Plant-Based Himalaya: Vegan Recipes from Nepal
by Babita Shrestha
In 2016, I started living in Lexington, Kentucky. I was 30 years old and a recent graduate in Fine Arts, but at this age I discovered I was truly passionate about food rather than working as a graphic designer.
Fall 2016, I walked into Barnes and Noble in Lexington, Kentucky with my then-boyfriend and now husband. There, I discovered I was meant to write beautiful cookbooks from Nepal. By this age I had 20 years of cooking experience, almost a decade of passion in photography and photo editing, and five years of learning graphic design in college. But writing a book requires time and money, so it didn’t happen. I needed to focus on paying my college debt first so I could freely do whatever I want in my life. This led me to start Vegan Nepal in 2017 so I could continue my culinary passion while I was working two other jobs.
On January 4th, 2019, I married my amazing husband and we went on our honeymoon trip the next day for a week. We decided to go on a road trip from Lexington, Kentucky to Asheville, North Carolina; to Tybee Island, Savannah, and back to Lexington. My husband drove all the way because I don’t like driving, so I decided to start writing down all the ideas that came in my head and entertain my husband. We also rented hotels that had kitchens so we could cook our own food with all local ingredients found in these places to make the journey more memorable. When we got back home, I decided to continue working on my rough ideas and started designing right away. Since this was my first experience writing and designing a book, I took my time to think what recipes I’d like to include and how I’d like to design it.
I completed writing my rough draft by the end of the year while I was working on coming back to Nepal in 2020. My husband and I had planned to visit Nepal since 2018, so I didn’t want to miss this chance, especially with the chaos of the pandemic everywhere. I hadn’t returned to my home country since I left for the US in 2009, so for me coming back to my hometown was very, very important to give a finishing touch to my first cookbook, Plant-Based Himalaya. This is when I realized even though I had been doing photography for a decade, I had never taken any photos of my own country and culture. I explored as much as I could and started shooting the photos of my food again while I was locked down in a hotel for 3 months. The more I worked on my food photography, editing and design, the more I realized that my book was finally taking shape.
By the end of 2020, my book was looking beautiful, so I finally started reaching out to the publishers. In April 2021, I got a reply from Red Lightning and I couldn’t believe that my lifelong dream to complete and publish a book was coming true. I had already planned a trek to Mardi Himal (the mountain image on the cookbook cover) in April so I went on this trek. It was my first experience to trek to the mountains. After I returned home, getting the blessings from the Annapurna Mountain, I finally signed the contract and started editing my first cookbook with my copyeditor Dave Miller. This editing phase in 2021 was a life changing experience to me. As I was editing Plant-Based Himalaya, I was also adding all the beautiful pictures I had shot while living in Nepal. I also realized that most of my photographs are meant to be in a book.
It has been almost six years of dreaming and four years of working on my book. I have no words to explain how happy I am to be working with Red Lightning Press at Indiana University. I’m very excited that Plant-Based Himalaya will be out in September. I hope this book will help inspire people to cook plant-based food at home more often. I am thankful for everyone who has worked on this project and supported me on my journey.