eighty-year-old tempura man who has spent the past six decades discovering the subtle differences yielded by temperature and motion. The twelfth generation unagi sage who uses metal skewers like an acupuncturist uses needles, teasing the muscles of wild eel into new territories. The young man who has grown old at his father’s side, measuring his age in kitchen lessons. Any moment now, it will be his turn to be the master, and when he does, he’ll know exactly what to do. […]

Tokyo is the city of ten thousand shokunin. If you come to Japan to eat, you come for them.

– Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels through Japans Food Culture by Matt Goulding.

Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese Culinary Masters

Accidental Lessons in Parenting (from Japanese culinary masters)

Between mouthwatering reading sessions and fighting the urge to hop on the next flight to Japan, I found myself thinking about the concept of shokunin – DEVOTION – in relationship to how I parent my daughter. Here are a few rules from Japanese culinary masters that also apply to parenting:

1. Parenting with Kimochi, or FEELING

Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese Culinary Masters

The best sushi comes down to feeling. With only two primary ingredients, rice and fish, rice is the harder of the two to master and, therefore, the true star. According to master sushi maker Sawada, sushi rice should be skin temperature, served 60 minutes after cooking, and made with the best rice from the exact right location (a site that recently changed because of global warming). He says there is no fire – it is made with the hands, and enjoyed with ours, sushi is all about feeling.

As with sushi making, there are two primary ingredients in parenting: You need the parent and you need the child. Like turning rice into sushi rice, a lot of parenting decisions are based on FEEL. A child throwing a fit will warrant a different reaction based on the why, the where, and the how. Reacting appropriately gets easier the longer we parent. Having a standard – as Sawada does – helps give parents a baseline for their reactions.

2. Lessons are not learned in isolation

Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese Culinary Masters

Just like the shokunin, it is not enough to tell our children what’s what. We need to stand side by side with our youth, demonstrating by example, guided by a set of principles based on quality and consistency.

Many of us want to tell our children to do something and have them march off and do it. Clean your room! Put away your back pack! Brush your teeth! But the shokunin became masters through repetition at the side of a mentor, or master.  It is sometimes more effective to have a young child brush their teeth at the parent’s side while the parent brushes their own teeth than griping at them from another room. Equally, a young child benefits when we clean their room together – so that, by the time they are old enough to do it themselves, they have positive associations with the experience.

In every instance, children benefit when we model the behavior we want them to cultivate. Many times they absorb the lesson without realizing one has been taught – as when we model loving language towards friends and strangers; as when we let them see us struggle with tough decisions. Side by side, we give our children a framework for how to cope with the many circumstances life throws their way.

Side by side, they get the feel.

3. Learning doesn’t stop at 18

Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese Culinary Masters

Let’s return to the image of the fledgling Japanese chef: “The young man who has grown old at his father’s side, measuring his age in kitchen lessons. Any moment now, it will be his turn to be the master, and when he does, he’ll know exactly what to do.”

Do you see how the chef is already old, and yet he is still not a master? The same is true in the photo above, which mentions that decades of study does not guarantee a master.

I’ve noticed a quickening among the youth around me. I see that they are so eager to get in the workforce and to be valued, both by the dollar and their title. But with this rush comes impatience – as though there is no time for mastery, only success. The parent’s job is to continue teaching, even after their child turns 18. And some of those lessons, I assure, will have been taught many times before. Repetition gets the child to mastery.

4. Don’t try and give your child every opportunity

Accidental lessons in parenting from Japanese Culinary Masters

One of the most important aspects of being a shokunin is the ability to specialize in one thing. The shokunin is an artisan “deeply and singularly dedicated to his or her craft.” You make ramen. Or you make sushi. You forge knives. Or you work buckwheat into soba noodles. The master knows they can never be best at everything so he or she CHOOSES.

So many of our children are driven around from activity to activity, like so many worker bees, moving too quickly to settle into any one activity. But even bees are focused on one thing: making honey. In our fear that our children don’t have every opportunity they become generalists. This is not, in and of itself, a terrible thing. Not everyone in Japan is a master, nor should every person be a master.

But what happens when an entire culture – a.k.a. ALL THE PEOPLE – rely too much on speed and productivity (MORE, MORE, MORE!) and not enough on taking time to develop a deep understanding of their craft?

Automation. Disintegration. That’s what.

I say it’s time to return to artisan ways. To learning something really well, from someone who knows it really well.

And, hey! What if we let our children’s natural abilities guide what activities they choose? Any given season of a young child’s life, let them focus on one, maybe two activities. Fall could be ballet. Spring could be softball and theater. When we limit our children’s options, we give them time to learn at a deeper level.

