Gold-dusted, chocolate-covered coffee beans

So, Anand is in 4th grade and Kavi is in 7th grade. Anand’s current teacher happens to be Kavi’s favorite teacher ever, and it’s that teacher’s birthday today. Kavi really wanted to make her a present. The teacher likes Star Wars, her college, and coffee — we couldn’t figure out what to do on short notice with the first two, but coffee seemed do-able. So last night, we took 30 minutes (most of that was waiting-for-the-chocolate-to-set time) and made some chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Instructions: Melt chocolate for 2 minutes on 1/2 power in the microwave; stir until melted, putting back into microwave for 30-second intervals at 1/2 power if needed. (I think it took us about 3 minutes total, but microwave powers differ). Spoon a little into each mold, add coffee beans, spoon the rest of the chocolate to fill the molds. (Two cups of chocolate chips filled a tray of 15 chocolates for us.) Move to fridge until set (maybe 10-15 minutes). Unmold and brush with gold dust.

It’s probably not the best way of infusing coffee into a chocolate, as the end result is a bit crunchy! But I didn’t have a lot of energy for experimenting with actual recipes for things like coffee cream last night, so this had to do.


I happened to have these sweet containers on hand for the upcoming Colorful Holiday fair (I’m thinking I want to try making passionfruit chocolates — either passionfruit cream or with dried passionfruit or possibly both!), so we were able to package it up nicely.

The edible gold luster dust makes it look quite fancy! And Kavi did it all, start to finish, herself (including writing her teacher the SWEETEST note). She particularly enjoyed popping the chocolates out of the mold, and painting on the sparkly edible dust. (If you look carefully, you may note that she put some sparkle dust on her lips too at some point when we were waiting for the chocolates to be ready to unmold…)


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. (

(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…


Chicken Mulligatawny (Soup or Stew)

Chicken Mulligatawny (Soup or Stew)

This is a great recipe for a slow weekend. Yesterday, I made enough to feed soup to the people who were over for afternoon board games, then added some rice, lentils, and coconut milk, turning it into more of a stew, and took it to the potluck last night.

This morning, I scooped out four Ziploc bags’ worth and stored them flat in the freezer (careful not to scoop up the potatoes and carrots, which don’t freeze well), saving them for a rainy day when I’m too tired to cook and want some hearty, easy comfort food. And there’s just enough left for lunch today. 

Many mulligatawny recipes add apples, which would be a fun fusion approach — mulligatawny is thought to be a colonial-era adaptation of earlier South Asian soups like rasam, and is often vegetarian. But I chose to go with chicken, carrots, and potatoes this time. Yum.

(This recipe is gluten-free, and I’m planning to include it in the new gluten-free ebook.)



– 1/4 c. vegetable oil or ghee
– 2-3 onions, chopped coarsely
– 3 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 T ginger, chopped
– 1 stick cinnamon
– 3 cloves
– 3 cardamom pods
– 1 t. black mustard seed
– 1 t. cumin seed
– 1 T ground black pepper
– 4 c. chicken (or vegetable) stock
– 2 c. (or more) water
– 1 tomato, chopped
– 1 T tamarind paste

– one roasting chicken, cut up, skin removed
– 3 carrots, cut in chunks
– 4 – 6 new potatoes, cut in chunks
– 1/2 – 2 c. lentils (optional)
– 1/2 – 1 c. rice (optional)

– 1-2 t. salt (to taste)
– 1-2 T lime juice (to taste)
– 1 c. coconut milk (optional)

1. Sauté onions, garlic, ginger, mustard seed, cumin seed, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper on medium-high until onions are golden.

2. Add potatoes, carrots, and chicken pieces (on the bone), turn up the heat to high, and sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally as you brown the chicken (careful not to burn).

3. Add stock and water and bring to a boil. Stir in tomato and tamarind paste, and lentils if using. Cover and cook at a simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: Lentils may need a bit longer, depending on how soft you want them — just add more water, bring it up to a boil, and then turn down to a covered simmer, until lentils are as soft as you like.

4. Remove chicken pieces to a bowl and let cool. Remove meat from the bones, shred with your fingers, and add meat back to the pot. Taste and add salt / lime juice as desired.

