Welcome to the July 2023 edition of RPL at Home, where I share what I’m up to when I’m not in the kitchen or in front of the camera.
Each month, I’ll share snippets of what I’m working, habits I’m cultivating, things bringing me joy, books/TV shows/podcasts I’m enjoying, and more. Think of it as stream-of-consciousness blabbering meets a semi-curated list of recommendations meets life update.
We recently finished season 2 of Slow Horses, the British spy thriller TV series that’s been described as the best show you’re not watching. It follows a ragtag band of MI5 officers who’ve been booted from the main MI5 offices for various blunders.
Watching this show made me realize that I’m a sucker for spy TV shows. And this one has all the elements I want in such a show—intrigue that keeps you on the edge of your seat, lots of mystery and clues without being scary (I don’t do horror), and fairly believable plot sequences (very unlike, say, James Bond).
But it’s also funny and irreverent and full of witty one-liners. The lead actor Gary Oldman has a lot to do with it. He plays his character—a sarcastic, grumpy boss who loves to drink but hates taking care of his appearance and observing social mores—incredibly well.
Would highly recommend! (season 1 is great too).
Since I skipped RPL at Home in June (more on why below), I’ve done quite a bit of reading since I last checked in (this section contains affiliate links).Quietly Hostile by Sam Irby. I knew I was going to enjoy this one because Sam Irby is possibly my favorite writer. This is her fourth collection of hilarious essays folded into a book, and I highly recommend reading all of them (in order).
Reading this book feels like you’re having a chat with that one friend who can make anything funny, including social anxiety or wildly embarrassing pooping-in-public stories. Sex and the City fans, in particular, will enjoy the entire chapter devoted to her ridiculous musings on the show.Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner. Decidedly more serious than the first book. This is an incredibly moving memoir about a young woman’s experience with grief and identity, as she explores her half-Korean, half-American heritage as well as the often-fraught relationship she had with her mother before she passed away.
It made me realize that children of immigrants, no matter how different their upbringings and ethnic backgrounds, share so much in common in their search for acceptance, inclusion, and belonging. It also made me so grateful that I’ve always had a good relationship with my own mother (aside from a somewhat rocky but mostly tame year or two in high school where all I wanted was a curfew later than 10 pm LOL).
Two disclaimers: (1) You will likely tear up while reading this memoir. (2) Korean food figures prominently in this memoir, so if detailed descriptions of animal-based food makes your vegan stomach queasy, I’d suggest skimming over those sections (like I did).Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. We recently took a trip back to our old stomping grounds in NYC (more on that below), and I forgot to bring a book for the flights, so I borrowed (read: stole) the book Max had brought with him. When I realized it was a whodunit murder mystery, I told him, “This isn’t really the kind of book I’d normally read, but I guess it’ll do for now.”
Fast forward a few days later, and I had devoured the book.
Okay, I get it…I was being a book snob! And I’m glad I had my mind changed. This book is excellent: charming, funny, and it made me want to solve the case. It actually features two murder mysteries in a story-within-a-story format, so there’s double the fun. For the record, I did not solve either murder mystery.
There were some really great podcasts during Pride month (in June). Here are just two I enjoyed:
The NPR Fresh Air interview with actor Elliot Page. I will never understand what it’s like to be transgender, and I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why some folks have such hatred for trans folks.
But I think (or at least, I hope) that if some of these people would actually listen to a trans person speak about what it feels like to be trapped in a body that doesn’t feel like your own and how isolating and scary and depressing that can feel…they would think differently.
This interview with Elliot Page is the kind of interview that I think (or hope) would have that kind of impact. It’s raw, honest, and eye-opening.
Also, this NPR Fresh Air interview with comedian Wanda Sykes. I’ve always thought she was hilarious, and this interview reminded me that she’s still got it.
Fun fact: Sykes came out as a lesbian in 2008 at a rally against California Proposition 8 (which took away the rights same-sex couples to get married in California). The passage of Prop 8 is what launched my own activism in this realm; the following year during my last semester in college, I interned at an LGBTQIA+ non-profit in San Francisco. At our annual gala, Sykes was the keynote speaker and I briefly met her while delivering her a glass of champagne (I squealed afterwards).
