Heavily scheduled day at the con today

Aw, just read Debbie Notkin’s appreciation of me for the #FogCon program book, and it is the SWEETEST. I’m not sure if they have a digital edition I can link to, but I will at least take a photo of it and put it up when I have a moment to breathe.

It’s a heavily scheduled day at the con today, but I set out pretty well fortified, with my coffee in hand and all my geek accoutrements: Constellation shirt, check. Constellation backpack, check. Constellation notebook, check. My shoes don’t have constellations on them, but they are cheerful and colorful and feel on brand anyway. And yesterday I picked up a launch day present for myself for myself, these awesome silver rocket ship earrings. I’m extra geeky today!

Gorgeous earrings by Spring Schoenhuth of Springtime Creations. Her selections of rocket ships, astronauts and other geeky (and classy) silver jewelry is really lovely — she also has gorgeous Dr. Who, Firefly, etc. themed pieces. I ALSO picked up a pair of charming silver elephants for Feast in particular. Expect to see me rocking them at some book launch events.


– make some notes on what I want to discuss for my panel on non-profit organizing (and also probably running for office) after the banquet
– figure out what I’m reading for my reading @ 3
– do some addendums to Jump Space RPG that we’ll be play-testing over dinner

20 minutes before lunch. I can cram that all in, right? Okay, the third one might have to wait until after my reading; there’s a little break before we actually gather to play Jump Space. But I can get the other two done. If I don’t get distracted checking my Amazon numbers…


One nice thing about being heavily scheduled at a convention during my launch weekend is that I don’t have time to obsessively refresh Amazon every five minutes!

Another extra-nice thing is all the warm fuzzies from people (friends but also friendly strangers) being enthusiastic about the book. I would definitely launch a book at a convention again, even though it’s a little hectic and chaotic trying to do two things at once. It’s just so much warmer and more reassuring than sitting along at home in my office, staring at the screen wondering if anyone will actually buy the book.

Especially if you’re at a lovely, warm, intimate convention like FogCon, full of the best people having the most interesting conversations. I just finished my panel on archives and it was SO GOOD; we could have talked about all the issues we raised there for 2-3 more hours, easily.

[Sidebar for minor ADD note: This is the first convention where I’ve carried around a little notebook and pen so I can make notes while panelling, and I’m finding it SO helpful. It’s helping me keep my thoughts on track and relevant to the panel, I feel the urge to interrupt the other panelists less — sometimes the things I write down come up at a different point, sometimes not, and that’s okay — and I might even get some essays out of some of these notes down the line.

I wish someone had been able to explain to me in high school that note-taking would actually be REALLY USEFUL to me down the line. I try to communicate it to my college students, but I’m not sure how successful I am. I didn’t really even start learning how to study properly until I was 30; I just kind of coasted on being bright and doing all the reading and being able to follow the conversation easily, but there was a whole level of depth that I was missing for years and years. Oh well. We learn, we grow, we evolve, right?]

Okay, onwards.


Feast numbers on Amazon

Just in case you want to obsessively follow along numbers with me, Feast is currently up to #13 in the category of Indian Cooking, Food, and Wine. (#1 in New Releases in that category, woot!) I’m not sure how likely it is to climb higher ( I think Jed said that it was briefly at #10, but maybe has dipped down again?), but it is fun and exciting nonetheless.

Buying book editions, question for y’all.

Reading / buying books question for y’all. Harriet Culver, one of my Kickstarter backers, noted that she was feeling bad that she couldn’t buy the book on launch day because she already had a copy (which is goofy to feel guilty about but I love her for it), and then she realized she could buy the ebook on launch day, boosting it in the rankings, so she did that, and she says that she’ll even use it more, since her household is more likely to use a digital device in the kitchen. (I don’t even know Harriet, but clearly all writers should have friends and readers like her!)

But all that made me realize that I feel a little bad making people buy two editions. Hm. Will have to think this through a little. Stephanie is out of town this weekend, but when she gets back, I think she and I will talk about this with Heather. I sort of think if you buy the hardcover, I’d like you to also be able to get a copy of the ebook for personal use for a nominal extra fee — maybe $5 more or some such.

What do writer / publisher / reader people think?

I wish publishers did that kind of thing generally — if I buy a print edition of a book, have the option of also getting the Kindle edition for $5 more? I think I’d choose that a lot, esp. since I prefer print for having in my office to loan out to students, and for reading relaxedly in the house, or for taking to the beach, and I prefer Kindle for travel (and having a copy always on hand for teaching), but I can rarely convince myself to pay full price for two separate formats.


(Art print design by porcodiseno.)


All the cookbook ordering details

I was asked to make a public post with all the cookbook ordering details (instead of just putting them in a comment), so here it is.


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

A Feast of Serendib launched officially March 6, 2020, and we hope it’ll be widely available in bookstores and libraries. You can request it now from your local bookstore or library! Please do! It’s also available on Amazon US, UK, and Canada; you can order it now online.