We also make time for mud pies and impromptu puddle stomping.

5. That means you, too

Let’s return to our sushi master from #1. His desire to offer the best possible sushi leads him to serve only 12 people each day, at a bar that seats six. Get this: he used to seat 8 people, but felt that was too much. He gets up at 6 am and goes home at midnight. All to make sushi.

Sound crazy?

Or does that sort of devotion seem somehow magical?

Here’s something to consider:

Where are you, the parent, spending your hours?
Who are you serving with your time?

Is your job draining your energy? Are you involved with too many groups? Or do you need to get out more, so that you can be refreshed when it comes to the family? Emotionally, you might be trying to “serve 8” and finding that something has to give. Parents are as likely to overexert themselves as their children… so do take the time to remove a couple extraneous “seats” in your life if you find you are overdoing it.

What it all means

Look, I know a book on Japanese food is probably not where you want to get your parenting advice. And I know Matt Goulding had no intention for Rice, Noodle, Fish to be used in this way. Writing this post, I thought, more than once, that I might be crazy.  But I honestly think the premise applies.

Here’s the bottom line:

We can all use a little more devotion in our lives – not to become more devoted to our children, because goodness knows we wouldn’t be shuttling them from activity to activity if we weren’t – but to actually model devotion as a choice to DO LESS with MORE PASSION.

I, for one, am willing to try.

Thanks, Matt.

And thanks to the shokunin for showing the way.

Rice, Noodle, Fish by Matt Goulding

Photos from Rice, Noodle, Fish.

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

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

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.

Fishing hook, bone, Maori culture, 1800-1900. In the exhibition "Maori, their treasures have got a soul", in the Musée des Arts Premiers in Paris, from the end of 2011 to the begining of 2012.

Fishing hook, bone, Maori culture, c.1800-1900.

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.

"New Zealand - Maori rowing - 8452" by © Jorge Royan / Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Maori rowing ceremony in New Zealand” by Jorge Royan

Māui decided to leave this precious prize with his brothers while he set out in search of a priest to bless the catch. No sooner was he out of sight than his brothers began to grab at the fish, each scrambling to get the best parts. Large though it was, the creature was no match for Māui’s brothers. Writhing in agony, the great fish succumbed, tearing at the flesh.

Legend says that the great fish is New Zealand’s north island and that the brothers’ greed created the island’s mountains, valleys, and cliffs (earning the north island the name “Te Ika-a-Māui“, a.k.a. The Fish of Māui). Māui’s canoe became the south island (earning it the name “Te Waka-a-Māui” – the canoe of Māui).

"Satellite image of New Zealand in December 2002" by Unknown - Taken from NASA's Visible Earth: [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

And the spot on the canoe where the young man braced himself?

That’s Banks Peninsula.

 This satellite image shows Banks Peninsula, including Lyttelton Harbour and Akaroa Harbour, and the city of Christchurch, in Canterbury, New Zealand.

My retelling is based on the popular Māori Mythology of Māui.

Our efforts don’t always reap what we might expect.

Can we back up for a minute? Māui went fishing and ended up creating an island. An island!

Few of us dare to think we can effect much change in this world. We eke out our daily existence, eyes firmly focused on the next task: go to work, go to the grocery store, make dinner, clean up, repeat.

But think about Māui: all he did was go fishing. Essentially, he went to the original “grocery store.”  This is quite a normal – dare I say mundane – activity, which makes it all the more important that he reeled in an entire island – a place where people can live and eat and love.

By Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand - On the Quartz Hill track, Wellington, New Zealand, 7 September 2006, CC BY 2.0,

Quartz Hill, North Island, New Zealand, by Phillip Capper.

Tremendous surprise can wait on the other end of the mundane.

The key to this “big fish” story is trapped in the details: Māui used his ancestor’s jawbone and his own blood to catch a fish as big as an island – in other words, he used the strength of his ancestors, while putting himself into the effort with unflinching passion. This is what it takes, my friends.

That’s heavy duty.

A lesson for creatives

"MURCHISON (5374787569)" by Paul Nelhams from Shannon, Ireland - MURCHISONUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Murchison, New Zealand” by Paul Nelhams

Māui’s story reminds me of what Red Smith said when asked about writing: “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” *

While it might seem glorious to write a book, the daily act is rather mundane. It goes like this: show up, stare off into space, and – if you’re lucky – tap, tap, tap at the keyboard until coherent sentences result. Turning this mundane activity into something glorious relies on putting ourselves fully into our work. We have to show up if expect some sort of mythical “big fish” to show up.

