Sunday, September 19, 2010

Project Food Blog #1: I Blog, Therefore I Am


Update:  You can vote for me by clicking "Vote For This Entry" on this page.

The food blog world is abuzz about FoodBuzz's Project Food Blog.  Two thousand food bloggers will blog about their dinner party that made Martha Stewart envious, their food road trip that left Anthony Bourdain's travels in the dust, and their cake that made the Cake Boss swoon.  But before all that jazz, every food blogger has to figure out what makes them unique and defines them as a blogger.  In short, why do they spend every waking hour (and sometimes, every sleeping hour) thinking about food.


I've been thinking about this challenge for weeks, hoping inspiration would strike as I drank my third mug of coffee (What, it'd been a long week!), convinced my client wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt to court was a bad idea, and cooked dinner from the three ingredients remaining in my fridge at the end of the week.  And yet, nothing.  And then this morning, hours before I had to submit my blog's raison d'etre, I realized I don't need to come up with a catchy description of my motivation for blogging because I've always known the exact moment I fell in love with food.  It is that moment that has shaped my love affair with food and defines me as a food blogger.  Thanksgiving 1989.

My family had moved to Los Angeles, California from Karachi, Pakistan a few months ago.  I was a "special" third grader who did not speak any English, so while the other kids laughingly rushed off to play handball during recess, a few other special kids and I went to an ESL tutorial taught by a lady who had clearly robbed Mr. Rogers's cardigan collection.  During lunch time, we would hurriedly gobble the samosas, empanadas, and pierogies our immigrant mothers had lovingly packed so we could finally get our turn on the handball court.  In hindsight, those lunches were the predecessors of the trendy ethnic food revolution so popular in the restaurant world today.



During the weeks before Thanksgiving, our class learned about the holiday and most importantly, the food associated with it.  The teacher organized a Thanksgiving potluck where parents brought in their favorite dishes and shared them with the class.  And as I stared at those heaping dishes of relatively foreign food, I was convinced that my family would be “American” if we had a dinner of perfectly roasted turkey, fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, and a perfectly creamy pumpkin pie.  Between me and my American Dream stood a large family of boisterous Pakistani women who took pride in their various salans and biryanis and were mortified at the prospect of a turkey with no curry.  And true to form, on Thanksgiving day, they came bearing platters overflowing with lamb qorma, chickpea curry, and kheer, a rice pudding fragrant with cardamom and rose water.  There was nary a pumpkin pie in sight and I was certain I was relegated to a life of being "special."  As I sat in the corner and sulked, I saw my large family holding overflowing plates of food and lovingly teasing each other's cooking.  I realized food had a comforting, magical power.  It had created a little piece of Pakistan for my family thousands of miles away.  My mom continued to pack samosas in my lunch until I convinced her that eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would make me no less Pakistani.  Years later, my family proudly roasts a turkey for Thanksgiving (mind you, they insist on serving it with cilantro chutney and raita) and I continue to marvel at the power food has to make everything okay.


This blog is simply an extension of my eight-year-old self's realization.  Food has allowed me to travel the world and make new friends, even when we didn’t speak the same language.  It has convinced my friends that I love them because I’m willing to painstakingly decorate hundreds of sugar cookies at midnight for their birthdays, engagements and weddings.


Food has shown my family that I will honor their special days by throwing parties with a heaping table of food and a centerpiece of an all too weird towel cake, if the cousin and bride-to-be is a fan of towel cakes (D, for the last time, why would you want a towel cake when I could’ve made you a lovely REAL cake?).  It’s helped me maintain my sanity after a full day of court hearings representing clients who wear feather boas to court.  And most importantly, food has allowed me to honor my cultural heritage by creating dishes that are a little bit American, a little bit Pakistani, and a whole lot of delicious.


So, this blog is for that nerdy, little immigrant girl with the absurdly huge pink glasses (thanks a lot, Mom), who came to the US intent on being as American as possible when she recognized the true power of food.  Food allows all of us, Pakistani, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, German, and every other ethnicity in search of the American Dream, to make a home in the US and be American in our own little way.


Vote for me by clicking "Vote For This Entry" on this page. You do not need a food blog to vote but you will need to register for FoodBuzz, an awesome foodie community that you should really be a part of anyway! I hope my bravery in posting this horrifically nerdy picture is enough to win your vote :)

88 comments:

  1. :)! I smiled reading this post and thought back to all the times where I would have to hide my backpack so that my curry smelling lunch would not escape into the classroom.

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  2. Vivid memories make a good story and a heartfelt post. For the record, I'm still proud to call you "Twin," despite the nerdy photo (which I actually think is very cute). Miss you and can't wait to read more.

    - Charmaine

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    Replies
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  3. aww, I really enjoyed this post. Growing up, I was the only non-white person in my school and I used to tell the other kids that I had baked chicken for dinner, when I had actually had keema, or chicken salan.

