A Food Journey
When I was in grad school, I used to go to the grocery store and buy a week of dinners: Gardenburgers, canned soup, frozen pizza, pre-made pasta. I was convinced that these foods were cheaper and quicker than making my own meals, though I could turn out homemade cakes like a champ during finals thanks to stress-cooking. After my M.A., I moved to Japan as a JET CIR and quite suddenly found myself having a panic attack: six years of formal Japanese study had not prepared me for the rural grocery store or the lack of familiar foods (or crutches) to make at home, and to add insult to injury, I was also without my Crockpot and my full-sized oven. Did I mention I had no idea how to cook for one?
I could have gone to the family restaurant or the kaitenzushi every night, but I decided that I was going to learn how to feed myself no matter what. When I started this blog in Feb. 2011, I had stopped whining “but you can’t buy that in Japan!” and starting trying to learn the secrets of food. One night over Vietnamese food in Nagano, as I sat poking a lotus root in coconut sauce trying to figure out its alchemy aloud so I could recreate it in the inaka, my friend looked me in the eye and said, “The conclusion to all your stories is ‘Then I’ll MAKE IT MYSELF.’” Thus, this blog was born.
Because I quite literally moved out of my food comfort zone, I developed a profound curiosity for how food worked. Because of my job, I learned how to cook tortillas and pita bread and met some incredibly creative foodies through international cooking lessons. Now, three years after I stepped off that plane, I cook (almost) entirely from scratch.
I believe in Real Food.
Almost all the recipes on this blog are made from scratch, usually with whole grains and fresh vegetables. (Don’t worry, there’s dessert, too!) Eating well isn’t just about counting calories or fat, it’s about experimenting with the bounty of nature! Exception: Japanese regional Kit Kats.
I am flexitarian.
I mostly cook and eat vegetarian food, but I do still eat meat, especially fish. Read more on that here. Most of the recipes I post are vegetarian and/or vegan (or vegan-izable). My food lifestyle stems from a combination of concerns about health and the environment but also because I just really love vegetables–and hate sterilizing the sink after handling raw meat.
I do not believe in gender-policing food.
On my very first day of college, a professor stated, “Everything is about gender.” It’s true. The more I get involved in the food-blogging community and the food world, the more I get exasperated with people who uphold ridiculous gender norms about who eats what and who cooks. It’s high time we stop thinking of tofu and quiche as girly foods, of “girly foods” as lesser foods, of herbivore men and carnivore women, of cooking as a straight-white-middle-class wife-and-mother hobby or obligation.
I highly doubt that anyone sits down to write about food and thinks, “How can I oppress people today?” Gendering food is much more subtle, often subconscious, and so pervasive that most people probably don’t even know they’re in, to use Tatsuya Ishida’s metaphor, the Gender Matrix–and, to continue the metaphor, a lot of people would rather just continue ignore the issue of gender than confront it.
That’s why I’m here! In addition to being a foodie, I’m a geek with an academic background in analyzing gender in marketing, visual media, and pop culture. I promise to bring you delicious food without conflating gender roles with its consumption/production: no talk of “pleasing your man,” “sinful chocolate,” “meat-and-potatoes,” or “real women,” because food is for all people. In addition, I sometimes take a break from recipes and reviews to analyze food media regarding gender.
If you’re new to gender studies, have no fear! If outreach were not part of my repertoire I would be a lousy feminist. You’re welcome to comment with any questions, whether you’re new to Real Food or new to gender issues, and I will try to answer them and/or point you to helpful resources.
Let’s take back food together!