The start of something

Maori Fish Salad Recipe

Sometime last summer my daughter asked me to write a book “just for her.” Around that time the ink on my memoir was still wet; as much as I wanted to accommodate my daughter’s wish, I was tired of writing. As a distraction, I started to sketch again (something I hadn’t done much since college). On the first page of my giant, brand new, beautiful sketch book I made… a terrible sketch of a teacup. I moved on but every time I looked at that first page of my sketchbook I’d cringe a little.

One day I was rather bored and decided to improve on the drawing. I added some weird details which, in turn, sparked an idea for a story. After spending more than a year completely uninspired to write another book, this unexpected inspiration was huge.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the writer’s block she experienced after Eat, Pray, Love, stating that she found her way out by “following her curiosity.” Instead of a memoir, she ended up with the massive novel Signature of All Things. In other words, out of the mundane activity of following our curiosity, we can, sometimes, eventually, possibly, pull out a BIG FISH.

Now that I find myself once again curious, once again willing to “show up” and write, I find myself struggling with joy as I reel in my unwieldy story. Every day I sit and stare at the screen. On good days I come up with an exciting plot twist. My daughter has taken to sketching the characters for me, so I can see what they should wear.

Maori Fish Salad Recipe

It’s still early in the game, but the book seems to want to be a fantasy involving good versus evil, otherworldy adventure, with – of course – a helping of delicious food writing.

I don’t exactly know where this story is taking me. I don’t know if it’s just a fun idea or if it will result in a BIG FISH. All I know is, right now, I’m throwing everything into the process and enjoying the challenge.

For your BIG FISH: a meal worthy of Māui

Maori Fish Salad | New Zealand

We all have our challenges. I’m sure there’s something you have been trying to “reel in.” As you work on your BIG FISH, consider trying Ika Mata. Ika Mata is a Māori dish of fresh fish “cooked” with lemon juice and marinated in seasoned coconut milk.

There’s a garden’s-worth of fresh vegetables in the dish, including spicy radish, chopped tomato, sweet slivers of carrot, and bright green onion bits.

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

You can prep them while you wait for the tuna to “cook” in the lemon juice.

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

The dish is most popular on Cook Island (a territory of New Zealand). This is something like ceviche, but with a tropical spin. The tuna’s high protein and rich coconut milk will nourish you while you work (or play).

See how pretty?

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

A little coconut milk binds all the ingredients together.

It’s great on a salad…

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

Or as an appetizer…

Maori Fish Salad and the legend of New Zealand

(Pro Tip: if you don’t have any crostini, a bagel will do the trick in a pinch!)

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

Also: My daughter is a decided vegetarian – she enjoyed her dish by subbing tofu for the tuna. (Hey if tofu ceviche good enough for Ellen Degeneres, it’s good enough for us).

Maori Fish Salad Recipe & the legend of New Zealand's North Island

The cat seems to approve.

Maori Fish Salad and the legend of New Zealand


More Maori Recipes
Maori Cooking Show, including a demonstration of Ika Mata
Māori mythology (of Māui)

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The dish is most popular on Cook Island (a territory of New Zealand). This is something like ceviche, but with a tropical spin. The tuna's high protein and rich coconut milk will nourish you while you work (or play). While I've used tuna here, you can also use grouper or snapper. You can easily make 75 small appetizers on crostini or serve 6 people a good, lunch-sized portion.Ika Mata Fish Salad and the legend of New Zealand
Servings Prep Time
6people 20minutes
Passive Time
Servings Prep Time
6people 20minutes
Passive Time
  1. In a medium nonreactive bowl (glass, ceramic, or melamine): stir together the diced tuna and lemon juice. Set in the fridge for a few hours, stirring once or twice.
  2. When the tuna is "cooked" on the outside and pink on the inside, drain off the lemon juice and add the remaining chopped vegetables and coconut milk. Season well with salt.
Serving Options:
  1. For a meal: Arrange a large scoop onto a bed of lettuce and garnish with parsley. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.
  2. For an appetizer: Heap a small spoonful onto crostini or small appetizer spoons. Garnish with parsley.

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

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

Peace is grace for what you *can't* see // The Widow of an Indian Chief Watching the Arms of Her Deceased Husband. Joseph Wright of Derby (1785)

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.”

Peace is grace for what you *can't* see // There were no crops this year

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. Suddenly, I realized what was wrong: I needed something more than art therapy. I needed a friend. My husband, a.k.a. my bff, was in bed, sick, and I knew he needed rest.

I pulled out my phone, hoping to muster the courage to tell one of my friends that I wanted needed to hang out. I scrolled through dozens of names, making excuses for why they wouldn’t be able to meet me. She’s probably putting the kids to bed. I don’t want him to get the wrong idea. I just hung out with her for the first time last week. They’re out of town. She’s trying to start a business; how could I pull her away from her limited family time? I bet she’s in the middle of dinner.

