Sasha Martin is the author of the book Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. Her blog, Global Table Adventure, focuses on cooking recipes from around the world. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including Food and Wine and Whole Living. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Q: You begin your memoir by writing, "This was not the book I meant to write." What book did you mean to write, and how did it end up taking the form it did?
A: Within the first few weeks of signing my book deal with National Geographic, the project shifted from a happy-go-lucky book about cooking a meal from every country in the world (a nearly four-year culinary adventure I chronicled on my blog, Global Table Adventure) to a deep exploration of the WHY behind the blog. I like to blame my editor, Hilary Black, but in reality I thank her for pushing me to go deeper.
It all started because she asked for a little background about my life. There was no way to narrow down my story to the one chapter she’d asked for; I submitted 50 or so pages for her review and when she read them she agreed - my rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it was the REAL story underpinning my obsessive quest.
From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of my eccentric, creative mother, to a string of foster homes, to the house from which I launched my own cooking adventure – the story is about the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal – and celebrates the simple truth the happiness is created from within.
Q: You write about some very difficult times in your life. How hard was it to relive those periods as you were writing the book?
A: SPOILER ALERT
Writing about the loss of my brother was the most challenging thing I’ve done as a writer. As I worked to make the experience real for the reader, I found myself reliving the trauma, playing the loss over in my head day and night.
I didn’t think it was going to be so hard. I went into those chapters with a fairly cavalier attitude, even beginning the process while my husband was away on a work trip. I figured I’d done the healing at those years ago.
Turns out I’d locked down my pain pretty well as a kid – pulling it out into the daylight was it was like walking out of a cave into the blinding sunlight; I regressed emotionally to the point that I had to have help caring for my daughter for a few key days.
Writers don’t often talk about this part of the process; it’s ugly and uncomfortable. But it’s also reality. I urge all writers, especially memoirists, to have a solid support system as they work.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: Choosing the title was quite the process. I settled on Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness because it really gives a sense of the story within – the lifelong search for a sense of belonging coupled with a make-it-work attitude.
“Life from Scratch” is about using what you have on hand to make something delicious and nourishing, just as I had to work with the circumstances I was given to build a life of love and worth, both for myself and my family – especially my daughter.
Q: How did you decide on the recipes to include in the book?
A: I chose recipes that honored my heritage as well as recipes from the time I spent cooking the world.
Recipes from my heritage were important because much of the book is about figuring out my identity after a childhood in and out of foster homes. It also helped convey the evolution of my relationship to my mother… often we cooked together to understand each other.
Recipes from cooking the world were harder to decide on. I tried more than 650 from 195 countries. Since they are all on the blog, I knew readers could go there for the comprehensive list. In the end, I only selected the recipes for the book that directly connected to the narrative about family and me finding my place in the world.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m loving going out and meeting readers. I’m honored that the book has been a source of healing for so many. When I’m not visiting book clubs or speaking to groups, I’m writing and cooking.
Lately, I’ve been having fun pairing recipes with fairy tales from around the world (you can find these on Global Table Adventure). I’m also working on a novel but it’s too early to say much about that…
--Interview with Deborah Kalb