    I think your blog is has a great ode to your culture, Pakistani, American and everything else that has shaped you.

    Your childhood photo is so cute, pink glasses and all!

    Good luck on the FoodBuzz next star, you have my vote!

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  4. Good luck - you definitely have what it takes. So glad to haev discovered your blog recently. Looking forward to seeing how far you get!

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  5. Hey! I had those same pair of frames, tho much thicker lenses! :-)

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! And we had quite the Korean spread! The obligatory turkey was pretty much a side dish. :-)

    Great entry!

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  6. Love the glasses! And loved your post -- it's amazing how similar our experiences have been with food and about America. Best of luck in PFB. Looking forward to your posts!

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  7. You are such a great storyteller. Good luck in the contest. I know you'll go far! Congrats!!

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  8. I love this post and that last picture of you! :) What a great connection to food and blogging!

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  9. I remember having those kids in my classes and always wanting to try their "weird" food during lunch. I never guessed they'd be embarrassed and really want to be American and eat American food. I LOVE your pink glasses, btw ;)

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  10. Beautiful post! Such an adorable picture, too. :-) I think you captured why we all started our blogs. Food = love of family and friends and you obviously have a lot of the latter. Well done!

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  11. I automatically smiled whn i saw that last pic..tht was a nice post lawyer:)

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  12. Aww! such a well written post Azmina. Loved it and that last picture is a steal. I mean look at you all nerdy and cute. And then I scrolled up and down to compare the first pic and the last,and trust me you you just as cute and adorable.

    I can actually go ahead and write atleast 2-3 pages on how I think food is beyond just fulfilling your hunger. So many memories and love is created through it.You truly found your way through those glasses girl!

    Love ya!

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  13. Ahhh I love that photo! haha! I also love the photo of you hugging your KitchenAid. Exactly how I feel. Though some days it's my Cuisinart food processor :)

    Sues

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  14. Hi Azmina, I'm going to be following the challenge, and I will keep my eye on you to see what you're doing and such;-) Oh, and that bottom photo is priceless (smile)!

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  15. Hi Azmina, I was born and raised in California and I had what I thought to be weird and embarrassing things in my lunch because my mom was into health food which wasn't in style back then so I can relate to your story:) All the best in your quest to make food blog history:)

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  16. What a beautiful post... I love how I learned so much about you and your upbringing. You are indeed special... in the best possible way.

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  17. I so totally relate! I was the girl with the moussaka and dolmas for lunch. The big difference is that I came here as a baby so I learned to speak English right off the bat. This was an awesome post (as all of yours are). I'm looking foward to the rest of your posts.

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  18. It was so fun to learn more about you and your obvious passions...thank you for sharing! I love the cultural foods that you prepare and serve...and your posts are always thoughtful and engaging. The best of luck sweet girl!

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  19. Yes, so glad, you've gotten into the game! You deserve it just as much as any! I guess lasagna didn't pack well, so I was lucky. Love the cute little glasses, I have a vote too, hint hint!
    -Gina-

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  20. Your story is so heart felt. I can't imagine going through moving to a foreign country in elementary school and not even being able to speak the language. I'll be voting for you, you are such an amazing food blogger.

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  21. Lovely post. I've said this before but I'm going to say this again - your writing is so effortless and unpretentious. And this is even more amazing considering you couldn't speak English till the third grade. It's great how food can unite people of different cultures and especially fascinating how immigrant communities can adopt a foreign cusine and make it thier own by adding their own touches. You have my vote! Good luck.

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  22. Aww, cute pic with the glasses! I was looking at that cake and feeling bad for thinking it looked lumpy, and then realization came with your explanation: "Ohhhhh! It's a towel cake!" I'll take a real cake any day, though. :)

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  23. +1 vote because of the pink glasses :P seriously, i find comfort knowing that there are lawyers who also follow what they love to do despite the unimaginable hectic schedule we have. will root for you, i'm pretty sure you will go far in PFB :)

    p.s. i'm hoping the led zeppelin shirt guy wasn't put in contempt of court :P

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  24. That photo with the pink glasses reminds me of when I was little :) haha! You were really cute!
    Your story is so lovely, my Grandparents felt kind of like that when they came to New Zealand, on one hand wanting to embrace the new culture, but on the other wanting to keep a piece of home. We still eat things made out of pig's head though. :)

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  25. Thank you for sharing you life with us. I am loving reading about everyone's life during this foodbuzz challenge. I posted my FBC blog yesterday. Check it out and let me know what you think.
    Ashlee
    http://ashandlewplus2.com/2010/09/18/project-food-blog-ready-set-blog/

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  26. This post ranks up there with some of the very best entries I have read over the last few days! It made me smile and I enjoyed reading about your upbringing and learning more about you! You have my vote and I wish you the very best of luck with the challenge :o)

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  27. What a cute story! I had no idea that you lived in LA when you moved here from Pakistan? I love the photo - I think I had the exact same glasses when I was younger.

