IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


IOE alumna creates interactive cookbook, Chews Your Own Tasty Adventure

3 July 2023

The new book by Sai Pathmanathan (Education (Science) MA) lets readers choose their own ingredients to generate recipes they can cook themselves.

A close-up of Sai holding up her new book. Image permission: Sai Pathmanathan.

The book is centred around a game that leads readers to discover a variety of recipes from around the world. It aims to empower children to experiment with cooking and enable them to think creatively. 

Sai graduated from the Education (Science) MA in 2009, and now works as a self-employed Science Education Consultant and runs science clubs and community workshops, in addition to collaborating with scientists, teachers, pupils and artists. She used to be a neuroscientist, but later decided to move into the field of science communication. 

Chews Your own Tasty Adventure was published at the beginning of June. 

Hi Sai!

Why did you choose to create and write this book in particular? How did you come up with the interactive game concept? 

Cooking and baking from an early age made me realise it was all just science and experimenting. Children in my science clubs see this link too. As I usually look to recipes for inspiration, I wondered if there was a way to create a book that was more about ideas, where you could try and see 'what happens if I add this too?' And whether we can truly make dishes with only 5-6 ingredients.  

Most of the dishes I make use ingredients that I already have, just in different amounts/ combinations, so it wasn't difficult to come up with recipes from various cultures using the same few ingredients. I also love interactivity and games, so anything that encourages the reader to find their own path through the book is my idea of fun!  

How did your time studying at IOE learning about science education influence your book and your career pathway as a whole?  

I really enjoyed it as I had already been working in the field of science education for a while, and the MA helped build my confidence and made me believe more in (or feel sure about) the educational outreach I was already doing, and projects I was about to embark upon.  

Having the opportunity to take an optional course in multimedia design and communication as part of my MA helped with many of the interactive elements (digital and non-digital) that I use in my online resources, books and workshops today. 

Your research for your Master’s degree looks at how young people learn accurate science from the media, how important is it for young people to ‘see’ science in their daily lives? 

Seeing science as something that is around us all the time helps us (and young people) realise that science isn't a difficult subject only studied by the super-intelligent. It's all about curiosity and wanting to understand how things work in the world around us.  

In terms of my new book, I realised that when we know the science of how ingredients work and why certain reactions happen during cooking or baking, it means that we don't need to go through so many trials when inventing a new dish or recipe. Which then means fewer wasted ingredients! Understanding the basics of science helps us in so many ways in our daily lives. 

The book revolves around an interactive game that leads the reader to recipes with lots of colourful illustrations. In your opinion, what’s the role of creativity in science and science communication? 

Science is inherently creative. Creative minds that can connect up the seemingly unrelated are the ones producing the most innovative work we see today. But finding ways to showcase this creative connectivity to young people can be difficult, which is why much of my work involves interactivity whether that's games, storytelling, entertainment media, humorous wordplay or hands-on activities. And food, of course.  

Children and their families love to do activities around food, especially if they get to taste them at the end. The sensory element is so emotive and memorable, that it aids learning about the science but also about societal issues such as food waste, sustainability and food security. 

You used to be a neuroscientist, so what made you move into the fields of science communication and education? 

I loved working in a lab and being a researcher, but the more our funders wanted us doctoral students to go out and speak to the public about our work, the more I found I enjoyed communicating science, especially with young people.  

I naturally gravitated towards roles in science education following my D.Phil. and decided to pursue an MA in Science Education at IOE to learn more about the field of science education and educational research. 

What are you working on right now, and what are your hopes for the future? 

Right now, I'm working on some new science educational resources around nature and the environment, as well as running outreach workshops and after-school science clubs based on Chews Your Own Tasty Adventure and my previous book, Utterly Jarvellous. 

My current areas of focus are food, health and the environment, as I feel these are areas that young people, their families and their wider communities are interested in learning more about, and where my expertise can be put to the best use for societal good. Well, I can but hope! 

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