Many a times I have wondered what I would say introduce myself to someone. And I usually end up thinking that I would be best described as someone who likes to read and write, someone who loves food and someone who can travel any day of her life. So maybe that is who I am. And whenever I come across any of the subjects that interest me, I get excited. I write about these things, I bore people by talking incessantly about it, and then dreaming of myself being transformed and transported to the very same place. For example, when I come home from a trip, I put up pictures on Instagram, I ask friends to meet me so that I can give them curios and stories, and then I look up on the internet to see where can I find more of the food that I have eaten during my travels.
Recently, I came across someone who loves to cook for her family. Now, that in itself isn’t as unusual as the next bit is. Because, Sasha Martin,founder of Global Table Adventures, has been cooking exotic food for her family to enjoy on a daily basis.
Sasha had always been creative in the kitchen, thanks to her mother who taught her the difference between the ‘poverty of resources and the poverty of spirit’. While living abroad with family friends, she started traveling and had, by the age of 19, already visited 12 countries. I know she takes food seriously because who else would write 100 pages about their love of French bread as an honors thesis for Wesleyan University (CT). Later during an internship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sasha decided to follow her heart and leave school. Which worked out quite well because she fell in love, met her husband Keith and had a lovely daughter, Ava.
Five years ago, in 2010, she started on her culinary journey to teach her 7-month old daughter about food from other countries and also to get rid of the feeling of staying grounded in one place.
“The process of cooking has always been a walking meditation for me – the process of kneading, stirring, and creating, grounds me and connects me to my family. Once I began cooking the world, I found that it could help me make peace with my past and figure out what kind of world I wanted to offer my daughter. Looking at other cultures taught me that people everywhere are connecting around food – it’s a central part of family. I explore these themes in my new book published through National Geographic, Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness.”
Sasha has spent nearly four years cooking a meal from every country in the world, A-Z. They (as she counts her husband and daughter to be part of the team), began with Afghanistan and, by the time they reached Zimbabwe, they had sampled more than 650 recipes.
But is it not challenging to cook something you are not familiar with?
According to her, the recipe adaptations may come from more than 195 countries but they are simple and healthy (with a high proportion of vegetarian and vegan recipes. Most recipes can be made quickly with ingredients that are available in the average city. However, she adds that she was “pleasantly surprised that many of the ingredients are the same – but how they are combined is different. This really helped make the transition to trying so many new recipes easier. Also people love to help – and many have reached out with suggestions or ideas.”
Sasha’s beautiful daughter often helps her to cook up a storm in the kitchen. And she hopes that the journey will teach her to grow up to love her world – and realize she’s a part of the global family.
Readers of her blog often write in to her with recipes and requests. She especially likes to hear from people living abroad – makes the recipes she shared more authentic. How does she come up with the recipes? Well, Sasha uses library books but also emails quite a bit with people around the world.
“I became pretty good at tracking down people from different parts of the world (through Peace Corps volunteer blogs or expat communities) and asking the source. It’s funny though, because there are always disagreements. I remember writing about kangaroo kabobs for Australia and one reader said something like “no way that’s disgusting – we keep kangaroo by the cat food” and another said that they love kangaroo and eat it regularly. I suppose that’s like deer in the US – there are cultural variances but also family-to-family things change.”
Sasha’s personal style is to cook easy weeknight and elegant enough for the weekend. Her three favorite global recipes for a busy weeknight are…
- Zimbabwe’s roasted acorn squash stuffed with corn and cheddar cheese
- Argentinian Roasted Squash salad with arugula and goat cheese
- Mongolian Carrot Salad
But each recipe comes with memories. And the exchange and excitement is probably what makes Global Table Adventures such a simple, yet refreshing experiment.
“One day when I was a library playgroup with my daughter I met a woman. We chatted for a while, then I said I had to run because I had to go cook a meal from Finland. Her mouth dropped and she said “I’m half Finnish!” She came home with me and helped me cook while our daughters continued to play. This was one of the greatest lessons of my cooking experience – open your heart to possibility and work with intention. Connections will start happening and help you along your journey.”
Five years. Hundreds of recipes. And yet, this marvelous idea is going strong.
“I started Global Table Adventure in the winter of 2010. At first, the challenge was about raising my 7-month old daughter with international perspective, encouraging my picky husband to look at food as an adventure, not an attack, and satisfying some of my wanderlust. But on a deeper level it was about much more – about finding a sense of belonging and the understanding that real peace starts within. “
Here’s wishing Sasha luck, and keeping my fingers crossed on tasting at least half of these delectable dishes someday on my journey.