🗽A trip to NYC
Max and I recently went to NYC at the start of this month. While I certainly look like a tourist in the GIF below, I promise I used to live in NYC for almost a decade. The trip was a whirlwind of seeing friends and family, which was delightful and restorative for the soul.
I know a lot of my followers are excited for all the vegan food I explore on my travels, so I always feel a little like I’m disappointing y’all when I don’t share that much about my trips.
But it’s because I try to stay present and off my phone as much as possible when traveling, particularly when we’re hanging with loved ones. In past trips, where I spent time trying to “capture content,” it always felt more stressful than fun and made it harder to unplug, so I’ve tried to move away from that.
In fact the only photo we took on this trip is the below video/GIF Max captured of me on the ferry (the ferry is a delightful way to travel in NYC and I regret not taking it more often when I lived there). Also, when we’re meeting so many different people, it’s not always possible to eat at vegan restaurants. Sometimes, you are dining with 9 people, and you just have to go to a burger joint and order an Impossible burger. But good company makes up for that.
However, there was one excellent vegan dinner we did enjoy at Cadence.
If you live in or are visiting NYC, I cannot recommend this restaurant enough. Run by the brilliant young chef Shenarri Freeman, Cadence serves up the soul food from her childhood with a vegan twist and a fine dining experience. There are remakes of iconic Black Southern dishes like cornbread and chicken & waffles, and dishes specific to her childhood like fried lasagna (which is even better than it sounds).
Our table ordered ~ 70% of the menu, and I can’t even tell you the highlights because every dish was an A+ (and ya’ll know I’m a tough critic). I also love that the entire wine menu comes from Black-owned wineries (some of the wines featured are from vegan and sustainable winemaker House of Brown, which I’ve been buying at Whole Foods lately).
I know many of you have been asking for updates on cookbook #2, and I deliberately avoided sharing them for so long because I didn’t have any news to share and because the publication date kept getting pushed back.
Now that I have answers, I’m excited to say that after 2 ½ years of working on this massive book, it’s finally off my plate (for the most part)!!
In the last week of June, I submitted the finalized version of my manuscript and delivered all of the finalized edited photos.
Let me explain the stuff in italics in more detail because they’re important!
“For the most part”
All the big content stuff is off my plate. Except that I don’t have a title yet. 2 ½ years and still no title LOL.
But I’m not entirely done with this book just yet. There will be copyediting later this year, which will require a fair amount of my time for a few weeks at a time. But it’s more technical stuff, so the big content push is over.
You may recall from this Instagram post that I actually submitted my manuscript over a year ago in May 2022.
BUT, a few months later, my editor (rightfully) informed me that I had written too much of a book. I had gotten so in my head about every little thing I wanted to share that I didn’t realize I had written too damn much. If printed, it likely would’ve been a ~900 page cookbook. I guess this is what happens when you ask a lawyer to write a cookbook.
So I spent Fall 2022 rewriting and restructuring the book, as well as figuring out which recipes to omit and even developing some new recipes to fit the modified chapters.
I submitted the new manuscript in January 2023. Over the next few months, my editor and I went back and forth on the manuscript, and I worked on more changes. By the last week of June, the manuscript was in its finalized form, at last.
And then in April of this year, I looked at all the photos I had taken in 2021 and 2022 and realized Well, golly gee, I just don’t like my photos all that much(!?!?!).
Part of the issue was that I am simply a better photographer than I was 2 years ago. I’m sure artists in many fields can relate to this feeling of having your older work showcased but feeling like it’s not your absolute best.
The bigger part of the problem, though, was that I had rushed through many of the photos in an effort to get everything done before my deadline. And it showed. Most of the photos were nice…but they weren’t great.
Why did I rush?
Well, I started writing this book in earnest at the start of 2021. My original deadline was fall 2021, so I pushed myself really hard to write and photograph everything in 10 months. Many days I would start testing recipes at 7 am, photograph several recipes at the same time, and finish up in the kitchen at 7 pm without taking time to rest.
Eventually, I pushed too hard, and well, my body shut down from all the stress.
