How to define me? How to define The Silk Road Gourmet?
I’ve tried listing favorite books (Heart of Darkness, Cloud Atlas, almost anything by Kundera or Calvino) films (Wings of Desire, anything by Tarkovsky), television (Dr. Who, anything with Michael Wood) and music (Van Morrison, Wes Montgomery) to offer a sketch of who I am, but have found it inadequate. I’ve tried writing down my professions (traveller, cook, writer, scientist) and astrological signs (libra/rabbit) and been left wondering about all the rest there was to say.
For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed food and working with it for creative expression – and for feeding family and friends. I started cooking as a child and cooked authentic curries by the time I was thirteen. I also started traveling at a very young age, and experiencing food was always a part of those travels – whether as a corn dog and a vanilla coke on the Res or pat sataw off the tree in the front yard in Thailand. Exploring how food is a part of an ethnic group’s or nation’s material culture has always been a private interest of mine as well. These three things – food, traveling and cultures – began to weave together in my mind a long time ago. Everywhere I went, I saw connections between cultures in their foods and big sweeping patterns of ingredients or methods of preparation sweeping across the Old World. How the land and maritime routes of the Silk Road brought about an early period of globalization became the theme to express these ideas about food and the world. I went public with those ideas in 2008 when I started this blog and about a year later, in August 2009 the first volume of The Silk Road Gourmet was published.
The book is a combination cookbook with delicious recipes from Western and Southern Asia and a selective history of the countries to show the principal cultures and events (trade, war, immigration, religion) involved in shaping the modern national cuisine. Using the reviews as a basis, at least some people like the book. Le Cordon Bleu World Media nominated it for an award and Mick Vann of The Austin Chronicle said, “We tried chicken with apricots in lemon pepper sauce: simple to make and assertively delicious, aromatic, and satisfying. If every dish is as good as this Afghani gem, Kelley’s book will prove priceless.”
Where the journey of a project will lead is difficult to say. Hopefully, 2013 will see the publication of the second volume of the Silk Road Gourmet series. Beyond that, I cannot predict. I get to travel for my work and hope that this year will bring me to some new places that I can experience and write about. Welcome to the site, I hope you enjoy my essays and observations, and I hope that you will participate in discussions and help shape the process as we move on.
I am available to cook or consult for dinners, tastings or events where historical or modern Silk Road foods are showcased.
For more about me, check out laurakelley.net, read some of my other writings, or find me on Facebook or Pinterest.
Contact: laurakelley [at] silkroadgourmet [dot] com