Good morning! Or, (I hope I have this right) shubh prabhaat!
Today we’re welcoming travel/fantasy writer Barb Taub, author of Do Not Wash Hands in Plates. We talked a bit about her travels to India, then her experience writing about her time there. The “Coffee Break” interviews and posts took a break over the summer but returns ready to whet your appetites for some good food and drink, and of course, great reads!
First things first: Coffee or tea…or are you still a chai drinker? How do you take it?
It’s so nice to meet someone with her caffeine priorities straight! The answer, of course, is that what I drink depends on where I am. When traveling in India, we love to find all the amazing ways people prepare and drink chai tea.
My British friends know I, as an American, can’t be trusted to make the tea. (“She doesn’t even rinse the pot with boiling water first.” “I heard she makes it in the microwave!” “Surely, not!”)
But I’m from Seattle, so my heart (and probably a good percentage of my arteries) will always belong to coffee. In the UK, they will ask—with a perfectly straight face—if you want cafetiere (French Press) or instant coffee. And here’s the amazing thing: at least half the time, perfectly normal looking people will deliberately choose instant. (I’m so not making this up.) I’m not saying I like my own coffee strong—as long as it barks on its way out of the pot, and you have to use a scissors to cut it when it’s getting near the top of the mug, I’m happy.
I’m loaded up with my coffee (which is barking away, but has agreed to stay in the cup for the time being). 🙂
Now that we have our drinks, off we go! I’ve not read many travel books before yours, other than the mind-numbing advice ones like Fromer’s Guide to: (insert country here). How would you compare Do Not Wash Hands in Plates with other books on the market? And, in four lines or less, how do you pitch your book, a non-fiction travel memoir, to a fiction reader you hope to convert?
As a travel advice book, it’s a complete failure. (Unless you like travel guides consisting of: “Travel with two friends you’ve known for more than four decades. Eat everything, preferably from street vendors. Make sure one of your companions is a native of the country you’re visiting. Bonus points if one or both of them has medical training and a prescription pad.”)
A four-line pitch? That’s cruel and unusual punishment for a writer! Oh, wait… That’s just a tweet-length! Here goes, tailored to audiences:
- Horror Readers: They were warned. Stay away, they were told. But three women didn’t listen. They went to India and…they drank the water.
- Romance Readers: Three old friends just wanted to see elephants and—if they were very lucky, eat a few parathas. They never counted on falling in love with an entire country. But when they met the huge, noisy, explosion of color and sound and great food that is India, they learned that love comes with a price. Will they find a western toilet before all is lost?
- Mystery Readers: The crowded, brilliantly bejeweled land of India holds a secret. Three old friends leave their seemingly perfect lives in search of answers. How do you drive the best bargain at bazaars? Where do you find the best street chai? And, above all, what if you do accidentally drink that water? Can the three resist the charms of paratha-pushing street vendors long enough to make it to the Don Bosco hospital, or will they succumb to Delhi Belly: a level of hell that Dante missed?
- Chick Lit Readers: This is the story of three women eating our way across India in search of adventure, elephants, temples, palaces, western toilets, monkeys, Indian medicine, the perfect paratha…and the kindness of Indian strangers.
LOL! Those were some great pitches.
My question was a bit of a fastball. I’ll toss you a grapefruit next: You talked a lot about food in Do Not Wash Hands in Plates! Do you consider yourself a foodie in general who seeks to travel and sample the dishes of the world, or particularly smitten with the Indian cuisine? How often to you eat Indian food (at home or out) now?
I am not even remotely close to a foodie. But back in the paleolithic era when Jaya, Janine, and I were roommates at the University of Chicago, Jaya opened our eyes and our palates to the colors and flavors of Indian food as she prepared feasts for a steady stream of homesick Indian friends and our astonished selves. Janine and I limped along the next few decades, surviving on scribbled recipes and occasionally excellent Indian takeout. Although I love to travel and sample foods from around the world, there is absolutely nothing that can compare with touring another country under the guidance of someone who is both a native, and your friend for forty-years. So…short answer? Not a foodie, but anyone who travels with Jaya could qualify as a street-foodie.
