Lovely having friends drop in

Deborah Jian Lee stopped by on Thanksgiving to pick up her copy of Feast. I like the Thanksgiving open house thing — I think we’re going to lean more in that direction in the future, if we continue to celebrate the holiday. Lovely having friends just drop in. Even better if they walk away with books. 🙂

Flash Sale for Small Business Saturday

Flash sale for Small Business Saturday! $5+ off books, and I’m offering soaps and other bath products too! While supplies last — I’ll update on the pics and here as we sell out. I probably won’t do another of these this year, so if you’re looking for holiday gifts by me, today is your day.

Post in the comments of this Facebook post https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10160197150974616 with your order, and I’ll confirm and PM with payment details (I can take credit cards through PayPal).

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BOOKS ON SALE!

A Feast of Serendib, $35 hardcover, $20 paperback (no photos), $8 ebook (PDF, Nook, Kindle)
Bodies in Motion, $15 hardcover
Perennial, $7
The Stars Change, $7

(happy to sign / personalize books — please note if desired!)

SERENDIB PRESS:
Feast postcards: $5 (set of 6 assorted), $9 (set of 12 assorted)

SERENDIB HOME BATH:

For all of these, specify which varieties you want, and I’ll let you know if I still have enough.  If you’re flexible, note that too! See pics for names and details (will take me a minute to get them all up).

Soaps: $5 each
Soap Sampler: $20 for 5
Lip Balm: $3
Bath Salts: $8
Bath Salt Minis: $2
Body Butter: $18

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Shipping & handling: (varies, but generally $8-14 in the U.S.; I can calculate for elsewhere)

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#serendibhome
#serendibkitchen

Sri Lankan party prep question

Sri Lankan peeps, quick question. How far in advance do you think I can make the following (as I try to be reasonable about party prep for our Christmas tea, which is in two weeks):

– rolls, cutlets, patties: my understanding is that I could make them this week, all the way to breading, and then freeze, so I just have to take them out the night before the party and then fry. Is that right?

– same for vadai and prawn vadai?

– how about Scotch eggs?

– stuffed prawns?

– ribbon sandwiches — the fillings will keep frozen for months, right? (I have some from the last time I made these). I can thaw the day before, assemble sandwiches, and then layer them in foil trays with wet paper towels and refrigerate overnight? To take out and trim off edges and cut into triangles just before serving?

– caramel pudding — can I make this and keep it in the downstairs fridge for two weeks? Is that too long?

– mango pudding — same question!

– milk toffee I think keeps forever

– marshmallows freeze fine, although I think since we’re only two weeks out, I can make them, store in the fridge in an air-tight container and they should be fine?

– any other fabulous short eats / desserts you think I’m missing?

(Please comment at https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10160192939799616)

Thoughts about yesterday

I hope everyone reading this had a good day yesterday, whether you were celebrating Thanksgiving or not. We almost didn’t celebrate — I waffled until fairly late about whether we’d be doing it at all, in part because I was just so busy / tired, I wasn’t sure I could pull off the big meal. And in part because I am increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of ignoring the history of this holiday.

But you know, for Christmas, we’ve taken to doing an explicitly post-colonial Christmas tea, where I serve my favorite British foods (trifle, fruitcake, etc.) alongside Sri Lankan ‘short eats’ – as someone who is now making part of my living from Sri Lankan food culture, it’s impossible to ignore the culinary effects of waves of colonization on my little island. It seems better to acknowledge that sometimes bloody history, and to reflect on it.

So for Thanksgiving yesterday, we did have turkey and stuffing and all the trimmings, but when we sat down to eat, we opened with a deliberate conversation about whether we should celebrate this holiday at all.

At first the kids said yes, of course, but then we asked them how they’d feel if they had a Native American friend who found Thanksgiving sad, because it was a reminder of how their people had been killed and brutalized. Our kids are at least familiar with that part of the story already — their schools have been doing a much better job with that in recent years, which made it easier — we didn’t have to be the ones puncturing a rosy bubble. We asked if they want to celebrate Thanksgiving again next year.

Kavi and Anand aren’t sure, so we’ll revisit the question next year when it’s time. And maybe that means we’ll revisit it every year, going forward, or maybe that means at some point we’ll just stop. We love the food, but we can have turkey and stuffing some other day. Maybe we’ll start making Indigenous Peoples’ Day a big family and friends holiday down the road, because we do want and need reasons to come together in fellowship and community. We’ll see.

