HAVE A GLOBAL FOOD ADVENTURE AT HOME
From a small kitchen in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one every- day mum and food lover, Sasha Martin, has proven that you don’t have to be limited by your cirumstances. In fact, your challenges could become your biggest triumphs....
HI SASHA, TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF...
My name is Sasha Martin and I eat the world for a living.
That may sound a little far-fetched, but it’s true. I spent nearly four years (from February 2010 until November 2013) cooking a meal from every country in the world, all from my small kitchen in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Each week I served up a new country to my picky husband, Keith, and young daughter, Ava and shared the experience, as well as the recipes on my blog - Gobal Table Adventure. When the project wrapped up, I couldn’t stop cooking. To date I’ve shared more than 650 authentic recipe adaptations on Global Table Adventure in an effort to make our planet a little friendlier (and yummier!). My memoir, Life From Scratch will be out in March 2015.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START GLOBAL TABLE ADVENTURE?
This idea, like so many, came from being STUCK. On the sleepless night I decided to undertake my quest, several concerns were rattling around in my brain:
• MY BABY. My daughter Ava was about seven months old, just starting out on solid foods. I wanted her to eat well. I also wanted her to grow up loving her world (and feeling loved by it!).
• MY HUSBAND. Keith was an extremely picky eater when I met him. (Eat an eggplant? Forget it. He had no idea what it was and no interest in finding out.)
• MY KITCHEN. Although I went to the Culinary Institute of America for a year, I wasn’t cooking. In fact, ever since Christmas, months earlier, I’d had 48 spice jars sitting empty in the kitchen, waiting for me to DO something with them. I was in a major rut.
• MY TRAVEL. I really missed travel and the adventure that comes with it (I had been to 12 countries by the age of 19). There was no way we’d be able to whisk my daughter away to experience food from other countries first-hand, the expense was too great, plus I wanted her to remember our travels. I did know though that whatever her taste buds were exposed to as an infant and toddler would profoundly impact the rest of her life.
Cooking the world seemed like the perfect solution to all of our challenges. Keith would become more open to new foods. My daughter would grow up with an appreciation for other cultures. And I would satisfy some of my wanderlust. Once my husband was on board (he loves a good challenge), we started the process – one country per week, 195 total.
HOW HAS THE PROJECT CHANGED YOU AND YOUR FAMILY OVER THE YEARS?
My husband DID become less picky and my daughter is incredibly curious about other cultures. As for me, while I cooked the countries, lessons from their cultures seeped into our
everyday lives and I felt a shift – not only in how I saw them, but how I saw myself. Cooking the world changed everything… but the surprise was that the changes came from within.
WERE THERE DAYS WHEN YOU THOUGHT ‘THIS IS ALL TOO HARD?!’ IF SO, WHAT KEPT YOU GOING?
Definitely. The cooking-related challenges were easy to resolve: finding ingredients (I chose to cook global, shop local so that more people could replicate what I was doing) and finding recipes (I wore out my library card, expanded my cookbook collection, and got great at reaching out to authors of expat blogs).
At the end of the day, the hardest part of this quest was facing myself. All good adventures become mirrors, challenging us to see ourselves for who we really are. During the last year of the project, when I began writing my memoir for National Geographic, my editor pushed me to dig deeper. I’ll always remember her laughing, saying something like “but you aren’t just some bored house wife, you’re obsessively cooking every country in the world. There’s something else going on here. Tell me what that’s all about!”.
Introspection (and lots of tears) brought me face to face with my rough and tumble childhood – the string of foster homes, the painful separation from my mother, and the tragic death of a beloved family member. Food, specifically cooking with my mother, had been an important anchor early on but as an adult I felt disconnected from that experience. As I worked to build my own family, cooking the world had become much more than trying new food – it became my way of working out what unconditional love and belonging meant.
Reflected in the desire for my daughter to love her world, I also saw my own need to love my world and feel loved by it. After a childhood in turmoil I was hungry for peace. I soon learned that I could not control my world or how other people behaved. I couldn’t even force my beautiful, kind-hearted daughter to love her world. Even with my encouragement, the choice was ultimately hers. The only peace I could create, it turns out, is for myself.
YOU GREW UP WITH A SINGLE MOTHER, WHAT HAS THAT TAUGHT YOU ABOUT BEING A MOTHER?
Mom is the most creative woman I know. As I recount in my memoir, Mom stitched odd jobs at the kitchen table to make ends meet while we kids played at her feet. She didn’t have a lot of money so instead of the Barbie playhouse and pool, we used styrofoam inserts from shipping boxes for dollhouses. When my daughter came along, Mom showed me that something as simple as tossing socks into a basket can be endlessly entertaining for a toddler. I try to model much of my parenting on my mother’s gift for creativity.
AND FINALLY, WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPE? AND WHY?
I have many favorite international recipes, but I always come back to Mom’s homemade bread - it’s warm, homey, and simple. Mom made this bread every day for a couple of years while living at a small convent, perfecting variations as she went. She used side-by-side bread machines to proof double batches of dough, then baked the loaves in the oven. Not a crumb was left after breakfast. I like to bake mine in a Pullman pan, though a freeform loaf or small dinner rolls work, too. The powdered milk gives the bread a softer crumb, but I rarely add it.