And on went the excuses, the names blurring together into one big “NO.”

Peace is grace for what you *can't* see // The First Grief (Le Premier Chagrin) by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1892, Brigham Young University Museum of Art

Why is reaching out so hard?

I’ve spent my whole life battling the feeling that I am an inconvenience to others. I decide for my friends that they don’t have time for me, leaving Keith as my primary sounding board. I’m sure a therapist would assert that this is a simple equation, involving the number of foster homes I was in as a child, multiplied by the number of times I felt unconditionally loved in those homes. But I don’t think it’s that simple.

This is not a problem limited to people who’ve been in foster homes. I’ve spoken to many people who confide that they, too, find themselves scrolling through their phones or Facebook, unsure of who to reach out to.

It’s simple, really:

We have a deluge of contacts, but a drought of meaningful connections.

Peace is grace for what you *can't* see // FORSAKEN. FROM THE PICTURE BY JULIUS BENCZUR (19th century)

As I stood there in the marker aisle of that big box craft store, staring at my phone, trying to muster the courage to text a friend, I completely tuned out the world around me. It was then that two men walked up. I didn’t see them. I didn’t hear them. I had no idea any one was near me. I just kept scrolling through my address book.

“Don’t move.” The words were spat out with equal parts anger and sarcasm.

I whipped my head up. One man was pushing another in a wheelchair. My cellphone and I were blocking their path. Mortified, I apologized as earnestly as I could. Neither man looked at me, though one did roll his eyes. They went on their way, deciding, I’m sure, that I was some cellphone obsessed flake with no consideration.

I felt like a jerk. As shame took over, the grief that landed me in the pen aisle in the first place – the grief that I’d worked so hard to “manage” – found the cracks and spilled out. I started crying right there, in front of the black ink pens. It was the last straw on a weird day.

Let me be clear: I am certain those men deal with oblivious people all the time. They have their own inner story, their own daily grind of grief.

So what are we to do with ourselves? With our neighbors?

How can we help when we don’t know the first thing that’s happening with the strangers who cross our paths?

Peace is grace for what you *can't* see // "Sketch of Four Faces - Katsushika Hokusai" by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) - Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 38.154_IMLS_PS3.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Start with grace. You never know what someone is going through.

The person running the red light, the person being rude to a cashier, the person laughing too loudly, the too quiet person, the distant person, the angry person… You just never know. This world is a knotted collection of feelings and if we’re ever going to figure out peace, we’re going to need to figure out compassion for ourselves and others.

And it starts by understanding that we all have something hidden inside, something that motivates us to behave as we do.

Situations escalate when we react impulsively, without stopping to consider the “hidden lives” before us – those stories we can’t comprehend unless someone specifically shares them with us. Certainly, this doesn’t mean people get a free pass to hurt others, but whenever we stumble upon conflict, it helps if we start with an attitude of love and kindness.

A friend of mine once said: be kinder than necessary, you really have no idea what someone is going through.

If ever there’s a secret to peace, that, my friends, is it:

Peace is grace for what we can’t see.

May we all experience such grace.
And may we offer it, without condition and with pure, childlike love.

Peace is grace for what you *can't* see // Jack Rabbit (Shi-Ko-Da) by Grace Carpe

Artwork in order of appearance:

“Widow of an Indian Chief Watching the Arms of Her Deceased Husband.” Joseph Wright of Derby (1785)

“”There Were No Crops This Year” by Charles White (1940)

“The First Grief” (Le Premier Chagrin) by Daniel Ridgway Knight (1892).

“Forsaken.” From the picture by Julius Benczur (19th century)

“Sketch of Four Faces” by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) (~1760-1849)

“Jack Rabbit (Shi-Ko-Da)” by Grace Carpenter Hudson (1919)

Peruvian Quinoa Salad | A gift from the stars

Peruvian Quinoa Salad Recipe

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.

"Peru - Puno - Titicaca Lake - Aimara (Aymara) Village on the water - 19" by World Wide Gifts - Flickr: Peru - Puno - Titicaca Lake - Aimara (Aymara) Village on the water - 19. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“An Aymara Village on Lake Titicaca, Peru.” Photo by World Wide Gifts.

"Atacameños y Aymaras" by A. Bresson - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Atacameños y Aymaras” (1874)

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 from the heavens to frolic on earth.

In those days humans could speak to the stars. But the young man was more concerned with his crops than conversation. Determined to keep the stars-sisters from stealing more potatoes, he rang a bell in warning.

