A Return to Food

For the first time in a while, I logged back into this blog. My last post was over two years ago, back in August of 2016. At that time I was still in high school, just a month away from starting at Stanford. (For all of those adventures and more, I have been keeping my personal blog, Kuya’s Notebook, fairly up to date.) I hadn’t forgotten about it—every now and then I’d get messages on the Facebook page, asking random questions about recipes and even the effects of the environment on food. A few of you have asked about whether or not I’d be returning to this blog, which I would often hazily respond with, “Yeah, totally! Just later.”

I guess it’s now later.

So what have I been up to in the meantime? In the past two years, I’ve been a student at Stanford University. I’m currently studying sociocultural anthropology, and I’ve had some flirtations with economics and creative writing as minors, but it’s not clear whether I’ll actually finish either of the minor requirements—which is fine, because minors genuinely don’t matter. I did a brief food photography stint with Coupa Café, a Palo Alto-based coffee chain that serves Latin American-inspired food and drinks, with a focus on organic and fair-trade food.

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I’ve been traveling a lot too. This past summer alone, I went all over the United States—from San Francisco to Boston to Portland to West Virginia to rural Texas to New York City. I spent three weeks studying archeology in Venice, Italy, and coastal Slovenia. And I went to Israel and Palestine. Other than a host of new insights on life, I also learned that I love shakshuka!

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Shakshuka and Israeli salad

I’m currently in Paris, France, a brief stop before I head off to the University of Oxford, where I’ll be a visiting student there for the next term (January through March). I’m incredibly excited to experience British life for a few months, have Europe at my fingertips, and see the United Kingdom at such an interesting time—I’ll be leaving just days before Brexit.

From April through June, I’ll be studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, through another study abroad program through Stanford. This time, I’ll be living with a Chilean family and taking classes completely in Spanish, ranging as widely from Latin American politics to the environment.

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Pizza in New York City before heading to Paris

Needless to say, it’ll be an exciting next few months of my life, and I thought what better way to document it than by sharing it? I’ll be sharing more about my travels and thoughts on Kuya’s Notebook, but I’m hoping to keep all food-specific posts right here on Bok Choy and Broccoli. Being in Europe right now, there are all sorts of exciting food-related thoughts and experiences I’d like to share, and I think that being an anthropology major and just a university student in general puts me in a good position to share more than just “I went to this cool restaurant in London, here are pictures.”

This blog started as a way for my mom and me to cook together, and it quickly became a way to document recipes that she made. Back when we started the blog, we were pescatarian (vegetarian + fish). Pretty soon after that, we started eating meat again but we still made mostly vegetarian recipes, up until I decided that documenting her recipes was more important than sticking to an arbitrary rule of vegetarian recipes only—which is how the “Mom’s Spaghetti” post came to be. Just as this food blog evolved to serve a higher purpose once before, I hope it does so again.

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Mom’s Spaghetti

Food is an integral part of human culture and society. It’s more than just what we put in our bodies—food is intertwined in the very fabric of our beings as people. When most people think about culture, one of the first things they think about is food, but how did those meals come to be? Food is often connected to specific societal moments and to societal structures. It can serve symbolic purposes: think of how popping a bottle of champagne is connected to celebration. It can differentiate social classes: much of Pierre Bourdieu’s work, which I read often for my own work in educational anthropology, is used for this, but a very stark example is the difference between a McDonald’s hamburger and high-end caviar.

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Seafood spaghetti in Venice

Food has very real consequences for our society, especially in the context of the environment, which is the main reason I ever considered going pescatarian. Eating meatless meals remains the best way to reduce your personal carbon footprint, but more nuance is needed than just demanding everyone becomes a vegan, since that’s often not practical for lower-income people—contrary to popular belief, healthy food in the United States is, in fact, expensive—and people whose cultural cuisines are incredibly meat heavy… such as my birth country, the Philippines, for example. Plus, putting too much of an emphasis on being vegan to prevent environmental collapse can often unfairly put the onus on individuals to stop climate change, when in reality, large corporations are some of the worst polluters, making up 71% of global emissions—which is huge, and maybe a reason we should be targeting corporate decisions more so than just individuals’ food habits if we want to save the planet.

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A latte and macarons in Padua, Italy

That is to say, food is complicated. Often much more complicated than one might expect. We choose to take the time to learn about the economy and politics because it affects us, but I hope to make the case that the historical and cultural components of food are just as important to learn about. And I’m hoping to use this platform to share some of food’s complications with you… alongside more recipes and restaurant reviews!

So consider this goodbye for now—see you soon!

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