A Feast of Serendib as memoir

Stephanie was setting up the Goodreads giveaway for Feast, and asked me if there was a secondary genre category for it beyond Cookbook, like Memoir or History. Honestly, it’s some of both, I think — I told her to add it to the memoir category.

A friend just messaged me this morning, after picking up another copy of the cookbook at the OPALGA+ potluck last night; she’d already bought the paperback, but is now gifting a hardcover to a relative. (Every writer should have such friends!) She said, “I’m looking through your cookbook, again appreciating so very much the work that you’ve done to share such treasures! And by that I mean the stories and histories as well as the recipes.”

And a memoirist friend of mine who’d stopped by to pick up some confectionery told me a few days ago that she was actually *reading* the cookbook, which wasn’t something she usually does with cookbooks…

All of that makes me so happy. It’s really what I wanted to do with this book, what all the months of research were for, reading through so many other versions of these recipes, trying to learn more about the food history of Sri Lanka & Sri Lankan diaspora culture. To convey more than just a few recipes — bringing in some of the immigrant experience, and the homeland culture it draws on.

I’m grateful to my academic training — I don’t think I realized when I was doing the work how much of putting together this kind of cookbook would call on those habits and skills of effective research, summary of significant points, synthesis into something that would be accessible to a broad audience. Several years of grad school and over a decade of teaching practice went into creating this, along with a few decades of cooking practice.

It’s a really good book, you know. (It feels weird and sort of shameless saying that, but I think that’s mostly cultural conditioning and I’m trying to put it aside. I did good work; it should be okay to say so.)

I worked on it so hard, so thoroughly, the way I did with Bodies in Motion during my doctorate. I was kind of exhausted when I finished it, and then there was the rush and anxiety of trying to find a publisher, etc. It’s only now, as the reader responses are coming in, that I can be reassured that I did what I was trying to do. I’m finally getting to be proud of it, which is lovely.

Of course, because I apparently can’t just let anything rest, I’ve started taking notes for the second edition, should one ever exist. Because I’m already coming up with variations on the recipes that I’d like to add, and new recipes that I wish I’d put in (Jed, can you please note in that file that I really need to add a recipe for Milk Rice?).

But more than that, I’d love to go a little more in depth in a few of the header notes to the recipes — most of them do offer some memoir or history or both, but a few, especially of the earliest recipes, are a little more purely functional. And it’d be nice to add a little more family immigration history too…

I don’t want to make the book too big, though! It’s already quite large.

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