Clang, clang, clang.

The sound shook the still night air, startling the women. They scattered in all directions, one after another, disappearing up, into their heavenly home. But the youngest sister – the brightest, sweetest star of all – tripped and fell. Fearing that the young man would capture her, she turned herself into a bird and flew into the heavens as fast as she could, leaving behind a trail of light.

Milky Way over the Andes (Chile). Photo by El Gran Cazador (

Milky Way over the Andes (Chile). Photo by El Gran Cazador.

Entranced by this vision, the young man forgot about his potatoes; his only thought was to set eyes on the remarkable star-sister again. He immediately set off on a mountain trail in search of a condor to help him. This great bird is the largest flying bird in South America. The young man hoped it would carry him up, beyond the sky, through the Karman line at the edge of earth’s atmosphere, into space.

And this is exactly what the bird did.

By The NASA Expedition 23 crew - NASA Earth Observatory, Public Domain,

View of the Andes highlands (this section in Chile). By NASA Expedition 23 / NASA Earth Observatory.

The condor flew the young man along the trail of light to the young star’s heavenly home, where the star and young man became fast friends. It wasn’t long before their friendship became bound by great love and the two were married. For many moons the young couple lived together in the sky. Day after day the star fed him her most prized food – quinoa – as a symbol of her love. The young man’s body was strengthened by the seed’s abundant protein, vitamins and amino acids.

All was well. But as much as he loved his wife and new home, the young man yearned to see his family again. So, his bride sent him home for a visit on the back of the condor, with a gift of quinoa for his people.

On his journey home, the young man scattered the seed in Andean highlands, where the superfood still grows today. Quinoa remains the pride of the Andes and much of South American cooking.

A true gift from the stars.

I based the above adaptation on “El Origen de la Quinoa” (narrated by Gregorio Ordona). A copy of the original video is included below. This is one of many Peruvian legends about quinoa.

"Nevadohuandoy" by Clarquitecto - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Huandoy Mountain, Peru.” by Clarquitecto.

Original Legend of Quinoa

The star of the dinner table

Recipe for South American Quinoa Salad

After years of watching me take pictures of food, my 6 1/2 year old daughter, Ava, is now showing an interest in the behind-the-scenes process. So I shared the Legend of Quinoa her, then invited her to help me style a simple Peruvian quinoa salad. She had so much fun. She drew stars on yellow paper, cut them out, and scattered them around the food. After the food was set up to her liking, I taught her to frame a photo (on the tripod), manually get focus, and – finally – to take the photo.

Could I have taken the photos quicker by myself?


If she hadn’t been there, would the lens have gotten a smudge on it, creating a soft blur to many of the photos, rendering them unusable?


But if I hadn’t invited Ava to join me the photos – and the experience – would have lost their magic. This experience was as much for her as for me… we laughed as she directed me to take bites, move in or out of frame.


This was creativity in action. A bonding experience for mother and daughter.

And guess what?

In between photos Ava took enormous bites of the Quinoa Salad.

She LOVED it.

Recipe for Peruvian Quinoa Salad

Even though she currently dislikes tomatoes.

Recipe for Peruvian Quinoa Salad

Even though she wants nothing to do with an olive.

Recipe for Peruvian Quinoa Salad

She. Loved. It.

Peruvian Quinoa Salad Recipe

It’s simple, really: Involving children in the cooking, in the art of food – it gets them excited about trying new things.  When you let your children have a starring role in the process, mealtime becomes better for all.


Every day Peruvian Quinoa Salad

What if you could eat a salad as good as gold, even on a weeknight? Quinoa (pronounced “Keen-wah”) is known as the gold of the Andean highlands. The seed earned this nickname because of the dense nutrition it provides:

According to the FAO, quinoa it is the only plant crop to contain all the essential amino acids, vitamins, mineral nutrients, and, furthermore, it doesn’t contain gluten. (World Bank)

If you can cook rice, you can cook Quinoa… and putting it in your salad is the next logical step.

Recipe for Peruvian Quinoa Salad

This Peruvian Quinoa Salad comes together in less than thirty minutes and eats a bit like loaded tabbouleh (according to my husband, formerly known as Mr. Picky, who never used to eat salad, but gobbled this one down readily).

Quinoa has a slightly earthier flavor than bulgur (and unrinsed quinoa can even be mildly bitter). It also requires a brief stint on the stove – about fifteen minutes of cooking. But, thanks to the tart squeeze of lime, mild queso fresco, and the salsaesque-flair of tomato and cilantro …  well, there’s no doubt this Quinoa Salad is South American.

I’m talkin’ BIG flavor.

