Ever-Green Vietnamese Cookbook Advance + Sample Recipe
Hello old and new Friends!
Between last weekend and today, a bunch of folks joined the PTFS crew. We hit 7,600 subscribers and continue growing! Shazam. I’m so happy to have you all here. Cảm ơn (thank you) for sharing, recommending, and finding this newsletter to be a positive addition to your lives! Let me start today with a tidbit from my travels in the motherland.
In Vietnam, when you meet a stranger, chances are they’ll ask you a series of probing questions, including: Where are you from? When did you leave Vietnam? Where do you live now? Where were your parents from? Are you married? Do you have children?
The last question is the hardest for me to answer. I typically explain that it costs a lot to raise and educate children in America. What I omit to share is that my husband and I enjoy and love children but not enough to take on the lifetime responsibility of having our own family. I watched my parents raise five kids, bring us safely to America, and do their best to bridge the cultural and generational divides. I lack such superhuman abilities. I have eleven nieces and nephews.
For that reason, in my family, I’m the daughter, sister, and auntie who births books. I will never profoundly experience childbirth but the closest that I can get to it is when the advance copy of one of my books arrives.
What’s an Advance Copy?
After we finalize and send the book off to print overseas, it takes about six (6) months for the files to be verified and calibrated then printed, bound, shipped, and distributed to retailers. A few months ahead of the on-sale date (April 25, 2023 for EGV), the printer sends (by plane) a very limited number of copies of the finished book to the publisher.
The balance will arrive by boat (Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House prints mostly in Asia), meaning that Ever-Green Vietnamese is currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean or maybe even closing in on the mainland warehouse. All I knew when I made the above video was that I had two rare copies of the actual book in my home.
Fear and Anticipation
After FedEx delivered the box, I set it aside for a few hours. I was scared to open it up. I worked for three years on 125+ plant-based recipes and variations. They were all tested and sometimes retested by a group of dedicated volunteer testers. My dad went into hospice care and then passed away while I was finishing the manuscript. He answered my questions until he couldn’t any more.
The photo shoot was intense because our shot lists are always packed. Dishes needed to go on set every 45 minutes or so. COVID-19 made it hard to secure healthy assistants last May, so food stylist Karen Shinto and I started early and worked late each day. We got a little relief when we could book an extra person to help out. I called on a pal, fellow cookbook author Kate Leahy to pitch in. We masked up during the shoot, except for when I had to have my face in the shots. Photographer Aubrie Pick shot countless photos and my art director and I selected a little over ninety beauty shots for including in the book.
My dear editor, Lorena Jones (a luminary in cookbook publishing), announced her retirement after getting my 90,000-word project to a solid spot. She handed me off to another incredible editor, Julie Bennett, who along with the rest of the production team, helped me bring the book across the finish line. Ever-Green Vietnamese isn’t my first rodeo but I gotta say — and y’all know this with your endeavors — anything accomplished during the pandemic was a major feat.
Heft, Calm and Joy
When I pulled the books out of the box, their heft surprised me. I’ve not published a cookbook this weighty since Into the Vietnamese Kitchen in 2006. EGV clocks in at 332 pages; IVK was 375 pages long. Lorena chose a creamy, luscious paper stock to show off the words and photography. To convey cooking’s humanity and my voice, she and art director Betsy Stromberg wanted my face and hands in the book.
For the first time, I’m on the back cover and inside the book to cheer you on in your kitchen. I’m unused to that because when the book hits your hands, my recipes are yours. I’ve long figured that I have no place on your journey except for in the words. But at 54, I’m a different person, more confident, more open. We’re also living and cooking in different, more intimate times.
I’m shy about tooting my own horn, but with Ever-Green Vietnamese, I pushed myself to be a better writer, one who is more present with you as a coach and friend. Cooking at home is a time commitment, and entrusting me to guide you somehow is a heavy responsibility.
After spending time cooking from the advance copy, I’m happy to declare that my book baby number 7, Ever-Green Vietnamese, has all its finger and toes!
What happened to the second advance copy? I sent it to my mom, who had helped me all along the way. At 88, she proofed the Vietnamese spelling, and wrote me notes, which I’m going to put in a safe place for archival purposes.
When Mom received her copy, she called me and unboxed hers over the phone. She told me it was beautiful, that it was my đứa con tinh thần. “Do you understand what đứa con tinh thần is?” she said. Um no, I sheepishly admitted. “It’s something special that you only could create.”
I was just working off of Vietnamese food traditions, I responded.
Looking up the term further, I realized that Mom had described Ever-Green Vietnamese as my brainchild.
If you want to get a jump on things, preorder the book. Make sure to save the ordering information because closer in, we’ll have some fun bonuses for you.
A Sample Recipe from my EGV Brainchild!
This past week, Penguin Random House sent its Valentine’s newsletter and what a lovely surprise — they selected one of my EGV recipe to showcase. Click here or on the image below to access the recipe for free!
Do you see a typo? I requested that be fixed. Perfection is overly ambitious.