NOTE: If using lentils and/or rice, you’ll probably want to add more tamarind or lime juice, and/or bump up the pepper — adding lentils / rice will mute the overall flavor of the dish.

5. If using rice to make it more of a stew, add the rice now, bring the pot back to a boil (adding water and/or coconut milk if needed), cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook an additional 15-20 minutes, until rice is cooked.

6. Serve hot! Toasted naan would be nice as an accompaniment to the soup, and if you’re feeling fancy, you could top each bowl with a dollop of yogurt and a scattering of chopped cilantro.)


“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. 


Lunch with Roshani at Little Gem

Lunch with Roshani at Little Gem, a restaurant that opened here in 2014, though I don’t think I found it until this past year. I didn’t get a picture of the French onion soup, but it was perfect.

I worry a little that this place was mostly empty at Friday lunchtime — maybe the bulk of their business is in the evenings, but maybe people just don’t realize it’s here, one block north of the Trader Joe’s on Marion.

It’s a fabulous spot for a quiet meet-up with a friend, or a business lunch, and the pricing is similar to Léa, though it feels much fancier. This was my third time here, and every meal has been very good. And I am quite picky.


Feast update!

Feast update & cookbook holiday gift ordering info!

I think at this point we have shipped almost all the Kickstarter orders that are just books. There are some exceptions — some order sheets are inexplicably missing information (like, oh, an address), and so we have to go back to the original orders and figure out what’s up. And there’s talking to locals to see who wants pickup instead of delivery. And international orders are a little complicated because they require the post office and a customs form (we think). So some bits still to figure out.

But still, we have sent out a LOT of books this week, and now we’ve started packing up the more complicated orders, the ones that come with curry powder or sweets or bath indulgences. Which, honestly, is kind of fun to pack. Not that it wasn’t also a pleasure gently sliding hundreds of beautiful hardcover books into padded envelopes… 

We’re hoping to get all those out next week; my informal personal deadline is to have Kickstarter physical items shipped by Friday December 6, fingers crossed. (The gluten-free digital cookbook and the cooking videos will take a little longer, but I’m hoping to get them done by the end of the year. They’re in progress, and finishing them will be nice holiday projects for me once the semester ends.)


Here is the timeline if you haven’t ordered copies yet and want to, or if you want to tell all your friends they need this book:

RIGHT NOW: You can order hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks, and curry powder on the Serendib Kitchen website shop (, and we should ship them within two weeks of ordering, so barring disaster, in plenty of time for holiday gifting. I’m happy to sign and/or personalize these if desired. If you want to add sweets or bath indulgences, that may be possible, mostly depending on how much I have on hand — at this point, it’s best to just message me and ask if you’re interested in something, and I’ll let you know what the price would be.

RIGHT NOW: You can also order the hardcover from the Mascot Books website, and while they say it’s a pre-order, in actuality, they will likely start shipping those out as soon as they get books in warehouse, which they expect by mid-December if not sooner.…/coo…/regional/a-feast-of-serendib/ (We, and they, would LOVE it if you would post a review on Amazon and/or GoodReads…)

RIGHT NOW: Locals can also walk over to support a small LGBT-owned indie bookstore, Jake’s Place Books, in the Harrison Street Arts District. It’s the only bookstore carrying it right now! They have both hardcovers and paperbacks in stock. (I can’t remember if they’re signed, but if you’d like a signed copy, just call and let them know, and they’ll let me know, and I’ll stop by and sign them.  )

RIGHT NOW: You can join the Sri Lankan cooking club: To get the full set of recipes tested in the last few years, subscribe to my Patreon cookbook club for $2 / month. I’m continuing to develop and post recipes regularly.

EARLY DECEMBER: We’ll be pitching to corporate buyers in early December, so please cross all your fingers and toes for me. If Costco picks it up, for example, I can breathe a huge sigh of financial relief.

BY MID-LATE DECEMBER: We hope to have listings available online at major booksellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, for both hardcover and ebook (Kindle and ePub. (The paperback and PDF will still only be available from me directly at Serendib Kitchen; neither of those have photos, but will have a link to a full online photo archive.)

