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  • Lynne Shelby

A Taste of Singapore and Guyana (A Sense of Place #14) - Kristen Bailey - Souper Mum

Today my guest blogger is Kristen Bailey, whose debut novel, 'Souper Mum' is published by Accent Press.

Kristen told me how her childhood travels visiting her far-flung family have influenced her writing...

Kristen writes:

In terms of location, 'Souper Mum' is set in and around South West London, my old stomping ground, but most of my action is set within Jools’ kitchen: it’s messy and disorganised, witness to all her bad cooking fails and the drama of her life, but it is the heart and hub of her home and family.

Writing a book about kitchens, food and cooking is something I never imagined I’d write about given that I’m a spectacularly bad cook myself but in hindsight, it is probably one of the most natural topics for me to write about. I’m extremely lucky that my background is very diverse: my mum is Singaporean, my dad is Guyanese and there are elements of Portuguese, Malay, Chinese, even Scottish in my ancestry. It meant that I spent most of my childhood travelling to amazing destinations and grew up with a family of foodies, standing in kitchens around the world; eating, creating memories. No doubt, these kitchens provided a lot of sub-conscious influence over 'Souper Mum’s' story.

One of my grandmothers was Lydia Gammell, she had dimples and a bosom that shook like jelly when she laughed. I named my daughter after her. We used to visit her in Singapore every summer. She used to cook out of the most basic of kitchens, barefoot, in billowing batik sarongs cooking curries with prawns as big as my face. Her hob was always bubbling over with giant vats of stock and I used to stand on my tiptoes watching her cook as she’d sneak me pieces of fried tofu dipped in sweet sticky soy sauce and slithers of freshly boiled chicken.

My paternal grandmother was Mildred Lee. She passed away when I was young but again all my memories associated with her have to do with food. I remember a smiling face through the kitchen hatch at Christmas where she’d stand frying a popular Guyanese dish, garlic pork. I remember the fiery garlicky smell, and how it was served with towers of doughy white buttered bread. She used to make the most fantastic mochi cake topped with brown desiccated coconut and she’d always cut me the largest piece.

I wrote 'Souper Mum' thinking it’d be a humorous way to relay my terrible cooking fails. However, as the novel progressed and I found myself talking more about food, it also became a lovely way for me to reconnect to a lot of great family memories, of travel and great adventures, of foods new and exotic that I still remember fondly but with hints of sadness given my grandmothers aren’t here anymore. Unfortunately, I’ll probably never be able to honour my grandmothers with my own cooking skills but I hope they’d read 'Souper Mum', and after telling me off for all the swearing, they’d know that all their culinary genius and the love that came out of their kitchens inspired it in parts. There is a character in the book, Matt’s Italian mother, Gia who is definitely a tribute to both of them.

Mother-of-four, gin-drinker, binge-watcher, receipt hoarder, hapless dog owner, enthusiastic but terrible cook. Kristen Bailey lives in Fleet, Hampshire and has had short fiction published in several publications. 'Souper Mum' was runner up in the Accent Press Writing Competition run in association with Woman magazine, and is the story of Jools Campbell, a stay-at-home mother of four, who becomes an unlikely foodie hero when she stands up to a pompous celebrity chef, Tommy McCoy on a reality show. Armed with fish fingers and a severely limited cooking repertoire, we watch as she becomes a reluctant celebrity and learns some important life lessons about love, family and the joyless merits of quinoa.

To purchase 'Souper Mum' please follow the links below or copy and past into your browser:

Kirsten writes a weekly blog about being a modern mother on her website:

You can also find her on:

Twitter: @baileyforce6


Kristen's next book will be coming out in November/December and will be the sequel to Jools’ adventures: 'Souper Mum: Second Helpings.' Jools’ star continues to rise in the next novel as she gets signed up to be a judge on a popular family cooking show but it’s also a story about friendship, forgiveness and food – yes, more food!

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