During certain periods, the entire right side of my body was in pain, all the way from my jaw to my legs. This meant I couldn’t type or edit photos for more than a few minutes without experiencing shooting pain in my arm and hand, I couldn’t bend over and take photos because of my back pain, and I couldn’t even taste test many of my own recipes because my TMJ had flared up.
45 days before my deadline, in September 2021, I finally listened to my body and asked for an extension. And we decided May 2022 would be the new submission date.
Fast forward to early April of 2023, again (sorry for the timeline jumps—this is all stream of consciousness!). I am in a much healthier place, mentally and physically, and I was feeling good about the manuscript. But I wasn’t feeling so good about the photos.
So I embarked on a modest proposal: re-photograph the 10 to 15 recipe photos I liked the least.
Unlike the first time around, I actually spent time mapping out these photos in my mind (and in my iPhone notes). I planned out the colors and style of each photo. I actually took my time during each photo shoot.
As soon as I finished photographing that set of 10 to 15 photos, I could see a clear difference. My new photos were much better. And I thought why not re-photograph even more? After all, I wanted to be really proud of the photos in the book (and maybe I am a bit of a masochist in some sense).
So, from April to June of this year, I rephotographed and rephotographed and rephotographed. Last week, I did a tally, and I ended up rephotographing about 70% of all the photos (in a cookbook that will have about 150 recipes).
I am laughing at Nisha from three months ago. She was so earnest yet delusional in thinking she’d rephotograph only 10 to 15 recipes.
PHEW. That was a lot!
So…if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been (I’ve been pretty absent on Instagram for months, I skipped the RPL at Home post in June, etc.), that is what I was up to: finishing my second cookbook (for reals this time).
I am beyond excited for this book to eventually be published and am very proud of it, but I hope you’ll be able to exercise some patience. Publishing a cookbook with a major publisher in the U.S. is a looong process, so the book won’t be out until Fall 2024(!).
For the next few months, the designer will work on laying out the book, the font, the style, figuring out how to fit all the text on the page, deciding how the photos will be arranged, etc.
Then the book will go into several rounds of copyediting, which involves reviewing it with the finest of fine-tooth combs. And then the production and printing and marketing processes will start to unfold next year!
Thanks for your patience (and for reading this novela!).
Fun stuff you might have missed
🥗 The Complete Guide to Salads eBook
We just published our very first eBook! It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart: SALADS. More specifically, how to make salads delicious, satisfying, and even exciting.
The eBook is over 50 pages and packed with information to help you master salads.
- The principles of making good salads. Learn these and you’ll be able to whip up amazing salads without having to use a recipe.
- 11 exclusive recipes: 5 salad dressings and 6 complete salad recipes I’ve never shared before.
- Practical tips that will make it more likely that you’ll actually incorporate salads into your weekly meals, including my go-to staples for meal prepping salads.
You can learn more about the eBook here and download it (limited time promo: use the code RPLATHOME for 50% off!).
🥔 RPL Recipe Club
Oh, and don’t forget about the RPL Recipe Club! Each month, I’m choosing a different recipe for the RPL community to make, and July’s recipe is my perfect-for-summer Potato Salad. Anyone can make the recipe, then submit a photo to win amazing kitchen prizes.
For all the details check out the July 2023 edition of the RPL recipe club.
👩🏽💻 What I’m working on (in the biz)
There are several things changing in the RPL business and in my life as of July! For one, the cookbook is off my plate (see above)!! This has opened up more time for me to think about what areas of the business I want to prioritize now.
And one of those priorities is hiring and expanding the RPL team.
In an RPL at Home post from April, I mentioned we were working on building the RPL team. But that also happened to be the month I went into cookbook photography turbo mode, so that got put on the backburner.
This summer, we’re going to re-focus on hiring (or figuring out if we need to hire) in a few different areas: general management, assistance with video shoots, and recipe testing. After two amazing years, we said good-bye to our recipe tester/kitchen assistant/all-around badass Hannah, who is moving to the east coast.
If you want to be notified when we post those job roles, be sure to sign up for our newsletter (also sign up if you like vegan recipes!).
Okay, that’s it for this month! I’ve been loving writing these more personal posts, and I hope you’re enjoying them too.
Drop me a line below and let me know what you’d like to see in next month’s edition!