MARCH 2020: Formal ‘launch,’ which mostly means that’s when all the real publicity will be pointing towards, and which gives bookstores time to get it ordered and shipped to them. So Jan / Feb will be quiet, and we’ll be trying to schedule events and publicity after that.

JULY 2020: Benjamin and Mary Anne go on book tour, starting at ReaderCon and ending with a SLF writing festival thingie on Saturday July 25th. Details TBD, but will probably involve a reading, maybe some writing workshops, etc.

July 26, 2020: My 49th birthday. Right now, I’m thinking I may spend it sleeping.  (Unless Oprah calls…)


What is the difference between a ‘chef’ and a ‘home cook?’

What is the difference between a ‘chef’ and a ‘home cook?’ I found myself protesting (as I gorged on crispy delicious fresh-made lumpia) to Chef Estanilla at his pop-up for pig & fire (having given him and his wife Jen a copy of my cookbook that they were browsing) that I wasn’t a chef, I was just a home cook.

I actually think that’s true, but I realize also that I’m not sure what the distinction is in my mind.

I’ve never gone to culinary school, certainly. I’ve read a lot of cookbooks! I’ve taken a knife skills class, but just the one, populated entirely by suburban couples doing date night, like us, and I didn’t actually change the way I used a knife, so serious chefs would laugh at me, I’m sure. (It actually makes me anxious about doing cooking videos for Feast, which is probably why I’ve been avoidant about them.) (Oh, just remembered, I took a canning class too. That made me less worried that I might accidentally poison someone!)

I was about to say I’ve never worked in a restaurant — but that’s not true; I’ve been a cashier and dishwasher at a pizza joint (one of my first jobs as a teen), and a waitress at a truck stop pancake house (where the truckers tried to stick tips down the front of my uniform, gah). I’ve also catered a few rather random events (back in college, for my dorm, and for a friend’s parent). But I don’t think I’ve ever cooked in an actual restaurant, and I have no formal cookery training.

When Melissa Elsmo was interviewing me, I mentioned that when I was first cooking in my mother’s kitchen, all she would let me do was chop onions (telling me every time that I wasn’t doing them finely or carefully enough) and sauté them (she’d get annoyed that I let them brown too much — in her defense, it was true that I was usually reading and stirring at the same time, which honestly don’t go all that well together…). Chop onions, sauté onions. Every few nights. For years. And Melissa laughed and said that was actually pretty much what the beginning of culinary school was like. So maybe my training wasn’t exactly ‘formal,’ but…

We would stay up the night before a big party, often ’til 2-3 a.m., helping my mother cook, rolling endless mackerel cutlets in egg and bread crumbs, crimping endless chicken patties. My mother, her sisters, me and my sisters, all crowded around the dining table, which was slightly too big for the room, so you could barely wedge yourself in or out, but it didn’t really matter, because you were going to be there for hours regardless. At least the gossip was fun. 

I can cook dinner for 200 without worry, but I wouldn’t even know where to go to get the heat lamps to set up the kind of pop-up event Roel was doing tonight (conveniently at the Beer Shop a blocks down the street from me). I kind of want to work for him for a night, for free, just to learn the ropes. So many things I don’t know!

And yet also, so many things I do!

Imposter syndrome! It lurks everywhere!

I met a woman a few days ago (at the Kickstarter Sri Lankan + bagel event I hosted for Amanda Daly‘s upcoming Daly Bagel shop) who works doing food development for a major corporation, and I mentioned, only half-seriously, that Roshani and I had talked about putting Sri Lankan curry powder in stores. And that it frustrated us that there was so much Asian packet food at Whole Foods that we didn’t think was actually very good. (Use Maesri curry paste if you’re making Thai curries from store-bought paste, and Chaokoh coconut milk.)

The freaky thing was, instead of dismissing the idea, she said we could totally do that, and she’d be happy to advise. Which was a terrifying thought. And Amanda chimed in and said something about how people thought this stuff was more complicated than it was, and she should know, since she’s actually opening a brick-and-mortar business, so I suppose I should trust her, but eep. Surely not!

And yet…