Yum! I wonder how many readers will attempt the curry recipe you shared…
Did you go into the trip knowing you would write this story? If not, how did it come to be?
Actually, I wrote this up as a series of blog posts. I wanted to put them together into a little book as a present for Janine and Jaya, who had taken the incredible photos. But others kept asking about it, so I published it on Kindle. As someone whose wonderful publishers usually handle all that side of the business, self-publishing proved fun, frustrating, and an education. The only downside was that in order to keep the price as low as possible, I had to keep the file size to a minimum, which meant the pictures were lower resolution. But there is a code included with every copy, and readers can use that to view all those photos plus additional pictures and videos online.
Some of my favorite books started as short stories or blog posts. Kudos to you for venturing into the indie-pub arena and your success in sharing the adventures with the world!
You may have seen this question in my other Coffee Break interviews, and it’s one of my favorites: If you could be a dinosaur from any era, what would you choose, and why?
I have to admit that nobody has asked me that one before. My current favorite dinosaur is Lucy the Psittacosaurus, an adorable little parrot-like dinosaur who lived in China 120 million years ago. Why? Take a look at the new 3D model and you’ll see that Lucy’s Awwww!-factor is off the charts!
Um. Sure! We’ll call her cute…I wonder if they think she could repeat sounds the way a parrot does?
But let’s not get too distracted! What’s coming next, for Author Barb Taub, and for the trio of Barb, Janine and Jaya?
In addition to finishing up the last volume in my own urban fantasy/humor Null City series, I’ve been working on our next travel book. What has absolutely amazed me is the reception Do Not Wash Hands in Plates has received. We are constantly getting requests for more. So we’ve decided to repeat the trip every year, focusing on a different region of India. India 2.0 is in the works after our trip to Rajasthan, and we’re already planning for India 3.0. (Of course, we also get a constant stream of requests to come along on the next trip, but those spots are reserved for people I’ve known for forty years.)
See here for a special sneak peek at our next travel book.
That sounds fantastic, delicious and amazing! I, for one, will be looking forward to the tales that come from India 2.0 and 3.0!
Thanks so much for joining me for coffee and chatting about your writing and books. Safe travels and happy trails!
Books by and social media contact for Barb Taub:
Do Not Wash Hands In Plates: Elephant frenzy, parathas, temples, alaces, monkeys…and the kindness of Indian strangers
–Text by Barb Taub, Photographs by Jayalakshmi Ayyer and Janine Smith
This is the story of three women eating our way across India in search of adventure, elephants, temples, palaces, western toilets, monkeys, the perfect paratha… and the kindness of Indian strangers.
If you like your trips filled with laughter and misadventures and great food and elephants and toilets, if you’d like a mini virtual-vacation, or if you just want a quick and humorous read, please take a look at Do Not Wash Hands In Plates.
Buy & Info Links:
NULL CITY Series:
You have to understand that everyone in Null City is a normal human. Most of them just didn’t start out that way. Imagine you’re some superhero with special gifts or abilities that are, frankly, damn awkward. Let’s say, for example, that you are the Man of Steel, but you don’t dare have sex with the Plucky Girl Reporter because your LittleMan of Steel would probably split her in two. (And we’re not even going to discuss the havoc your Swimmers of Steel could wreck on Woman of Pasta…)
The point is that when you think about it, most people with special powers would be lining up to get rid of them and get their normal lives back. That’s where Null City comes in. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. Dragons, for example, might become realtors. Or imps become baristas. (Of course, those imps are now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey — there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…)
Thanks for reading! We would love to hear from you. Comments and questions are welcome in the comments section, for The Mom and Barb Taub!
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