The Story of the Story: Creating Kalamata's World

When you read Kalamata’s Kitchen, you’re not just reading a book. You’re entering a world. A world you can see, smell, touch, taste and feel. And that is thanks to author Sarah Thomas.  

A Childhood Shaped by Food

Sarah grew up in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Her parents, both from Kerala, India, loved to entertain, which also meant they were always cooking. Sarah’s mom made something different every day. There was always a huge spread of food, and when they hosted parties, each guest had an abundance of  options to choose from. Sarah grew up being able to differentiate the smells and sounds of each ingredient being prepared, with her mouth watering at each delicious one. Needless to say, food was a huge part of Sarah’s upbringing.  

Sarah Thomas

Two Worlds. One Girl. 

Sarah spent her summers in her parents home state of Kerala, India. She grew up each summer riding the train to her grandma’s, where she’d stay for the summer at their home, which was also a working spice farm. She’d drink milky tea and sit for hours reading with her grandma, who always  nurtured Sarah’s love of reading. Her grandmother’s house was where she felt truly at home. But, of course, she wasn’t from there. And, at the end of every summer, would make her way back to Pennsylvania. Which left her feeling torn. Not fully American. Not fully Indian. But she did her best to fit in wherever she was. 

Sarah Thomas Kalamata's Kitchen

Kalamata Steps Into the Picture

One evening, after a day of work as a sommelier at Le Bernardin, Sarah got a call from her good friend, Derek Wallace. Derek explained that he had an idea about a little girl who found bravery and compassion through adventures with food. And right then, from that first call, Sarah was in. Her love of reading and her passion for food made her the perfect fit to bring this fun-loving character of Kalamata to life. She knew exactly who Kalamata should be. Because it was the hero Sarah had needed—a little girl who got to celebrate her American life and her Indian culture.

Sarah Thomas Kalamata's Kitchen

Creating Her World

In bringing Kalamata to life, Sarah set out to do one thing; help kids develop empathy through Food Adventures. And she did just that. She wrote Kalamata’s stories so vividly, and so sensorially, that kids could feel what it was like to be a part of Kalamata’s world. And through that, they are able to see a bit of themselves in her. Through Kal, as she’s affectionately known, Sarah has explored themes of bravery, memory, curiosity and compassion, while keeping kids at the heart of each story.

“Kalamata is a hero, a friend and a leader in a way that hasn’t been represented before.” Sarah Thomas

The Surprise of Writing a Kid’s Book

Through the process of writing children’s books, Sarah discovered one key element to storytelling. Less is more. Which is why, when she found her illustrating partner, Jo Edwards, the books came pouring out. The magic of the words, paired with the beauty of the images, led to a world beyond both of their imaginations. Which was, in turn, the perfect way to open up the imaginations of kids around the world. 

Sarah Thomas Kalamata's Kitchen Kal and Al Pals

Inspiration for a Generation 

Creating Kalamata and her world has been a way for Sarah to create the character she needed when she was growing up. A strong girl, proud of who she is, and unashamed to be her most authentic self. Rather than feeling divided between two worlds, Kalamata embraces her life with a holistic joy that radiates to others through her curiosity, courage and compassion. As kids dig into each new adventure, they’re exposed to food cultures that are varied and wonderful. They begin to see the world as a place where all food cultures have a seat at the table. And they are more likely to pull up a chair for a new friend, because now they know that different is delicious.    

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