Recipe for Peruvian Quinoa Salad

Salt is the key to making the lime juice “dressing” pop – think of how much a salted rim makes a margarita sing… that’s what you’re looking for with this salad.

Take it on a picnic, pack it in a lunch, or just eat it straight from the fridge with a spoon.

As for the fancier among you, perhaps you’d like to serve it in, or with, an avocado half.


Recipe for Peruvian Quinoa Salad

Sources & Materials

Quinoa: a “Superfood” enriching the lives of Andean farmers (World Bank)
Recipe inspiration (among others): Peruvian Quinoa Salad (Sosopie)
The Legend of Quinoa (video)

*The Aymara people lived predominantly in the Andes throughout Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. For this reason I’ve used photos of the Andes in multiple countries. All are clearly marked.

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If Quinoa is a gift from the stars, then this salad is your ticket to celestial joy! You can eat it as soon as it's mixed up, but 30 minutes gives the salad time to mingle and get happy. Peruvian Quinoa Salad
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 15minutes
Cook Time
For the quinoa
  • 1cup quinoa
  • 2cups water
  • 1/2tsp salt
For the salad
Garnish & Accompaniments
For the Quinoa
  1. Toast the quinoa in a small, dry pot for five minutes over medium heat, until fragrant. Add water and a half teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa becomes translucent, uncoils and resembles tiny edible commas. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
For the salad
  1. Meanwhile, chop your way through a happy pile of vegetables.
  2. Toss everything in a medium bowl. Season liberally with salt - the lime juice will seem overly sour until the salad is seasoned properly. I used about a teaspoon - just add a little at a time until you like it. Garnish with olives and cilantro, as desired. Serve in (or with) avocado halves.

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

What my baby thinks about eating the world

Ava's first food

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 whole foods. And since babies all over the world eat a variety of flavors – no reason for my food to be bland. Since Mama is starting with Afghanistan, my first meal will be Kabeli Palau – Mama says I can gum some soft bits of chicken!

What my baby thinks of cooking the world

If you can’t stand the heat, your mom can help.

If grownups want to eat spicy food they can have ready a glass of milk, some yogurt, or a slice of bread – all of which help block the burning effects of capsicum. But what about for a baby? Well, I’m 11-months old and Mama just found out that, in Bhutan, moms give their babies spicy food without much worry. This is a country that cooks and serves chili peppers as a dish, just like my mom might serve up steamed carrots! Imagine eating an entire bowl of hot chili peppers!

The key, she learned, was that moms in Bhutan share with their babies… perhaps not a bowl of chili peppers, but any number of mild ingredients cooked in a spicy sauce. They’ll wipe off the sauce in their own mouth for baby. Inevitably, some of the sauce’s heat and flavor sticks around – but is generally much milder. Over time, they wipe off less and less sauce. Eventually, babies work up to eating the bowls of cooked spicy chilies. Mama took it easy with me this time but says she’s going to use this method as I grow bigger!

Parents don’t know it all!

So Mama and Papa were all gung-ho about cooking the world, but last night they made a rice dish with fermented locust beans, spinach, and anchovies called Babenda from Burkina Faso. I’m just 13-months old but I ate loads more than they did. It was fishy, tasted like blue cheese and was loaded with greens – I’d totally eat it again! I guess older people become more set in their ways when it comes to trying bold flavors??? My pediatrician says babies are completely open-minded – we’ll try anything! I guess I’m a good influence on them!

For more videos of little Ava trying food from around the world, go to our YouTube Channel (keep in mind Ava gets younger the further back in the feed you go)! Enjoy – and happy cooking!

What really matters to authors

Life from scratch book signings

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.

Life from Scratch book signings with Booksmart Tulsa

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 it has changed my view on fostering. The experiences you went through (the other side of the coin) has made me want to love these kids so much more. Bringing kids into the home, I, like Patricia, wanted to keep them at arms length. I didn’t want to bring them into my love circle because I knew they would eventually leave and I would get hurt. Your book is so inspiring and has truly changed me as a momma (2biokids 3fosterbabies). I also love being in the kitchen so the book has inspired me to get in the kitchen as well. God has given you such an amazing testimony with your life story. I’m blessed to have been a recipient of the book. – Elizabeth B.

and this:

While I have not encountered nearly the heartache you have experienced, I do know adversity. And I know that thru it, you can either whither away in self-pity, or you can look at life thru a different set of lenses than those who have not shared those difficult times. It has become a part of who I am, each and every day. Whether it be at work, in my neighborhood, or in my travels, I let my heart tell me to embrace each and every moment as a gift. You clearly demonstrate that same passion, and perhaps that is what touched me so deeply when listening to your story. Continue to cherish the simple things that make life so very special. Thank you for your wonderful story, I will tuck it away in my treasure of memories of what makes life important. – Jody Z.

and this:

Well. I have loved loved your book on all the levels it should be enjoyed – humour, honesty, intrigue, creativity, self reflection, cooking, love, struggle, acceptance AND may I say only one other book has ever sat me bolt upright with a punch to the heart – a wholly unexpected sudden shocking complete understanding of the grief & mess in my heart PLUS a way through . Thank you Sasha for writing this book. I hope you don’t mind knowing I have a page of your book taped to my bedroom wall. P. 114 [hardcover] – Catherine S.

