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Naming my second cookbook
I’m writing to you from a house that is mostly gutted - a few days ago, almost all of our belongings were packed into boxes, loaded up into a shipping container and are on their way to the Netherlands. It’s uncomfortable to be living so minimally, but we tell ourselves that it’s only for two weeks!
In brighter news, my cookbook is in the final stages of design and editing! One of the trickiest part of the process was settling on a name. I was going through my belongings the other day and came across the contract and proposal for my very first cookbook, where the initial working titles were “Roselle & Taro” and “A Return to the Markets”. Both make me cringe now, but back then I wasn’t completely certain of “Wet Market to Table” either. It sounded too obvious, but the learning lesson has been that it is far better to be too literal than too smart when naming a title. In my opinion, the ones that work best always give the reader a clear idea of what the book is about. In that sense, looking back, Wet Market to Table was the perfect title for the book.
My second cookbook takes the reader on a journey through Asia to discover how vegetables can be dynamic, delicious and satisfying. The subtitle was decided upon really quickly - A Vegetarian Cookbook Through Asia. My editor had suggested it and I thought it sounded really beautiful and captured the essence of the book. Plus it covered everything a person would search for - vegetarian, Asian - when looking for this book. Coming up with a title was far more challenging.
The first that came to mind was Plantasia. I liked that it rhymed with fantasia, which the Oxford dictionary defines as “a musical composition with a free form and often an improvisatory style”. That’s the approach that I took with the recipes in the book. While there are some traditional recipes, many are inspired by techniques and flavour combinations from Asia and presented in fresh ways. There is a thunder tea kimbap recipe in the book, for example!
The initial feedback was that it sounded too much like a horticulture book, and I also had my own concerns about Plantasia sounding too cute so I trashed the idea and dug deeper. I had a good think about what I wanted to express through the book and it came down to two things:
Vegetables are not second-rate substitutes for meat - they are good enough as they are.
People tend to feel limited when it comes to cooking without seafood or meat, but there is so much diversity in the plant world that the possibilities are endless.
Ample seemed to sum it up well because it could either mean that something is enough/ more than enough, or plentiful/ in abundance. I figured I could add these definitions to the first page of the book for clarity, a lovely touch I noticed in Tender by Nigel Slater (one of my all-time favourite cookbook authors and writers).
My editor commented that while I was on the right track, Ample might be difficult for people if they’re terrible with remembering words. Vast was suggested upon a quick thesaurus check. “Vast has the same connotations. It also encompasses the fact that you are speaking to a range of Asians… and it speaks to the range of vegetables and applications.”
I took the two titles - Ample and Vast - with the subtitle to a small group of friends whom I trusted for feedback. They weren’t crazy over either.
On a whim, I brought up my initial idea for the title, slightly embarrassed that my friends might potentially find Plantasia too cutesy or kiddy…. which is why the reaction it elicited surprised me:
Plantasia was now a serious contender for the title but I needed more assurance. That’s when Wex introduced me to the wonders of ChatGPT, the chatbot driven by AI technology:
I was laughing when I got his messages because it is such a nerdy thing that he would do (he works a lot with AI in his line of work), but I was keen to see what AI could offer. A data-driven way to see what people think when they look at your title? Yes please.
Here’s the predicted synopsis for Vast:
This cookbook features a collection of recipes from different parts of Asia that are perfect for large gatherings. With dishes like Thai coconut soup, Malaysian chicken curry, and Vietnamese spring rolls, there is something for everyone to enjoy. This author also includes tips on how to create a memorable and stress-free dining experience for your guests. Whether you are hosting a dinner party or a family reunion, this cookbook will help you create a feast that everyone will remember.
Wex messaged, “For Vast, the model seems to think your cookbook is catered to recipes for large gatherings.” We tried Ample next:
In Ample, Pamelia Chia tells the story of her own battle with obesity and weight-loss surgery. She chronicles her journey from a size 24 to size 4, and the challenges she faced along the way. She discusses the societal pressure to be thin, and the pressure she felt from her family and friends to lose weight. She also talks about the struggles she faced after her surgery, including dealing with loose skin and body dysmorphia. Ultimately, she opens up about her triumphs and her struggles, in the hopes of helping others who are facing similar challenges.
I was in fits of laughter when I read this. Absolutely hysterical, but seriously, Ample is such a good book title for a weight loss memoir! Here’s Plantasia:
Plantasia is a cookbook that is all about plant-based recipes from all over Asia. The book is divided into sections by country, and includes both traditional recipes as well as modern twists on classics. With over 100 recipes to choose from, there is something for everyone is this book. Whether you are looking for a hearty meal or a light snack, you will be sure to find something to your liking in Plantasia.
That was it! Plantasia was the clear winner. The more I sat on it, the more right it felt. I love the way it sounds and that it tells you exactly what to expect. Here’s the full title:
Plantasia: A Vegetarian Cookbook Through Asia
It’s so great to finally feel this weight lift as I am able to share more and more about this cookbook that I’ve been working on privately for two full years. It will officially be launched towards the end of the year, but you’ll be able to preorder it in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned! 🌸
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