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, 2016 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 and consult for dinners, tastings or events where historical or modern Silk Road foods are showcased.  I am also available as a speaker or teacher for workshops on Silk Road topics.

For more about me, check out some of my other writings, or find me on Facebook or Pinterest.

Contact: laurakelley [at] silkroadgourmet [dot] com

13 thoughts on “About

  1. I’m writing about the history of brandy, and I wonder if you have any connections in Armenia and Georgia?
    Thank you

  2. Hi Becky:

    I generally approach research through cold calls. I would hop on the line and dial up (or e-mail an introduction first) to the Yerevan Brandy Company. If you come up dry through them, I suggest trying to contact Alla Wagner – she is an Armenian in Calgary, CA working in the wine and spirit industry. She used to be associated with Lotus Vini and Spirits.

    As to Georgia, I’ve met John Wurdeman a couple of times and he seems like a real mensch. I don’t think that he produces a brandy at Pheasant’s Tears, but he can probably point you in the direction of someone who can help.

    I know that both countries produce fantastic brandies that are generally under appreciated in the west, although Winston Churchill was famous for singing the praises of Armenian brandy – and he drank LOTS of it.

    If you haven’t already trolled the web, there is a lot of information out there already in the form of articles and news stories – especially in the 2000s time frame when both nations began in a big way to try to penetrate the US and European markets for their products.

    Good luck!


    • Hi Dana:

      The illustration is by an artist named Balage Balogh. When I used it, the license was: “The ancient city of Mari, aerial view. Balage Balogh GNU Free Documentation License, Wikimedia Commons” Since then, however, I’ve seen it posted with a copyright watermark on it, and it is no longer listed as part of Wikimedia. There is a person on Facebook with the name Balage Balogh if you need to dig deeper for permission. Good Luck!

  3. Hi, when do you expect to see the second volume in print?
    Pl. let me know.
    Wishing you luck and pleasure in your continued travel and research.

  4. Interesting blog. I’m very interested in the history of Armenian cuisine (being Armenian and all) and was wondering if you could recommend some way to educate myself on the basics–either a relevant university program or some self-study program. I should mention that I have a full-time day job.

    • Hi Ara:

      Unfortunately, I have no specific suggestions. If you have older relatives, that is one place to start, then just pull the threads that they offer and look things up on the internet and in the library. Traveling is also a great way to learn. There are a lot of tours or day trips in and around Yerevan that can help as well. Oh, and cook – that’s really important too! It is a lifetime journey . . .

  5. Hello Laura!
    I am smiling and so giddy because I just read an old piece of yours: “New Flavors for the oldest recipes” in ARAMCO magazine! I am so excited to have found this site and look forward to trying out your recipes and reading more!

    • Hi Luma:

      I’m glad you liked the article in ARAMCO! And I’m glad you found the site! I hope you come back often and try the recipes and enjoy the essays!

  6. Laura, hello:

    It was quite serendipitous when I stumbled upon your website this morning and could not resist the urge to send this email. I actually came to my office to work on an exam. I am a historian of South Asia (did my graduate work at the UW-Madison) but do teach other courses—such as Civilizations of the World, Modern Asia, and Early Christianity. This semester my freshmen students were asked to read the text by Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road but I am not sure how well they all have grasped its content—especially, the geography, people, and numerous customs, including their food. I thought it would be a wonderful learning opportunity for them if I could invite you to our campus to present a lecture on any aspect of the Silk Road. If you are amenable to the idea we could continue to communicate and work out the details in the days ahead. I look forward to hearing from you.

    With best wishes,


    John J. Paul, Ph.D.
    Professor of History
    Fitchburg State University
    Fitchburg, MA 01420
    978-66-5-3087 (office)

    • Dear Dr. Paul:

      Thank you for the invite – I would love to give a visiting lecture! Let’s continue the discussion via e-mail. I’ll contact you soon.



  7. I am writing a book on the global history of edible flowers for Reaktion Books with my sister, Constance Kirker. I am particularly interested in the use of marigold flower petals in Georgia as mentioned in your book. Do you have any additional information about their use?

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