Mommy knows best

In conversation with Sharmila Ribeiro, winner of the family cookbook category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

June 21, 2018 04:56 pm | Updated June 22, 2018 12:00 pm IST

When Sharmila Ribeiro decided to cut back on work-related travels to focus on her and her family’s health and diet, she was just looking out for her pack. Today, she sees that decision as a positive trigger point, that soon snowballed into her book Everyday Love: A Mother’s Guide to Healthy Cooking for Kids winning the Family Cookbook category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards Conference, 2018 in China.

Back in India after the ceremony, Ribeiro is gushing, and not just about the award. “I had written this book primarily for parents. But kids these days are cooking a lot, and many of them are using my recipes, which is wonderful,” she says over phone.

So what is it that sets this book apart? It’s very raison d’etre has been spoken and written about quite a bit, for a publication that is barely six months old, but the author explains it again. “I quit my travels five years ago, and started de-junking my kitchen. All the stuff that you buy — from muesli and peanut butter to things we need for our traditional meals — we started making at home. The health benefits were huge,” she says. The shift in lifestyle wasn’t easy, and Ribeiro took her time with it. She soon began documenting her attempts, because it occurred to her that this cause wasn’t hers alone. “All mothers and all schools struggle with this: how to pack a lunch that is healthy, and that kids will be willing to eat,” she points out. Thus began a long series of testing, tasting and even photography sessions, all with the aim of making these recipes publishable and more accessible.

Ribeiro also insists that this shift in lifestyle isn’t just for families. Single, working people can adopt these just as well, “All it takes is prepping. If you prep on the weekends and plan ahead, it really helps with healthy eating.” The book is a testament to the growing market there is for slow, healthy food options. It is also a testament to the fact that not all self-published books are necessarily below par. Ribeiro says she never approached a publisher with her work; self-publishing was her go-to choice for a reason. “I have a nephew who is a photographer. With him, I could play with the design and bring out the book the way I wanted. The look of the book was very important to me: it had to be appealing.”

So Ribeiro and her team handled everything from layout to printing. “The book was off the press on November 9, 2017, and the deadline for entries for the contest was November 15,” she says. The team had to dispatch a copy fresh off the press, though the book was formally released only in December 2017. The effort, though, was clearly worth it.

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