Sara Kiyo Popowa is the Tottenham woman behind the very popular Instagram account Shiso Delicious (@shisodelicious), which is a beautiful and colourful selection of plant-based images. A lady of many creative talents, Sara's online identity has turned into full-time work, combining her skills and passions as a multicultural cook with strong health and environmental interests, a visual and performance artist, a graphic designer and an author. Sara recently published her first book, "Bento Power: Brilliantly Balanced Lunchbox Recipes", so Rachel Ho caught up with her to find out more about the book and Shiso Delicious.
Photo by Carolina Llamusi-Sibermann: Sara Kiyo Popowa Founder of Shiso Delicious
Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in northern Sweden. My mum was a nurse, then midwife and the daughter of my Bulgarian dissident grandparents living in Sweden. My Swedish stepdad was a doctor.
Describe your relationship to Tottenham. It’s a pretty balanced, happy relationship, going on its fourth year now. In London I’ve always lived north/east. Me and my love A wanted a house with a garden so we moved a few kilometres down the road (from Finsbury Park) and voila - a house with garden & cats :)
Photo by Gina Ree: Sara with her cat in Tottenham
What is Shiso Delicious and what inspired you to start it? Shiso Delicious is my own creative business where I currently recipe create, photograph, collaborate with brands, hold workshops and last but not least run my Instagram account @shisodelicious. Shiso Delicious started organically around the time we moved to Tottenham actually, by posting images of the food I cooked onto social where I soon become part of a community. I had no plan then, but I was definitely inspired by a few things: the likeminded community I'd connected with, our house here; its beautiful light, kitchen and garden and the joy of creating something of my own each day.
Photo by Carolina Llamusi-Sibermann: Sara working on her bento boxes.
You have just released your book "Bento Power: Brilliantly Balanced Lunchbox Recipes". What was your process for putting the book together? A few years ago I freelanced in an office and was shocked to see what most of my colleagues were having for lunch (and what they were spending in both money and packaging waste). I then had my first ideas about a book to share easy and healthy packed lunch ideas. Later, I met my husband A and started making him bento (Japanese-inspired packed lunches) and putting them up on Instagram. Seeing how well people responded and how much I loved making bento I started putting a book proposal together and eventually met my literary agent who helped me get a deal with a publisher. Putting the book together actually took a lot less time than the proposal – in about 5 months I wrote and tested over 100 recipes and shot the book myself. It was relentless but I learnt so much and now I have that book I imagined, which I hope will inspire some better packed lunches for people.
Photo by Gina Ree: Sara at her recent book launch of "Bento Power"
As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change? I’m not sure it has changed too much for me, from a purely female perspective. My first two weeks of living here I was (unfoundedly) terrified at walking home at night, but I soon realised I'm pretty safe. I see more and more creative and entrepreneurial people based in Tottenham which is great. The things I’d like to see change is the same as for London in general, less traffic and pollution .. Favourite thing to do in Tottenham? I love walking along the river Lea, going towards Hackney. I like imagining what the small roads and houses around where we live were like when they were first built, what the area and people who lived there were like then. Craving Coffee is my local and I love their weekly food pop-ups, and generally just going in there in for some coffee and chats. I also enjoy our local clubs Five Miles and The Cause for a spot of techno :) Anything you would like to add? My book Bento Power: Brilliantly Balanced Lunchbox Recipes is available at good bookstores and online retailers including Amazon. I hope you will enjoy it if you give it a go! More info here http://www.shisodelicious.com/bento-power/
Find out more about Sara and Shiso Delicious: