The sun is about to set one last time this year. And a new chapter will rise the next day. I find myself, as one naturally does, reflecting thoughtfully about the year that was and thinking intentionally for the year to come. It goes on in the back of my mind like it's a part of my autonomic nervous system, and my internal monologue is pressing me for the answer to one question: Why have I started writing about food? I've had to draw from various posts on this blog in my attempt to answer this question, so this post has also inadvertently turned into a compilation of some of my 2015 favorite moments and recipes.
I write about food because...
1. I am curious. When I decided to start this blog, I had a head full of questions and thoughts that needed sorting, and a window in the house which let in just the right amount of sunlight at just the right angle at 2pm in the afternoon. I saw the potential, so I placed a chair next to the window and proceeded to photograph what would become the first recipe on the blog. I have since cooked, photographed and written about different recipes - some old, some borrowed, some new, some inspired, all of which have taught me something.
Favorite Fusion Recipe: Corn Pancakes with Apam Balik Toppings
2. I am homesick. The first recipe I wrote about is kaya, a jam made of coconut milk, eggs, palm sugar and pandan leaves I often had for breakfast when I was living in Malaysia and learned to make when I was young. In retrospect, it was no coincidence that I started to write about food after I left Southeast Asia. Food has become a new vehicle of expression for me.
First Recipe: Kaya (Malaysian Coconut Egg Jam)
3. I cook. I made the kaya really early one morning, when the house was quiet and the kitchen was available. I had bravely launched a blog about food without having my own kitchen, but there was a palpable sense of accomplishment having created a big pot of Malaysian coconut jam in a new kitchen halfway across the world.
4. I want to connect. I made a green pandan cake to go with the kaya and brought it to almost every party we attended, including a virtual birthday celebration for a new Persian friend in Rome, Italy. I had a lot of fun explaining why the cake was green. Food becomes a new language that enables me to reach far and wide. It opens doors and creates conversations, and allows me to learn about new cultures.
Most Shared Recipe: Pandan Coconut Cake with Kaya
5. I eat. In the past year, my food adventures have included eating rhubard pie for the first time, learning how to cut open a turban squash, planting way too many zucchinis, making a cake with no sugar, and eating seasonal California strawberries by the truckloads. And I want to tell someone about it!
Most Cherished Food Experience: Volunteering at a local farm and learning to grow food
Did I tell you I made chocolate mousse pudding for Thanksgiving with a recipe from The Joy of Cooking using coconut whipped cream I learned to make from a food blog? The caffeine kept me up all night but it was well worth the pleasure of trying to adapt a classic recipe. I write about food because there are stories to tell, and discoveries to share. Like this caffeine-free Spiced Hot Carob drink that warms the soul and gladdens the heart on a cold winter evening.
Recipe That Makes Me the Most Giddy: Adzuki Fudge Brownies with Goji Berries
Thank you for reading my stories. What's your food story? Leave me a comment. I'd love to hear from you!
+ UPDATE: I'm excited to announce the launch of a Q&A series with food bloggers called Why I Write About Food. It started with this year-end reflective post, and my curiosity drove me to ask some of my favorite food bloggers why they write about food. Expect some delicious conversations right this way!
++ If you're thinking of collecting your thoughts about food or sharing your favorite recipes online, my friends over at Hurry the Food Up have generously shared a definitive guide on how to start a food blog. Check it out for some great tips.
Spiced Hot Carob Drink
Carob powder is made by grinding the edible pulp from the pod of the carob tree, and is often used as a cocoa substitute. A cup of hot carob drink is easy to make the way you like it. Use the milk and sweetener of your choice and spice it according to your taste. The recipe below is how I like it, but some days I add a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, so it's not really set in stone. This recipe serves 2 and can easily be doubled.
2 cups milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
2 to 3 tablespoons carob powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Generous pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
Pinch of cloves
1 tablespoon coconut sugar, or to taste
1 drop vanilla extract (optional)
Heat milk in a small pot over medium-low heat. Whisk in carob powder until fully dissolved. Add spices and sugar to taste. Serve warm.