978-1-64543-275-3 Hardcover (distributed by Ingram)
978-1-64543-377-4 ebook (on Amazon, etc.)
2370000696366 (trade paperback; only available directly from me, at Serendib Kitchen site; you can also buy the hardcover or ebook there)

2) REVIEW OR BUY IT HERE (reviews are hugely helpful in boosting visibility!):


Barnes & Noble


3) JOIN THE COOKBOOK CLUB: If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: https://www.patreon.com/mohanraj. For $10 / month, you can subscribe for fabulous treats mailed to you! (US-only).

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

5) PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY starred review: “Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), a literature professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, introduces readers to the comforting cuisine of Sri Lanka in this illuminating collection of more than 100 recipes. Waves of immigration from China, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal influenced the unique cuisine of Sri Lanka, Mohanraj writes, as evidenced by such dishes as Chinese rolls (a take on classic egg rolls in the form of stuffed crepes that are breaded and fried); fish cutlets (a culinary cousin of Dutch bitterballen fried croquettes); and E
nglish tea sandwiches (filled here with beets, spinach, and carrots). With Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, curry figures heavily, with options for chicken, lamb, cuttlefish, or mackerel. A number of poriyal dishes, consisting of sautéed vegetables with a featured ingredient, such as asparagus or brussels sprouts, showcase a Tamil influence. Throughout, Mohanraj does a superb job of combining easily sourced ingredients with clear, instructive guidance and menu recommendations for all manner of events, including a Royal Feast for over 200 people. This is a terrific survey of an overlooked cuisine.”


Thanks so much for your support! Indie publishing is absolutely reliant on word of mouth and the support of friends, family, and friendly internet acquaintances. 

— Mary Anne

Jackfruit Curry / Palakai Kari

(30 minutes, serves 6)

Young jackfruit has a texture similar to meat, though softer; it’s more delicate, as is the flavor. It’s easy to find online in cans, packed in brine; it’s also often available at grocery stores, especially ones that cater to vegetarians. This savory curry sauce is identical to what I’d use for beef, but gives a notably different (and delicious) result when cooked with jackfruit instead. I’d serve this with rice, a green vegetable, and chutneys, pickles, and/or sambols.

2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 TBL ginger, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
3 TBL vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1 TBL red chili powder
1 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder
1 lb young jackfruit, cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 TBL lime juice
1 cup coconut milk + 1 cup water

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in curry powder, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and lime juice.

2. Add jackfruit and stir on high for a few minutes. Add coconut milk and water, stirring gently to combine. Turn down to medium, and let cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally; add water if needed. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Goodreads giveaway for A Feast of Serendib

The new GoodReads giveaway (for 5 gorgeous print hardcovers of A Feast of Serendib) is live!

US & Canada folks are encouraged to enter! (We’d do it worldwide, but that doesn’t seem to be an option for GoodReads right now…)


A project that crystallized last week

So, I think I’m ready to talk a little about this new project that crystallized last week. (Photo of dragonfruit chocolate bars ‘crystallized’ for inspiration.)


There are multiple elements coming together in this, things I’ve been working on and thinking about for a long time. I’m still not positive of what the final shape will be.

• the memoir: I’ve been working for a while on a project titled _Domestic Resistance_, a meditation on how we stay sane while under siege in the Trump presidency, how handwork and reclamation of heritage skills, appreciation of culture and diversity, celebration of community and the joys of making all came together to sustain me (as I worked on my Sri Lankan cookbook in the last few years) through intense work, deep political frustration, and occasional flailings of despair. Asking how we can work for change without exhausting ourselves.

• the makerspace: we may have found a place in Forest Park for the first stage of the writing / textile arts / tech makerspace that we started planning two years ago. Our hope is that it allows the community to share their knowledge, help each other over the initial humps of uncertainty and anxiety, finding our way to new skills and approaches that make our lives better in a host of ways. I have some legal and financial details to work out still, and then there’ll be a Kickstarter to help get us off the ground (looking for around $25K in initial funding, I think), but I hope we’ll be up and running soon, possibly by May.

(NOTE: the space won’t be wheelchair accessible, unfortunately; you’ll need to be able to navigate a flight of stairs to access it. My plan is that if people who can’t access it want to sign up for a class, we’ll find an alternate accessible location for that class. And then long-term, we’ll continue looking for accessible spaces in the area. Ideally, I’d eventually like to grow into a constellation of spaces in Forest Park, Oak Park, Austin, etc.)

• the magazine: this is the newest bit, and still a bit inchoate. For my memoir, I was already thinking that I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a traditional book — I was wondering what it might look like as a quarterly magazine, sort of a cross between Martha Stewart Living and Granta. Glossy, beautiful photos, a year in the life, combining running for office, the tail end of cancer treatment, the house and garden and parenting and engaging in local politics, and of course, cooking.