These letters I’ve received? This is the magic that fuels authors. This is what makes us content with our craft. There will never be a sales statistic that moves me like the words above.

You are why I do what I do. Your big hearts astonish me. Helping you, helping others – it’s all a glorious gift… and if my story can be the catalyst to such conversation and change, I am honored, humbled, and grateful.

Life from Scratch comes out in paperback this week…

… which means I’m headed out for another round of signings to celebrate! I can’t wait to come out and meet you… give you hugs, hear your stories.



Wednesday  March 2 |  11:30am – 2:00pm | CHICAGO

Lake Forest Book Store @ The Grille on Laurel, 181 E. Laurel Ave. Lake Forest, IL 60045

Ticketed Luncheon, talk & signing. Tickets are $45.00 for luncheon with book included. Register at Lake Forest Book Store at 847-234-4420

Tuesday March 8 |  7:00 pm | SAN FRANCISCO

Book Passage51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA 94925

Talk, Q&A, and signing.

Vegetable Biryani for my “Rickshaw Girl”

Vegetable Biriyani Recipe

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

"Dhaka banner" by Zac Hinton - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Rickshaws in Dhaka” by Zac Hinton.

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.

"Rickshaw in Sonargaon" by Nafis Kamal - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Rickshaw in Sonargaon” by Nafis Kamal.

When the girl’s family shares a platter of biryani on International Mother Language Day (February 21 – “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by people of the world”) I thought how fun – bringing biryani into our kitchen is the perfect way to bring Rickshaw Girl to life for my daughter… and extend the book discussion to the dinner table.

I went into the process with little preparation or experience (unless you count the dozens of rice dishes from around the world we tried – but many of those were quite simple). After the first failure, wherein my kitchen was inundated with dirty dishes, spills, and questionable scraps, I struggled with whether to try making biryani again.

Tasting the dish was all the courage I needed.

This recipe is full of bold spice, tender vegetables, and feather-light grains of basmati rice

Taking inspiration from Rickshaw Girl herself, I reminded myself that not everything that’s good is easy. Plus, my family loved the dish – even eating with their hands, in the traditional manner.

Enjoying a vegetalble Biriyani

After some practice and streamlining, I came up with a recipe I’m thrilled to add to our meal rotation. So, without further ado…

Here’s how to make Biryani without losing your mind:

1. Plan (& prep) ahead

Homemade Biriyani recipe

Do not – I repeat – do not attempt biryani if you haven’t prepped your food ahead of time. I watched dozens of people make biryani over the years and the only ones not breaking a sweat were the ones who had nice little bowls with all their ingredients laid out in  front of them. In cooking school we called this mise-en-place, or everything in its place. It can take a good thirty minutes to cut and organize each ingredient… but I promise you this is time well-spent.

2. Take your time

How to make vegetable biriyani (recipe)

Cooking isn’t fun if the process is rushed, especially if you’re trying a recipe for the first time. I consider biryani one of our “Weekend Projects” — I’d recommend setting aside an afternoon to make it when you have nowhere in particular to be.

Put on some tunes, tie on your favorite apron, sip a little wine and hunker down for an afternoon in the kitchen with no other distractions.

You’ll be glad to have the music and wine while you’re browning your vegetables and caramelizing your onion. That step alone cannot be rushed – if you do, the fact-of-the-matter is your dish will lack depth of flavor.

3. Make your rice nice

Homemade Vegetable Biriyani recipe

A good biryani is all about the rice. Long grain basmati rice is necessary; it should be washed and parboiled before steaming among the vegetables. These extra steps will make the grains light, fluffy, and distinct, instead of heavy, mushy, and clumped together. While it might seem like a lot of work, the results are well-worth it.

4. Add flavor in layers (but use one pot)

How to make Vegetable Biryani

Taking the time to prepare each layer of flavor gives great dimension to the finished biryani. First, in goes the spices and aromatics. Then, some yogurt for creaminess.

Vegetable Biryani recipe

Finally you’ll toss it with those veggies you browned.


