I Always Wanted to Write a Cookbook


As a teenager, I liked nothing better than taking over my mother’s kitchen to make dinner. I made dishes like chicken paprika with homemade spaetzle, beef Wellington and baklava. This was in the 1970’s—long before the Food Network and the cult of the celebrity chef. We did, however, have Julia Child!

When I first started writing almost 30 years ago, my first articles, Middle East Meals on a Stick ( otherwise known as kebabs) and a Persian New Year’s Feast, were cooking pieces that included recipes. Back then, I wasn’t exactly sure where my writing would lead— or if it would in fact, lead anywhere at all. But somewhere along the way, I had read that new writers should “write what you know”.  At the time what I knew  was how to  manage a household  with very little money and  four kids under 7 -years old.  So it is not surprising that early in my career that I settled into writing a steady stream of how-to parenting pieces like How to Pay Less for Back-to-School Shopping and Waiting Room Strategies for Toddlers.  

Then as the kids grew up, I transitioned to travel writing. I haven’t looked back. I’m just about to start writing No Access Boston, my sixth Boston/New England travel book.

And while I was figuring out how to have a career and raise my kids, I was cooking for a full house.   And just as when I was a kid, cooking was also my hobby. Spending time in the kitchen, whether cooking by myself or cooking with the kids, was one of the ways I stayed sane when I was a stay-at-home Mom. And it is certainly true that each of my now- adult children loves to eat and make good food.  Ok, for my three sons the emphasis is on “loves to eat,”or more accurately, loves to eat out. But especially as they begin to pay down their student loans,  the boys are increasingly interested in learning how to cook.

Shashuska- eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. The kind of budget-friendly  dish that  I encourage my sons to make!

But my daughter Leda has really taken to cooking. Maybe because there was only 3 1/2 years among the three boys, the boys always played with each other.  Leda is the baby of our family. She has has always been my little shadow, staying near me as I went about my day including lots of time cooking with me.

Today, at 21, she really knows her way around the kitchen. Now in her 4th year at the University of Edinburgh  — where student life means no dorms (and food plan) after the freshman year— she has really had to learn to cook.

When she is at school, there is hardly a few days that go by when we are not texting photos of the dishes we have made.  And when Leda is home for school breaks we spend a lot of time cooking together, whether that be weekday cooking to perfecting roasting a chicken or making homemade pasta for Sunday dinner with the family.

For the past couple of years, Leda and I would cook something that would turn out well and we would say “We should put that recipe in our cookbook.” This is that cookbook.

I decided to use Blurb to self-publish our project, Favorites from the Olia Kitchen. I did a little cookbook market research and surprisingly there aren’t any Mother-Daughter cookbooks.  We decided to divvy up our family favorite recipes: the shashuska recipe from the New York Times,  Nigella Lawson’s chocolate chocolate chip cookies, and  my own version of Boston Cream pie,  and each take a turn writing the  introductions — mine end with —(M) , hers with — (L). Most of the photographs are Leda’s. The best photographs are definitely Leda’s.

One of Leda’s terrific shots !

We did a small print run to give out as gifts for Christmas. The early reviews from the family have been fantastic. Now the book is sold on Amazon. Not that I would expect anyone to pay $39 for a paperback book of our family recipes. When we get to 100 recipes, I may even consider having the book printed in hardcover.  But I think that this could be the start of something….

Yes, you too can bake a Boston Cream Pie. I can show you how!


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