Last week, I realized that it would be SO GREAT to extend that into a broader publication. I’ve been increasingly frustrated by how balkanized communications media are becoming, and at least locally, we’re really splitting demographically, with some people reading the print Wednesday Journal, some people mostly on FB groups (often very private ones), some people mostly auditory listeners, and the kids are on TikTok and SnapChat doing god knows what…

If we had a publication that showcased progressive voices and conversations, in a variety of areas (garden, food, schools, etc.) and if we could push it out in multiple media (a print version, an online version, a podcast, TikToks, etc.), maybe we’d have a chance at actually talking to each other, actually listening.

So often when I was running for office, I found that with something as simple as getting rid of fines at the library, people I talked to were initially resistant, but all they needed was for someone to actually present the argument to them, and then they realized that yes, doing this would actually align with their values. And we could afford it too.


That’s where my head is right now. I have a lot more specifics, but I think the next stage is a whole host of conversations. I’m going to want to shape this very carefully, if it’s to do what I hope it’ll do, and I’m going to need a lot of community input.

But I think my own memoir would be interesting in conversation with a broader community magazine, and the magazine would be in conversation with what we do at the makerspace, and as Serendib Press develops, Stephanie and Heather and Darius and Emmanuel and Julia are learning more and more about the publication process, so we’re getting into a better position to do this well.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m about to go out of town, and much of March is super-absorbed with travel and Feast launch events. But I’m going to be talking to people, local and otherwise, about all of this. We’ll see where it takes us.

(We’re going to need a name.)

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek!

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek! I hope to see some of you there: https://fogcon.org

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Salon A/B “Food in Genre Fiction”
Inspired by Mary Anne Mohanraj’s latest publication being a cookbook, let’s think about food and its place in genre fiction! In stories where a stranger visits a new culture, we often hear about their food choices (Becky Chambers’s “Record of a Spaceborn Few” comes to mind). Food can be a marker of similarity or difference between people, and ultimately, it is a necessity. When our worlds change, what happens to the food in them?

M: Sasha Pixlee. Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Tina LeCount Myers, Deborah J. Ross, Juliette Wade

4:30 PM – 5:45 PM, Salon C, POC Meetup
Social gathering for members who identify as people of color (only, please). We’ll share questions, experiences, and solidarity. Coffee and tea will be provided. Anyone who wants can also bring their own snacks, from the Consuite or elsewhere.
M: Abie Ekenezar

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM, Salon A/B, “Opening Ceremonies”
We’ll start the convention off with a brief gathering to meet the Honored Guests and hear some words from the Honored Ghost.

8:00 PM – 9:15 PM, Salon A/B “Societal Defaults That Carry Into Genre”
Genre fiction allows us to imagine worlds and cultures completely different from ours, yet sometimes some cultural assumptions are so ingrained that we don’t consider them changeable. For example, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s “The Stars Change” is a book that challenges the assumption of monogamy. What other assumptions do we see carrying into the new spaces and cultures we create? How can we break out of those?
M: Lisa Eckstein. Karen Brenchley, Garrett Croker, Alyc Helms, Mary Anne Mohanraj

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM, Salon A/B “Archives and Genre”
Archives are science fictional: archivists have to anticipate climate change, the evolution of technology, and how historians will view the present day. Archives are fantastical: they involve a deep encounter with the past, redolent of parchment, leather, and the dust of vanished information. This panel will explore archives as an SFF-nal phenomenon, as well as portrayals of archives and archivists in science fiction and fantasy.
M: Michele Cox. Marion Deeds, Bradford Lyau, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Norm Sperling

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, Salon A/B “Genre Nonprofits With Mary Anne Mohanraj”
Mary Anne will share what she’s learned about nonprofits and the field, discussing con-running and organizations such as Con or Bust, Strange Horizons, and her own Speculative Literature Foundation. Topics may include succession planning, professionalization (and its hazards), organizational growth, fundraising, inclusiveness / exclusion, and realistic enforcement of convention codes of conduct.
Mary Anne Mohanraj (This description and title got fixed and updated in the app but not the printed version of the program; my apologies, but we didn’t catch it in time.)

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Santa Rosa “Honored Guest Reading”
Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nisi Shawl

Saturday evening: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Sunday morning: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Dragonfruit Nebula Bars Dev’t Notes

Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolate bars: recipe development notes. It took a little while, but I ended up settling on a set of flavors I’m really happy with.

I tried various inclusions — pictured here are dried cherries, which worked better than dried pineapple, crystallized ginger, or dried cranberries — the pineapple and ginger were too sweet, not enough contrast with the white chocolate, and the cranberries were either also too sweet (if sweetened) or not flavor enough (if unsweetened).

The cherries gave a good punch of flavor and tang, but in the end, I decided they actually distracted from what I was doing with the chocolate itself, which was subtle and interesting.

I do love this mold — it is perfect for dragonfruit chocolate bars, giving the appearance of scales. Which of course, must be gilded, to keep the dragon happy. The gilding (first with powdered dragonfruit, followed with edible gold) also highlights the angles, sharpening the scale effect. Love.