SELF-PUBLISHED author and Rotarian Monique Labat recently released her book, Facebook Foodie. Labat spoke to the Fever’s Purnal Poonusamy about her book, her life as a Rotarian, and her humanitarian work.
- Please tell me a bit about yourself.
- I was born in Mauritius and our family moved to the South Coast of KZN.
To paraphrase Samuel Ullman’s essay called Youth, I am passionate about life and believe we are put on this earth to oil each other’s wheels so as long as our aerials are up, to catch waves of optimism, there is hope we may die young at 80!
PP: Can you tell me about your work as a Rotarian?
ML: Since travelling to Turkey as part of Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange in 2001, I have undertaken numerous humanitarian projects and work with the Youth in Amaoti where we have assisted young women in the area.
We support initiatives such as Project Dignity through SUBZ Pads and raise funds for the distribution of sanitary wear to young women. Our global organisation looks at the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service. From the earliest days of Rotary International, Rotarians have been concerned with promoting high ethical standards in their professional lives. Our Four-Way Test adopted by Rotary asks: Of the things we think, say or do: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Rotarians support their local communities through the following six areas of focus:
1. Peace and conflict prevention and resolution
2. Disease prevention and treatment
3. Water and sanitation
4. Maternal and child health
5. Basic education and literacy
6. Economic and community development
PP: In regards to your book, Facebook Foodie, what inspired you to write a book, and why a recipe book?
ML: Food has been an integral part of my life and my earliest memories are food related. Growing up on a farm, being surrounded by produce we grew ourselves, and then spending three months at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland was all the inspiration I needed to put together a collection of my favourite recipes.
PP: What were some of the experiences you had to undergo in order to write the book?
ML: Francesco Petruccione, my husband, found an internet platform to assist with the self-publishing process and was instrumental in making my dream of writing my first cookbook more real.
Francesco’s colleague, Professor David Walker, had self-published a history book and he spent time explaining to me how he brought it all together and very generously shared his notes with me. Friends and family have sat around our dining room table and shared their stories, displayed great enthusiasm and enjoyed debating on all matters food and wine related, all the while demonstrating a healthy appetite. The process took me two years, which included testing and sampling my recipes.
PP: Do you have any memorable moments made while writing that you would like to share?
ML: Yes, in my book’s introduction I write that tradition is a wonderful thing. It connects you to history and, in my case, our family history. It makes for cherished memories that find a special place in your heart. Meal times around a dining room or kitchen table provide the family with opportunities to share their experiences of the day and we learn from each other by telling our stories. I find storytelling a very powerful tool in learning and maintaining strong family bonds.
PP: What is your favourite recipe from the book and why?
ML: The favourite recipe is my pineapple, cucumber, red onion and chilli salsa. It is quick and easy, super colourful, and works well on its own or as a side dish.
Take one pineapple, peel it, remove the eyes and dice. Peel and dice one large English cucumber. Finely slice a red onion, chop a large red chilli, wash and tear up a bunch of coriander and slice a bunch of chives finely. Combine all these salsa ingredients in a bowl. For the dressing simply blend in a glass jar two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice, one tablespoon soya sauce, one tablespoon rice vinegar and two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Close the glass jar and give it a good shake to combine all the dressing ingredients. Drizzle over the salsa, serve and Bon Appetit!
PP: Can you tell us a bit about why you chose to self-publish, and a little bit about the process?
ML: It was an innovative process and I was able to decide what I wished to include in the cookbook. Each of my recipes has a little story as an introduction. Often these stories are memories of family members or friends, all very special people that have played a nurturing role and supported and guided me through life. The process also included finding out about South Africa’s National Libraries, the ISBN or International Standard Book Number as well as barcodes.
PP: The proceeds from your book go towards an initiative aimed at eradicating Polio, can you tell us why you chose this initiative?
ML: Rotary International has made the eradication of Polio its focus and, through the Rotary Foundation, we Rotarians believe we can eradicate Polio in our lifetime. The reason I chose the #EndPolioNow campaign as my beneficiary is that it is so simple and cost effective to vaccinate babies with the polio vaccine, thereby giving all children the opportunity to live a Polio-Free life.
PP: Can you share an excerpt from the book for our readers?
ML: From a young age growing up on the South Coast, my parents used to take us mussling at spring low tides. It was a real adventure. We’d pack our gardening gloves, mussel bags and mussel permits and change into our costumes. Once at the beach, we’d wait until given the green light to head out onto the mussel-covered rocks, now exposed thanks to the low tide. We’d look for the largest mussels and twist and turn until they came away in our gloved hands. Then there was the job of scraping away the barnacles and bits of seaweed stuck to the mussel shells before being allowed to swim in the beautiful Indian Ocean!
PP: Is there anything you would like to add?
ML: I would encourage those who have a story and wish to publish it to use this option. I found the process very stimulating. There was a lot of new knowledge to assimilate and I am happy to share the process with those who can benefit through speaking engagements at Rotary Clubs or Business Networking events.