Interview with Nona Lema

Where did you grow up and how did this influence your cooking and writing?
I grew up in the province of Batangas, in the southern Tagalog region of the Philippines. Summer vacations were spent along the shoreline of Anilao, Mabini, where my grandparents lived. I would be swimming in the ocean from sunrise to sundown with my cousins, uncles, brother and sisters, childhood friends, neighbors and other village kids. The ocean was our playground.

My father was an engineer and ship designer. He owned a fishing boat-yacht called 'basnig'. During summer, everybody in the family would be jumping on the boat and we would be cruising, island hopping, scuba diving, swimming or just basking in the sun --along Maricaban, Tingloy or Verde Island Passage, near Mindoro islands or just around Balayan Bay.

I come from a huge, happy, boisterous clan that always cooks and eats and laughs together. There’s a ‘family reunion’ practically every week-end. There are several good cooks in the family and so naturally there’s always sumptuous, good-tasting food.

All my cookbooks in the Gulay series reflect traditional Filipino recipes that have withstood time and were cooked 'lutong bahay' (home-cooked) style, just as I enjoyed them in my happy childhood. These recipes have been passed on thru generations with devotion and love to family, relatives, neighbors and friends.

Many age-old Filipino food are originally cooked with meat, fish and eggs. But because I’m now a vegetarian, my way of cooking 'lutong bahay' food still strongly adheres to family tradition but cooked the meatless and eggless way. I’m lucky to have a very happy marriage--a kind and loving husband, three children and now two lovely grandchildren. The recipes in my books are really just the meals I have cooked for my family all these years in written form.
When did you start writing?
About the same time that I started learning how to cook - -at about seven or eight years old. I started out by writing short poems. One day my 'lolo' (grandfather), David Lesandra King came to visit. He read some of the short poems I wrote. He was so happy tears welled in his eyes. At my young age, I didn’t even know that he himself was a poet and short story writer. And so was his father, my great grandfather, Ezra Wilson King, before him. I remember my 'lolo' saying that he’s glad at least one of the grandchildren ( that’s me) took after him in writing.

I was a voracious reader from an early age. I loved reading stories of people and places of long ago. In high school and college I went on writing--mostly short personal anecdotes. Meanwhile, my interest with cooking and baking continued. Later I shifted to food writing with a strong interest in food history. By then I knew someday I’d be authoring a cookbook.
Why are you vegetarian?
I am a vegetarian because I practice meditation. Personally it has helped me a lot in maintaining a healthy, meatless diet for many years. I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own strength as the desire to eat meat is so strong. I always encourage people to learn meditation too because it will also be very helpful to them.

Meditation is a very simple and enjoyable relaxation method for achieving inner happiness and self realization. It goes hand in hand with the vegetarian diet. But being veggie is not a requirement. Through meditation, you will experience not only the meaning of respect for animals’ lives but also the meaning of your own life.

Through meditation, you can also overcome stress and even deeper problems such as anxiety or emptiness. You can actually begin to experience inner happiness and peace. It is an ancient process that has been practiced for thousands of years by sages and meditation teachers. Just as you are now looking for an alternative healthy diet, you should also look into a more meaningful alternative way of life.

The process of meditation begins by hearing - - listening to the singing of meditation songs or relaxation songs - - individually, in the privacy of your own homes or together with other people. The songs are composed of sacred sounds such as: gauranga, om hari om, and madana mohana-murari-haribol, sung in beautiful melodies.

So, anyone can try, sit back and relax, listen and focus your mind on these sounds. May peace of mind and good health be yours.

To listen or download please visit my food blog: http://nonas-cooking.blogspot.com/, click on the column 'meditation'.
What do your fans mean to you?
Since I started publishing my books (in print form) in 2005, I have had tremendous response to my cookbooks. Hundreds of people, total strangers email me saying how much they like the book,etc. And now with the ebooks, more new fans are contacting me. It is very heartwarming and I’m very thankful to all of them.

Having fans is a nice way for me to affect people’s lives directly. If a person is my book fan, then that’s good. He or she already likes my writing, my thoughts and my ideals. He or she already has a certain amount of trust in me as an author and as a person. It means that person is more open and will likely listen more attentively.

So that’s an advantage because I have a lot more important things to say to him or her later on , aside from vegetarian cooking or history --deeper and more personal issues in life - -such as, why do we feel lonely and empty inside even though we’re in a party or with loved ones? Behind the smiles, there’s this gnawing feeling there that can eat up our whole being. We don’t know what it is. Have you ever felt like there’s something you’re looking for or searching for, and you don’t know what it is?

When we speak of loneliness, we are also speaking of fear and feeling totally alone. And the reason we are feeling lonely is because we are away from God. The root cause of the problem is we have forgotten that natural relationship with Him and so we need to re-establish that and get connected again, in order to be truly happy.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The prayers I say at the beginning and end of the day, and the most beloved God, to whom I offer the prayers. And then how these prayers translate into my practical daily activities and my consciousness while I do the activities.
When you’re not writing or cooking, how do you spend your time?
Doing yoga exercises, swimming in the ocean whenever there’s a chance or simply watching the sunset by the beach, researching, developing recipes, praying and meditating. I speak at seminars or small groups or individuals about the vegetarian diet and the philosophy behind it.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
My books wouldn’t have had a much greater exposure if not with Smashwords. My special thanks to Mike Coker and the people behind Smashwords. More power to you. I am able to connect to a lot more people. This makes my life more meaningful.
Published 2013-10-31.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Gulay Book 8, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 12,630. Language: English. Published: August 20, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » healthy living
Gulay is a Filipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because ‘gulay’ in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands. Gulay features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.
Gulay Book 7, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 13,320. Language: English. Published: August 19, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan
Gulay is a Filipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because ‘gulay’ in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands. Gulay features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.
Gulay Book 6, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 12,970. Language: English. Published: August 19, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » healthy living
Gulay is a Filipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because ‘gulay’ in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands. Gulay features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.
Gulay Book 5, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 14,180. Language: English. Published: August 19, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » healthy living
Gulay is aFilipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because‘gulay’in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands. Gulay features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.
Gulay Book 4, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 12,990. Language: English. Published: November 20, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Family health
Gulay is a Filipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because ‘gulay’ in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands. Gulay features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.
Gulay Book 3, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 13,690. Language: English. Published: September 28, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » healthy living
Gulay is a Filipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because ‘gulay’ in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands. Gulay features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.
Gulay Book 2, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 12,360. Language: English. Published: August 5, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » healthy living
GULAY is a Filipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because ‘gulay’ in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands. GULAY features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.
Gulay Book 1, A Filipino Vegetarian Recipebook Series
Price: Free! Words: 14,590. Language: English. Published: July 1, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Vegetarian and Vegan, Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Asian
'Gulay' is a Filipino vegetarian recipebook series written by the best-selling author Nona Lema. It is so aptly named because ‘gulay’ in the Filipino language means ‘vegetable’. This recipe book series comes from the Philippines, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 scenic islands.'Gulay' features traditional Filipino cuisine cooked the vegetarian way.