But for me, yesterday’s highlights included:

• that conversation, and a later one about various philosophical questions, such as determinism vs. free will — Anand is VERY anti-deterministic, and Kavi is surprisingly okay with it. Anand and Kavya have been watching The Good Place, and Anand is particularly interested in all the philosophical aspects; he loves debating them. Kavi doesn’t like Kantian philosophy at all (sorry, Jed, as I think your personal philosophy is closer to that, but as we told them, they should wait and discuss it with you over Christmas, as we can’t whole-heartedly present the arguments) — Kavi’s more of a utilitarian, or possibly closer to my own chaotic good alignment — the fine points are still to be determined…

• realizing I could turn over much of the meal planning and cooking to Kevin and Kavya and it would come out just fine (hooray for better divisions of domestic labor, and for giving up a little control in exchange for some much-needed rest)

• Karen stopping by beforehand with her kids, bearing many treats to share, and insisting on helping me pack up books and clear the table, which I’d sort of been dreading and avoiding; she even organized all the kids to break down a big stack of recycling in the kitchen and take it out!

• having Cee Gee join us for dinner with her friend Kendra, and having them give Kavi little art lessons after dinner; they’re both artists (painter and jeweler), and it was a joy watching Kavi show off her artwork to their compliments, and having them teach her some new techniques

• teaching both of them Lanterns — it was particularly fun introducing them to a cool art-themed game, esp. since they’re not familiar with the newer generation of board games; I’m thinking Sagrada next time, but also, I need to teach Cee Gee Forbidden Island, because her little ones are just old enough to play it, and there’s about to be a world of awesome gaming opening up to them — Catan Jr. and Kid Carcassone after that, and a year or two later, Machi Koro, etc….

The toughest moment of the day was when Anand misunderstood something a guest said, and got very upset; he tried to hold it together, but he also had a toothache (probably a cavity, we’ll have to take him in), and that combined with general holiday excitement meant that he just eventually lost it, and had to leave the table for a while to calm down.

Funniest / most awful moment was when we were trying to sort out the disagreement when he came back to the table, and it wasn’t working, and he was clearly still angry and our guest was upset, and I said, “Well, it certainly feels like Thanksgiving now!” And I probably shouldn’t have said it, because while we all cracked up, Anand didn’t appreciate the humor. In my defense, I was tired!

I managed to explain it to him later, though, that Thanksgiving is notorious for family blow-ups, because you bring a lot of people in close contact and even though they care about each other, there’s cooking pressure and lack of sleep / tiredness and also just time to say things that you’ve maybe wanted to say for a while and were holding back, and so people are sometimes not so nice to each other.

His tearful response: “I DEFINITELY don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving again!” But Anand did calm down eventually, and was able to laugh and have fun later, and today we’re going to make the pumpkin pie we didn’t have time to make yesterday, so he’s excited about that. As I said, we’ll revisit the Thanksgiving question next year.

In general, though, the holiday gave me a structure that helped me slow down and step away from the computer and intense labor – as you can see, while we managed with Karen and Carly’s help to clear off the table enough to set it, my dining room is still colonized by many boxes of Feast order paraphernalia. Getting there!

But I spent more time relaxing with friends and family yesterday than I have in quite a while. I really needed that, so for that at least, I’m thankful.

Decolonizing division of labor

I was about to launch into all the cooking for today, but I’m still very tired after all the Feast, etc. work, so I sat down on the couch. And then Kavi came by, and I realized that I didn’t HAVE to track it all myself. So I messaged Kevin a list of what needed to be done, and I made a to-do list with Kavi, which she has stuck on the fridge.

Now Kevin is doing a 3-hr quick-brine on the turkey (because I was too tired to set it brining last night), and Kavi is trimming green beans, and I’m going to post a vegetarian stuffing recipe (mushroom-cashew cornbread) from this lovely couch. Much better division of labor, both physical and mental.

Sometimes what you have to decolonize first is your own brain.

While Kevin brines the turkey, I’m sitting on the couch calling instructions to Kavi. “Okay, put the bag of potatoes in the pot…”

And then she does this.

Cooking lessons may take a while…

(This is actually more of an issue when trying to teach Anand anything, because he would rather be funny than learn things. It can make math homework take a long time, but when you try to rush it and keep him from making jokes, he gets cranky. I had no idea how much patience parenting would take. But also I had no idea how funny my kids would be. They make me laugh all the time.)

Seattle/Clarion question

Help! Seattle / Clarion / MLA questions at the end of this!