Can you smell that amazing aroma through your screen!? Yum.

Each of these steps adds BIG flavor to the finished dish.

Also: I borrowed a trick from a famous biryani chain in Bangladesh, Fakruddin – After I make my vegetable curry, I add the rice in one thick layer on top of the vegetables to steam, only tossing it after cooking. This is a little less fussy and comes out just as good as if you’d alternated layers.

5. Finishing touches

Recipe for Vegetable Biryani

The best biryanis really are like well-orchestrated fireworks displays – but instead of exploding in the sky, they light up your taste buds. You’ll find sweet notes thanks to a handful of raisins and caramelized onion. There’s a hefty crunch of slivered almonds. And all those deeply browned vegetables are balanced out by a few freshly torn cilantro leaves. You could switch from almond to cashew, from raisins to prunes, and from cilantro to mint, but whatever you do, don’t skimp or your biryani display will be lackluster.

Most important of all? Have fun cooking and eating with the spirit of discovery!

Tools & Resources:

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
International Mother Language Day: 1, 2
Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Biryani-making video from Fakruddin (starts around 9 min)

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Packed with flavor, vegetable biryani is well-worth the effort. Set aside an afternoon the first time you attempt the recipe and don't do anything before you cut up and measure out the ingredients. Trust me. It'll save you a minor breakdown if this is your first time making biryani. Note - if your pot's lid doesn't seal perfectly, as with a Le Creuset, you will lose too much moisture for this recipe to work properly. To remedy this press aluminum foil onto the pot before covering OR seal the lid onto the pot with a piece of dough made with flour and water (this latter is the traditional method).Vegetable Biryani
Servings Prep Time
6-8people 45minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
90minutes 30minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8people 45minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
90minutes 30minutes
Basmati Rice
Masala, a.k.a. spice mixture
For assembly
  1. Peel, slice, and prep all ingredients. To make things easier, set them out in small dishes, ready to go.
Soak the rice:
  1. Wash the basmati rice under cool water until the liquid is no longer cloudy. Soak in a bowl of clean, cool water for 30 minutes (this can soak while you prepare the vegetable masala). This step helps keep the rice from getting sticky. While the rice is soaking, put on 6 cups of water in a pot along with the whole spices and salt. Cover and gently bring to a simmer (there's no rush here, but it speeds up getting the water to a boil later, and it helps the spices infuse the water).
  2. Keep prepping the rest of the recipe as written below - whenever the 30-minute timer goes off, follow these steps to parcook the rice: Crank the heat up on the simmering pot of water to a full boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pot. Gently boil for 5 minutes. The rice needs to have a little raw bite in the center or it will be mushy at the end! Strain the rice and spread in a very large platter to stop the cooking (I just use the serving platter).
Fry the garnish & brown vegetables:
  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot with well fitting lid (you'll use that later), heat ghee and fry the sliced onion until deep brown over medium-high. Stir often to keep from burning. When done, remove with slotted spoon onto a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside. Season with salt.
  2. Fry the potatoes, cauliflower and carrot in the remaining ghee until browned on all sides (watch for splatters when adding them to the pot). Stir once to coat everything with the ghee, then only stir occasionally or you'll get in the way of browning. This can take a good 10-15 minutes. Season with salt, remove and set aside.
Fry the vegetable masala:
  1. To the same pot with the remaining ghee, fry the second onion (minced) along with the tomato over medium high until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, sliced green chili peppers, and the spices (red chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground turmeric). Stir until well combined and fragrant. Cool slightly, then stir in the yogurt. Add the chopped vegetables and stir to coat in the masala. Season with salt as desired.
Layer the biryani:
  1. This is the last cooking step! Scatter the raisins on top of the vegetables, then spoon on the parcooked rice (Remove the whole spices from the rice if desired). Smooth the surface and drizzle with rose water. Drizzle on the melted ghee if you want a more indulgent biryani (I usually skip it). Cover and cook over low/medium-low for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. (To help prevent excessive browning of the ingredients on the bottom of the pot, you can put a comal between the pot and flame*).
To serve:
  1. Taste the rice to make sure it is cooked to your liking. Tip onto a large family-style platter, stirring gently to combine all ingredients as you go. Top with reserved fried onion, slivered almonds, and cilantro.
  2. Enjoy the fireworks of flavor!
Recipe Notes

*A comal is a flat piece of cookware typically used to make tortillas etc - placing it between the pot and the heat source keeps thinner pots from scorching the bottom of the food. A comal is *not* nonstick (you never want to heat up nonstick cookware without food in it - the fumes can be toxic). I don't typically use one because my pot is so heavy-bottomed and I don't mind some browned bits.


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