Foodiva's Kitchen: This Gift Of Ours - PFB Challenge #1

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This Gift Of Ours - PFB Challenge #1

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to this series of challenges called Project Food Blog organised by Foodbuzz to discover the next "Food Blog Star" (whatever that means). Below is my entry to the first challenge. I hope you enjoy it, and please, vote for me only if you think I deserve to go on to the next round!

"I once read somewhere that to recreate something in words is like being alive twice. If only I am able to live parts of my life over again simply by telling you stories about my food adventures in a way that will make your mind spin, your heart do somersaults and your throat clamp up as if a large piece of chocolate fudge is stuck in it when you try to swallow. But I'm not that talented a writer, and I cannot evoke those kinds of emotions in my readers, even if I oftentimes want to.

Local round eggplants, purple Sōmen noodles in capsicum bowl, exotic-colored chilli peppers
There is, however, something I can tell you with absolute confidence and truth. And it is this: the act of pouring over old recipes and revamping them to create exciting new ones is a deeply reassuring, even spiritual, act for me. It convinces me that my and the legacy of those before (and hopefully, after) me will live on forever. Why do you think so many people connect their best moments and favorite recipes to their favorite people, their favorite relatives? So they are able to keep the memories, the essence of those loved ones alive in their hearts for as long as those recipes are being passed down, shared and savored.

My well-thumbed, well-floured, well-coffee stained recipe notebook

Food to me has always been linked to distinct memories, some vivid ones being at:

Age 4: Eating my first cotton candy during an airshow. I was amazed at the pink fluff of sweetness that melted and disappeared in my mouth as quickly as if I’d performed a magician's trick. I was as equally amazed a few seconds later when a strong gust of wind from an airplane blew the cottony fluff right out of my hand and into the sky, leaving me with only the wooden stick and the memory of that first taste on my tongue.

Spicy tomato dip for Indonesian corn fritters         Pear and cashew cream sorbet

Ages 12 -16: Contributing my youthful energies towards peeling sacks of onions, garlic and chillies for the weddings of relatives back in the days when wedding banquets were 100% homecooked, never catered. Everyone in the family and neighborhood was expected to chip in and help prepare the food. I remember the watery eyes and smelly fingers from handling too many spices. Oh yes, I still do.

Age 19: Preparing and savoring food in a small, French village in a manner I'd never before experienced (Asian cuisine was more my thing growing up). The French hosts with whom I was staying had generously taught me how to prepare their rustic cuisine, breads, biscuits and tarts, how to sit and enjoy 5-hour feasts at the family dining table, how to shake apples fresh off a tree and pick grapes in a vineyard, and eating them on the spot. All for free.

Age 20: Learning to eat with a pair of chopsticks in an effort to impress the guy I was with at the time. I can't even remember his last name now, but I do recall the sensuality of having his fingers wrapped over mine while I was being taught how to grip food properly with those two tricky, wooden sticks. It took me a while to master the technique because obviously, the lessons were quite enjoyable!

             Nancem coconut iced lollies                  Black rice sushi              Homemade naan with hummus dip 

      Crusty avocado treasure balls                   Fennel-anise-caraway meringue           Dragonfruit raspberry quencher  

German apple cake                                         Grapefruit syrup cake

                Red durian quick rolls                           Apricot tarts with coconut-rose custard 

Age 20+: Baking my first cake from scratch (it contained more flavors and colors than a Häagen-Dazs collection) and bringing it into the office all excited-like. Enthusiastic colleagues took their first piece, then stayed well away the rest of the day... it tasted that awful! After that humiliation, I started a collection of favorite cake and dessert recipes that I'd aspired to master because by golly, the next time I was to bake a cake, there better be a stampede because people would all want their precious piece - or two!   
Now: Cooking up a storm in my (imaginary) hot, red kitchen really formed the basis of this blog - adventures in my Haute kitchen. Having recently given up my job, I suddenly had plenty of time to indulge in my passion for crazy kitchen chemistry. No, no molecular gastronomy just yet, but more the creation of familiar dishes with a new twist such as the dragon fruit and matcha cheesecake, Asian-flavored churros, sweet tomato muffins, pink and purple scones, purple cabbage lasagna noodles, tamarind-flavored pasta, roasted capsicum gelato and purple sweet potato pie. I’m still not quite sure what possessed me when I decided to turn these doodling daydreams into reality!

                 Red dragonfruit granita                            Roasted capsicum gelato                        Purple sweet potato pie  

If I have to take a stab at describing my type of cooking, I think quirky wouldn't be far off the mark. As would colorful, flavorful, unusual and yes, utterly fun. Because that's the essence of who I am. My family and closest friends will all tell you that without batting an eyelid.