I was super-stressed trying to figure out how I could attend SALA because it happens after MLA and MLA is late this year, which means SALA would’ve been on the first day of classes, and even if I could find a colleague willing to sub for me, I’d really HATE to miss the first day of classes. I just didn’t think I could do it, which was a real shame, because SALA is great. (https://www.southasianliteraryassociation.org)

(Although I’m a little confused that I can’t seem to find the actual program for it — maybe it’s not up yet? Is Hamara Mushaira happening again? Which evening, if so? And maybe I could bring cookbooks to sell on consignment in the book room…)

But anyway, last night I FINALLY went to look at the actual calendar with Kevin to figure out travel plans, and it turns out that they cleverly put SALA *before* MLA this year. Undoubtedly to avoid this very issue. So now I will jump on actually booking my plane tickets and hotel before they get outrageously expensive.

All that said, my MLA panel (“Sri Lankan American Women’s Writing—Contemporary Investments and Future Directions”) is Thursday evening. If I come for SALA, then that’s three nights of hotel, assuming I leave on Friday. I have a *lot* of travel that I’m supposed to do in 2020, given book tour, including possibly two international trips, and really not enough money to do it all, even with department funding and Jed helping, so I’m trying to be efficient and save money wherever possible. So questions:

– MLA-attending friends, is there anything Friday evening, Saturday, or Sunday that you think is worth my staying an extra night for? Joint readings, fabulous speakers, grad school classmate events, etc.? (Mostly, my grad school classmates do AWP rather than MLA, but just checking.)

– Seattle peeps, any suggestions for a Feast-related event I should do while I’m out there? The cookbook won’t be officially out yet, but I can bring copies to sell on consignment at bookstores, or other venues, and I have some Sri Lankan academic / writer friends who are willing to be on a panel with me, so we could in theory put together a really cool discussion of Sri Lankan history / food / etc. And I can even bring Sri Lankan treats to share, or teach a cooking class…

– Clarion peeps, ditto? (Also, I’m getting too old and back-creaky to couch-surf, but if someone I know in Seattle has an actual guest bed on offer, that might be very helpful, depending on location…)

Filipino Kamayan pop-up dinner

Was v. cool going to the Filipino Kamayan pop-up dinner event on Thursday. I think my favorite was the fried flounder (excellent!), though I also really enjoyed the pancit noodles, the garlic shrimp, and the halo-halo bar, which I hadn’t tried before. Ube flan! Coolness.

Funniest POC moment was at the end of the meal, when the Asian woman sitting across from me gestured at the other table, where there were still big mounds of rice, and compared it to our section, which was a gorgeous devastation (see final photo). She and I agreed that there were likely white people sitting over there, who didn’t understand how much better our food is when you combine it properly with rice.

They just have to come eat it more often; they’ll learn. Or maybe they won’t — Kevin still prefers way less rice with his curries than I do, 25+ years into this relationship, even though he’s probably eating rice and curry every week. (It’s a phrase, you know. ‘rice and curry’. The two go together, like ‘peanut butter and jelly’ or ‘green eggs and ham’).

Maybe some things are just bred in the bone, or inculcated in childhood, at least. Hm. (Make note to self: food essay about rice + curry? Can also address low-carb thing and gluten-free thing…)

When I wasn’t greedily devouring deliciousness (pig & fire cater, if anyone local needs holiday party help), I was thinking about how I would do a similar kind of pop-up dinner event for Feast after it launches officially in March. (I am envious of the ease of clean-up with the rolled up banana leaves!)

It may be time for me to investigate the food certification course that the state of IL does, so I can get a more serious food license, and talk to Carnivore up the street about renting out their commercial kitchen on occasion (they said they were open to it, and there are a lot of hours they’re not using it). Time to take this food thing up a notch, maybe? Hmm…

#serendibkitchen

“Amma’s Kitchen” Soap

Various people were over for board games yesterday (we played Steampunk Munchkin, fun variation, also a few rounds of Code Names, reliably excellent), and some of them bought cookbooks and I threw in some soap (the benefit of coming by my house to buy your copy of Feast is that you get to pick a bath item to go with it from whatever I have on hand).

Katy looked at all the floral, sandalwood, etc. soap and said she really just wanted a soap that smelled like curry powder, so she could smell like curry powder.

And this isn’t exactly curry powder scent (do people really want that? I mean, I could do it, but Katy may be the only person I know who actually wants to smell like curry powder?), but I *had* made “Amma’s Kitchen” soap, and she was happy to take that!

It was fun coming up with the scent composition: it’s cinnamon, clove, ginger, pepper, and lime. I quite like it — the lime is predominant (I think scent people call that the ‘top note’? maybe?), so it’s a citrus soap, but with an underlying complexity of spice. Mmm….

I made sure to put in lots of sparkly mica (a combo of Moroccan Sands and Gold Dust), because, as you know, Amma’s Kitchen is pure magic. 

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