Mary Sebastian’s new book is Organic Tales From Indian Kitchens: Warm Spice And Everything Nice. Heart-Warming Stories And Recipes From Kitchen Tables In Two Continents. It is a “culinary memoir” that emphasizes the unbreakable bond between food and culture.
In her book, Mary tells the story of growing up in India in the 60s, a time she calls “extraordinary,” when centuries-old traditions still prevailed even as rays of modernity were starting to light up the skies. “It was a time when we straddled the old and were trying to embrace the new,” says Mary. “It was a bit of a schizophrenic existence, and yet it taught us to deal with all kinds of people and any life situation.”
Unique to a memoir, Mary’s personal stories are accompanied by “tried and true” recipes. Not only is Mary an author; she moved to the USA in 1978 and has been the proprietor and chef of the Indian Café in Augusta, GA for the last sixteen years! Many of the recipes included in the book are “hand-me-downs,” while others are inventions at the India Café. “The book is an interesting mesh of cultural nuances and regional—sometimes international—food that highlights the tight bond between food and culture,” says Mary. “When I was growing up, organic food was not a fancy concept; it was an everyday reality. Cooking was not an option for most homemakers but a necessity, and yet, out of that necessity evolved a cuisine that was nourishing and tasty and took advantage of regional ingredients. I felt it was a story worth telling.”
For the most part, the stories are set in Indian villages, where mothers and grandmothers play pivotal roles in the household. Harvesting rice, coconuts, and other farm products—which was the main source of income for these family homes—is fast disappearing. Mary also tells of her experiences as a restaurant owner and chef, and includes anecdotes of encounters with famous people and the recipes they liked.
Control over content and the way it is presented were the main attraction to self-publishing for Mary. “Not having to contort the message to fit some cookie-cutter prescription for a book gives greater opportunities for self-expression and originality,” says Mary.
Mary chose print-on-demand, and the book is available on Amazon through Amazon KDP and on such websites and bookstores as Barnes & Noble and Books A Million. Organic Tales from Indian Kitchens is offered in three formats: hardcover, paperback and ebook. Mary decided to provide the book in ebook format because it’s a storybook as well as a cookbook. “People who were not interested in the recipe part of the book, but had an interest in learning about the cultural and social aspects, still had accessibility to the book.”
Writing the book was the easiest stage of self-publishing for Mary while marketing the book has been the most challenging (something we hear from many authors!). “I’m not the savviest in matters electronic,” laughs Mary. “I’m not that familiar with social media, and directions on how to utilize modern mediums of communication most effectively to promote books are difficult. However, I’m learning how to project my thoughts in these mediums; it’s almost a personal challenge now!” On the other hand, having lived through the stories in her book and having cooked the recipes so many times that she can “recite the ingredients in her sleep,” writing the book came naturally. “Writing has always been a part of me,” says Mary.
Mary has this advice to pass along to first-time indie authors: “It’s important to find a really good establishment to work with, preferably one that is recommended highly by other writers. 1106 Design worked out very well for me, and I had come to know about them through the recommendations of other writers,” she recounts. “The services provided by 1106 Design toward the publishing of my book were invaluable. They provided the structure and goals, and they supported me from start to finish. Friendly and yet goal-oriented, they keep you on task.”
In terms of working through the self-publishing process, Mary advises authors to collaborate with the publishing service firm by keeping to deadlines and goals. Editorial comments should be taken seriously, and Mary reassures authors that comments are not to be taken personally. Mary’s approach to book design was to study the various options put forth by our design team for titles, colors, layouts, and fonts—and choose one. Recounts Mary, “I found it easier to review the options and choose one without too many extraneous consultations that would have been confusing.”
Above all, Mary encourages authors to be kind to themselves. “Some might like your book, some may love it, some might be indifferent, and some might even hate it. C’est la vie!” Fortunately for Mary, readers seem to love her book as thus far it has garnered solid 5-star reviews on Amazon! We wish Mary the best of luck with Organic Tales From Indian Kitchens, and look forward to more of her stories and delicious recipes!
Organic Tales From Indian Kitchens: Warm Spice And Everything Nice. Heart-Warming Stories And Recipes From Kitchen Tables In Two Continents
Author: Priya Mary Sebastian
Genre: Culinary memoir
Author website: www.indiacafeaugusta.com