When I started this blog, I'd wanted a physical dimension to store the mental volume of recipes (and stories associated with them) over the years I'd accumulated them. What I ended up having, however, was a place of adventure I could escape to daily, a place to be with friends of the same mind, a place to be myself where I can create and share my crazy recipes without fear of being ridiculed. Well okay, sometimes I do subject myself to some form of judgement, especially when I participate in events or roundups organized by fellow bloggers (eg. Foodie Fights, International Incident Party, Yeastspotting). But honestly, the fun and camaraderie overrides everything else, so it really does not matter to me if I get the odd rolling eyes or comment now and again.

                                          Fruity Il Gianfornaio                           Cinnamon-chocolate filled buns     

The recipes I've featured so far are a mix of healthy and sinful. I can never stick to just one or the other, that would be too predictable and dull for me. There are different facets of my personality, which I hope have been captured in the food and posts I've presented. Healthy or rockin', one thing's for sure, I try as much as possible to use fresh and good quality produce. Whenever I see great local (and sometimes, not-so-local) produce in the market, I’m already mentally forecasting our next meals or the baked goodies to be served up to family and friends. In other words, the prospect of creating something amazing on a plate just excites me to the core! Tell me I'm not the only one?

                      Chocolate flax seed "bomb" cakes              Cucumber rambutan salad with baked lotus chips     

   Capsicum eggs benedict                                 Purple cabbage lasagna noodles

Working on this blog and watching it take a life of its own feels very close to falling in love. That’s not as whimsical as it sounds, because I know whatever I put out here comes from some deep source. The same thing when I put food on the table for family, friends and occasional strangers - what I’m really doing is spooning up a big dollop of myself onto the platters, whether they know it or not. People think they are just eating my food, when what they're really having is a piece of my life experience, my soul. There is no greater gift I (and also, you) can offer than that.

Whether I make it far in this PFB series of challenges or not, I know it will be fun stretching myself. There is still so much to learn! All I ask from you is this - enjoy the journey with me."


Magic of Spice said...

Excellent post, it is really nice to learn more about the people behind the blog :) Good luck to you with the contest :)

Foodiva said...

Thank you, Magic of Spice (Adam, Grely or Alisha?). Yes, it's lovely learning about the other contestants too. I've really enjoyed reading others' entries so far and wish the first cut won't be so massive! Good luck to you guys too!

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

I've enjoyed being on this food journey with you thus far! Hoping you make it all the way! Good luck! Great to get to know you better.

Foodiva said...

Gina, thanks so much for your great company! I've learnt a number of new things from your blog too, so we all win on Foodbuzz! Yeaaayyy...

Za said...

Nice post!..:)All the best! By the way I couldn't stop reading and moved on to the one with ketupat and satay. Totally enjoyable.

sophia said...

Who says you're NOT a talented writer? My friend, you made me drool, sigh, and ROOT for you even though I'm a contender. I am humbled.

Savory Sweet Living said...

I love reading about your food memories, and the pictures are beautiful. Really great post and I truly enjoyed it. Good luck!

Foodiva said...

Awww... Encouraging words like these from my fellow bloggers make my day even more brighter than it already is! Thank you, guys.

Cooking Gallery said...

Good luck with the contest! I am sure you'll be able to make it to the next round...:)!

Jan/Thella @ I Love. Therefore, I Cook. said...

can't agree with you less on food evoking sweet memories of childhood and family. i enjoyed reading your entry and hope you get to advance to future rounds. all the best!

Foodiva said...

Thanks CG and Jan! Voting starts tomorrow and I wish all the contestants the best of luck. There have been some very good entry posts out there!

Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

Gorgeous photos! I love all the purple. Good luck!

FOODalogue said...

I think you've got what it takes to move to the next round and am casting one of my votes for you. Good luck.

Foodiva said...

Russell, yes there's way too much purple food in my life! But at least they're all natural. Best of luck to you for PFB too!

Joan, thank you so much! Love your blog and Family Foodfights, will you open the contest to guests as well?

Ed (weekend food projects) said...

I love your story and you have my vote!

Foodiva said...

Thank you, Ed! Good luck to everyone in the PFB challenge!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful stories make for a great post and that's what you gave us! Good luck:)

Kimmy Bingham said...

Beautiful, written, memories. Thank you for taking us on a little food journey through your life. Beautiful competition to have, you have my vote!

Lick My Spoon said...

I love the way you use color in your photos, can't wait to see what you've got next. Voted for you just now.

Lick My Spoon

Foodiva said...

Thank you to all who took the time to read my entry and shared their vote-love! I checked out all your blogs too, and you guys are incredible. Good luck to everyone!

Gina MarySol Ruiz said...

Great post. Good luck in the competition. You have my vote.

Jen Cheung said...

hey ya! you have a lovely blog here. Stumble upon your blog through foodbuzz. :) I voted for your blog. hope that helps. feel free to drop by!!

have a lovely weekend
jen @

Foodiva said...

Good luck to you both too, Gina and Jen, and many thanks for the votes! Really appreciate your generosity!

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