Life From Scratch reveals a deep connection between healing and cooking.
At its core, Martin discovers that the heart of home and family is in her kitchen.
Martin’s first 10 years were spent with her eccentric, outspoken mother, whose warmth and strength was also found in the kitchen, where she taught her daughter to love to cook. “There are mysteries buried in the recesses of every kitchen—every crumb kicked under the floorboard is a hidden memory. But some kitchens are made of more. Some kitchens are everything.”
Troubles with poverty and child services wrenched her and her brother from home. Martin’s emotional and social scars began with this removal and her placement in a series of horrendous foster care, until the Dumonts, friends of her mother, assumed guardianship for the next 7 years. They were frequent movers. In 7 years, they lived in Virginia, Paris and Luxenbourgh City before Martin leaves for college, when the guardians cut off contact.
Despite many magical moments, sadness and uncertainty season her early life. She missed her mother and was devastated by her the suicide of her brother, whose body she found. Her guardians, especially Patricia, gave her everything she needed, except love and time in the kitchen. “Mom had raised me with the implicit understanding that cooking is the answer to all life’s vicissitudes---not just the antidote to boredom, but also a way to ward off the darker realities of grief, separation, and loneliness.”
It’s no surprise that after college Sasha decided to be a chef. Cooking provided nourishment of all sorts. Accepted at the renowned Culinary Institute of America (CIA), she studied for a year, completed an internship in Tulsa and then decided to leave the CIA and settle in Tulsa, OK. Martin continued cooking, hoping to understand the losses of her childhood. “If I put the right ingredients in my spice jars, I realized, they’d be portals to that bygone era.”
In our conversation together, I asked about the healing power of cooking. Sasha responded, “Physically, cooking is soothing, like a meditation. For example, I love making bread. Working that dough, shaping it, having the satisfaction of
putting something in the oven and having it come out transformed.”
Fearful of rejection, she avoided many relationships until an unlikely meeting with Keith, the owner of a
motorcycle shop and club led to her marriage. After the birth of their daughter Ava, Martin set herself a goal
of cooking recipes from every country in the world. She told me that cooking not only healed emotionally, but
socially as well. “It forced me to invite others to my table and I gained confidence.” Tulsa became a “place to
become strong and place to continue growth.” Speaking enthusiastic about all that is new culturally downtown,
to me as I used to live in Tulsa, Sasha says Tulsa continues to hold her, “The community is growing with me.”
“I soon realized cooking the world was not simply about the food. It was about finding a sense of belonging.
But, no matter how many countries I cooked, I’d never find my place in this world if I didn’t make peace with my past.” [website. June 3, 2015.]
In a phone interview, we discussed the lasting trauma of her childhood and the doorway that was opened in writing this book. “When you write a memoir, you have to open up those doors and pull out nasty horrible memories and embrace them. I couldn’t take my readers there until I resolved it myself. The trauma was still there. Writing was a good process and helped me confront what I had been through. “
The second part of her book describes her Global Table Experience. She shares her adventures and frustrations with these cuisines, from hard to find ingredients and cookware to her picky-eater husband’s reactions. While some recipes are included in the memoir, her blog and website share more than 650 recipes from all the countries of her cooking world.
A highpoint of her Global Table Experience occurs when at the Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum, cooked recipes from 195 countries were presented in an open-to-the-public extravaganza. The 4 years that Martin cooked the world and the many
months of preparation for the Philbrook event helped rebuild her relationship to her mother, heal the pain of
the past and give Sasha confidence in
These two milestones were “…about getting our fill. Not just of food, but of the intangible things we all need:
acceptance, love and understanding.” Her book ends not with the citywide event but with Keith, Ava and
Martin sitting down together with the last country’s recipes. Sasha Martin was home.
When I asked Sasha what she was cooking that evening, she related that she was
making the Sweet Semolina Cake with Lemon Rosewater (Basboosa) because her daughter Ava, 6, has
also written a book (a little shorter!) For the book signing party that evening, Sasha was going to make this
cake. Click here to be taken to the recipe on Sasha’s website, globaltableadventure.com