Discovering the lost art of food - Cook Republic

I have now been blogging for over a decade. My blog just turned 11. It is only a few months younger than my oldest boy who is on the cusp of turning 12 and planning high school next year. When I first started blogging, I had no plan or time frame in mind. I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it or even stick with it as I am known to launch into spontaneous sporadic startups and projects without really finishing them (my 6-year-old half-built brick edging out the front of the house is a testament to this fact, as is the half painted front door! It kind of grows on you actually.) But I did like it. And stuck with it. So here we are. 11 years old. Or young. 510 posts and counting. Ready to take the next step from childhood to youth (kind of like high school) and wanting to reconnect and make new friends while cherishing the trusty old ones.

So let me begin. Hi! I am Sneh. I am a food blogger. I love freshly baked bread, farmer's markets, books, gardening and have occasional bouts of hoarding (wait! I sound like my nanna!) but I also love a fluffy cake (the kind Sally bakes!), playing Cooking Dash on my iPad, moving furniture around, butter, Harry Potter, moody days, taking pictures, watching fun movies with my boys, snow holidays, visiting orchards, Sherlock hmm no wait, Benedict Cumberbatch, drinking coffee, watching stand up comedy, floating in the pool, making lists ... you get the gist? I have been blogging for 11 years. I started my blog when I was living in Singapore in 2005 to have an online journal of my most loved recipes and to share my cooking adventures with whoever had an internet connection and was willing to listen. It was also the year we moved to Australia with a baby and began the next chapter of blogging and our lives. A few years later I was still blogging and designing but had taken up food photography and food styling as my day job. Over the years we were blessed with another boy, a major blogging award, several more awards, a magazine column, a newspaper column and a book deal. In between I managed to go to college to study design, learn ceramics, learn to drive, host a wedding in our backyard, move 4 times and build the home of our dreams with (now) 5 chickens, 2 bunnies, more than a dozen fruit trees and two veggie patches, write a cookbook, meet Jamie Oliver, take up running and lose 20 kilos, run a pop-up event of 12 workshops and power through a 12 month major home renovation.

You can say that I did it all. Everything I wanted to do, everything I had imagined and everything I had never dreamed of. I saw the world of food change from discovering the thrill of sharing your Grandma’s secret recipe on your blog and starting a meaningful conversation about kitchen memories and the taste of food to the mindless and excessive sharing of every meal dolled up with the most insane garnishes across all social media every minute of every day. Over the years I felt a loss for the true meaning of food. I believe that food is a privilege. And those who have it are very blessed. I also believe that with the way things are now, many people have forgotten the true meaning of food. It is not to complicate lives. It is not to create envy or depression. It is not to create anxiety or build pressure. It is definitely not to create confusion and resentment. It is not to show off a lifestyle or preach a lack of one. It is not to make one feel like a failure. It is simply – to nourish. And having done that, it is to create excitement for that taste, a memory to remember that taste and a feeling of happiness and comfort from having shared it. Whether it was with birds at the park or loved ones around the table.

With the loss of the meaning of food, came the dreaded loss of taste. Maybe it was my nature of work. But I didn’t hunger for a certain food like I used to. If my body didn’t need sustenance, I could quite happily forgo food. I didn’t get excited about a new flavour of ice cream (because it was not dairy free? because it had too much sugar? because it had some additives? I don’t know!!). I ate without gusto, hardly ever going for seconds (because I loved the dish). I felt a complete lack of joy now whereas food gave me joy in the past. Creating it, cooking it, sharing it, tasting it, anticipating it – gave me joy. I blamed the world for being a joy-killer of food. And I blamed myself. But because the world wasn’t going to change in its quest for dictating what the next best superfood should be or how much of what you should be eating and how your food should be laden with so many garnishes that it ceases to have meaning (yes, smoothie bowls – I am looking at you!); I decided to change me.

I was raised on a vegetarian diet I took up eating meat occasionally when I moved overseas from India in 2001. I was a vegetarian for the first two decades of my life. My body was used to it. We didn’t have labels like vegan, raw, refined sugar-free, gluten free when I was growing up. It was just how we ate and a way of life. Fresh veggies cooked daily with spices, raw tossed salads, unleavened bread, fruits galore, and occasional homemade sweets and cakes. Simple joys! Memories of childhood! Over a needed two-month break, I perused and threw out over 300 cooking magazines, donated a quarter of my massive prop collection, put away another quarter to sell (it is now reduced by half!), and donated over 50 cookbooks that I will never cook from, cleansed my pantry, installed the Paprika App on my desktop and started meal planning.

One of the other things I did was write down what made me happy – food-wise.  Eating simply made me happy. Eating vegetarian with the occasional fish and chicken, made me happy. Recognizing that eating meat was debilitating to the body and to the planet and doing something about it made me happy. Growing organic herbs and salad veggies in my garden made me happy. Tackling food waste, teaching our boys about sustainability, wise food choices and respecting and appreciating food and its importance in our culture, made me happy. Eating sensibly but without the stigma of labels, without the pressure of what I would post on the blog or what alternative dietary suggestions I could provide – that made me happy. Eating with abandon once in a while made me happy. Eating simply by a window without distractions or at a table with my family, made me happy. Reading blogs and books makes me happy. And blogging made me happy. Writing blog posts like this one made me happy. My blog is my constant and whenever I step back to assess my life, my dreams, my goals and my happiness. It always brings me back here – to my blog.

Believe it or not, blogging is very much like parenting. It brings you immense joy but it also does a number on you. It makes you self-critical. You always second-guess yourself and wonder whether you are doing the right thing. It does to me. I know it does to you too. It doesn't matter whether you are a month-old blogger or a 11-year blogging veteran. The key is to remember why you started blogging and stick to it. In moments of doubt, go back to some of your early posts. Remember them and improve on them but don't give up on them just because people only want a certain something. They can find that elsewhere. What they won't find anywhere else is your blogging soul. If you had a child that you loved dearly but wasn't very outgoing, popular or the life of a party, would you go swap him for someone who was?

When you start doing well at work and the more you achieve, the more you get; you run the risk of sacrificing happiness and simplicity and time with your loved ones. It takes a lot of courage to walk away from bigger opportunities and all the stars you can grab in the sky to address your happiness. But sometimes, it is so simple that it really isn’t hard at all. Again last year I decided to not do any more workshops after a sell-out season and politely declined a couple of cookbook shoots to focus on what makes my soul sing – blogging. So after doing it all, I have now returned to where it all began - right here on Cook Republic. I am happy, excited and looking forward to reconnecting with you, your lives and your blogs. I am happy that you are here. Please don’t be shy. Introduce yourselves and your blogs. I would love to go have a peek and get to know you all a bit more. And I would love to hear your thoughts on your everyday food and creative struggles and how you find your happy place. Here is to reconnecting and rediscovering the lost art of food!