This weekend I share my fourth book, Instamatic in my column.
I share the backstory to the book. A book that is equal parts Instasaying, Instapics, and Instawisdom. A deeper more thoughtful look into our Instaworld.
As a teaser I share the brilliance of the sun and clouds as I learned at our farm in Hebron, NY. Also share what I learned while visiting the remarkable nation that is Rwanda.
Read the column on Mail Today, or below.
Sunday, May 17, 2020 marked the release of my fourth book. Not a cookbook this time. A book of pictures and “word pictures” as Dr. Shashi Tharoor called them. A chronicle of my journey from hopelessness and terrible health to full hopefulness and life in recovery mode.
Instamatic: A chef’s deeper, more thoughtful look into today’s Instaworld is a diary of sorts that traverses a rather trying eighteen months of my life. A year where I could see almost nothing. But with the help of an iPhone, held so close that it would warm my cheeks, I could see the world that my naked eyes couldn’t grasp.
Stuck for days and weeks in search of a word I knew but my post-concussive brain had forgotten, wells of tears would flow out of me while lying in bed. Then my mother’s gentle touch and hopeful messaging would make me find resolve to not give up. I would shoot another image. And another. Until there were enough to make me feel useful in my own head.
What could have been a harrowing time became full of purpose. A calling. A metier.
In seeing the images up close on my iPhone, I found rays of hope. I found words of reaction, found a jog through memory lane for my brain.
As I healed I traveled to those friends I knew would nurture me. Nourish me with love and keep an eye out for me. Friends I could expose my weaknesses to. Who wouldn’t be judging me or arming themselves for future use against me. I learned how lucky I was to have friends. I learned how amazingly incredible my family was. I learned how life has its own rhythm and schedule. I realized how lucky I was to be living.
Instamatic, its 80 images and the stories that each comes with, are about my mind, my condition, my journey—a time where it seemed my body, my health, my well-being, were all out of tandem with the world of the healthy and living.
Included in this article are two excerpts from Instamatic that I trust will inspire you to want to read more.
I hope you will download Instamatic. Fifty percent of the proceeds of this e-book will go to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. As you indulge me by reading about my story of renewal of life, of the success of hope, and the power of social media and having faith, you will support our nation in this time of pandemic crises.
As the sun uses the clouds to play hide-and-seek, life and reality do the same.
Something deep inside me that believes there is a greater plan than what I might want to believe keeps me from getting disillusioned.
It seems convenient to allow frail and fractured-thinking, young and organized religions and egotistical, power-hungry clergy to rob me of the real beauty that is the majesty of life and beyond.
But why can I not believe what to many seems so readily plausible? Why must I insist on discovering and uncovering truths of life as I would the core of an onion, which is fully exposed only after all layers have been pulled away?
Life is easier, even if not as grand and beautiful, if one is able to attach oneself to the beliefs laid out and sold as divine by a structured and beautifully and seamlessly designed enterprise.
Why then do I enjoy learning and growing, challenge and study, pain and discovery?
What is it about the truth and true religion and true Godliness that astounds me?
It is the gossamer quality of truth and the elusive nature of God and the fuzzy but absolute acceptance of all in honest religion that I am seduced by.
These majestically divine and unbiased forces of nature are natural teachers, elders, leaders, and more.
Finding them, seeing them beyond the visible and apparent, is finding that unexpected sweetness in a discovery that takes one over the moon.
Worthy of the wait. Worthy of the lone road one must traverse to find it. Worthy of every effort it takes from us to show its incredibly satisfying colors.
Rwanda is the remarkable story of the turnaround of a nation.
It is the living and breathing, working and welcoming, succeeding and hard-at-work face of a nation.
A nation growing rapidly and seemingly beautifully, from tragic genocide (twenty-five years ago) to triumphant peace (today).
Traveling through Rwanda, one sees in motion a most incredible state of reconfiguration, of reconciliation, of reform, and of reconstruction.
As I saw these beautiful and gracious women work and offer welcome at the same time, I found myself reflecting on a people committed to stitching together a better society.
Citizens bringing opportunities, access, information, and prosperity to all in their collective.
Musicians strive to create harmony of notes, chefs tease palates while comforting souls, designers fashion new and exciting looks that make one beautiful and seductive. Rwanda seems to live and exist to be a poster child for social innovation.
A nation that is reconciling, restoring, and rebuilding with every new stitch.
Each stitch carefully and knowingly connected to its whilom days—the past.
Mindfully stitched in this here and now—the present.
Proudly hopeful for today’s stitches connecting to the stitches of a fruitful tomorrow—the future.
CRISPY OKRA SALAD
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 medium or 2 small tomatoes, quartered, seeded (optional), and sliced into juliennes
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- About 8 cups neutral vegetable oil for frying
- 1 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut lengthwise into thin strips
- 4 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seed powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chaat masala
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika or deghi mirch
- In small mixing bowl, stir together onion, tomato, and cilantro. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In wide, 4-inch-deep heavy pot over moderate heat, heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches oil until deep-fat thermometer registers 350°F. Fry okra in batches (returning oil to 350°F between batches) until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer fried okra to paper towels to drain.
- In large mixing bowl, combine okra, onion-tomato mixture, lemon juice, salt, and spices. Toss gently and serve immediately.