    We have the raita and chutney with Thanksgiving, plus a salaan or two for the few people who can't handle dry meat. :)

    You deserve to win this! I will be voting tomorrow, bright and early.

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  28. hey Azmina,

    i loved reading your story! i too remember those ESL days in school. i also remember my grandma packing me stinky lunches that could clear a room...how embarrassing. funny thing is, i've grown to love those stinky dishes...teehee.

    umm...you forgot to mention what an awesome cook you are and how you create such mouthwatering food porn that keeps your readers coming back. that's ok, i'll mention it for you ;-)

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    1. This is a nice post in an interesting line of content.Thanks for sharing this article, great way of bring this topic to discussion.

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  29. OMG - High five, I also sported glasses like this! Sported them and a huge gap between my front teeth!Q LOL

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  30. I really loved reading your blog post for this challenge (even more than the others!) and I really identified myself in your story of a migrant (even if I was more grown up so for you it must have been really hard!). Anyway, I follow you from before this post so I already knew how much I love your personality that totally comes out in your posts! Looking forward to see you in all the other challenges cause I'm sure you'll have to make them all :)

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  31. What a wonderful expression of who you are! I love how food brings us all together, across all levels.

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  32. What a lovely post. Enjoyed every word.

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  33. Haha I can totally relate to wanting to eat American food growing up. "What? Kalbi AGAIN???" Nice post, Azmina. Made me smile. :)

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  34. Love your story Azmina and your story-telling ways. It makes me want to read more and that is truly the trick with any blog- very thoughtful and animated. The picture is adorable. You got the vote :)

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  35. Reading your posts feels as though we are chatting and having a coffee. Food really is the tapestry that brings us together. You've got my vote :)

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  36. This was so nicely done. Your memories are as lovely as your food. I can't wait to see your entry in the next leg of the competition. I think you'll do very well. Good luck and blessings...Mary

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  37. awww! Coming from "immigrant parents" myself, I can TOTTALYYY relate! ;)

    great job! I voted! :D

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  38. That nerdy photo of you with the pink glasses was so darn cute, I had to vote for you! Oh, love your humor and recipes too, so if I can, I'd vote for you twice!

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  39. Excellent work on this challenge! Your post made me smile, and what an adorable photo with those pink glasses!

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  40. Awesome post, I loved learning more about you, and I love your little girly pic :D it made me smile. Best of luck to you in the competition daaaaahling!
    *kisses* HH
    p.s. my father in law is from the same are a as you :)

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  41. Good luck my dear! I love your post and am rooting for you all the way... off to vote for you right now! ;)

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  42. What beautiful memories, I enjoyed reading this post. The picture of you as a kid made me giggle. Those were some glasses :) I'll vote for you!

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  43. This is such a wonderful and well written post! I can relate to you on so many levels. I was born here, but I'm a first generation American so things were difficult for me once in a while too- especially when it came to food! I had no idea that you were in ESL as a child! That must have been quite an experience.
    I was so excited to see a new post from you- I just love your blog and your style of writing. I am definitely going to head over to Food Buzz now and vote for you!
    Good luck!

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  44. Decartes.....(= I appreciate philosophy. Azima, I am totally there with you with regards to wanting an American Style Thanksgiving Dinner. I too had to request from my mom that we do Thanksgiving. Isn't it funny how as children we could be so close minded but now how we appreciate our heritage. Love this post and you have my vote lady (=

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  45. I voted for you too.....you are someone special:)
    Good luck.

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  46. Of course I voted for you! I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy the stories about your culture, religion and immigration. Knowledge and understanding are so important. And isn't it wonderful how sharing a meal brings people together? Good luck to you, Azmeena!
    ~Kristie

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    1. You produce a great point in your own final paragraph. We couldn’t agree more together with your points. In today’s modern world, your approach to this issue is lacking in today’s kids. We need to ensure that our kids find out more on this topic so we nev

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  47. We were the only ethnic kids in an all-white southern town, but we did eat peanut & butter sandwiches : ) Reading your blog always puts a smile on my face and I love that nerdy kid - I think I had the same glasses :) Voted for you and wish you the best of luck!

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  48. Awesome post! Wait, a Led Zep shirt isn't appropriate for court? How about Lakers PJ's? Happened to me before.
    Love your description of how all the different ethnic foods get brought to the table. What a lovely way to meld so many different walks of life. Amanda

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  49. Azmina, your qorma, curry, biryani, and kheer-filled Thanksgiving sounds perfect to me! Can I be adopted?? :)

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  50. I can totally relate to your story as a young girl immigrated to the U.S. I too had to attend ESL classes, reading your story brought back some funny memories. Thanks for sharing and you got my vote! Good luck!

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  51. Sent a happy ♥ vote your way. See you in round two!
    ~ Mary

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  52. Great post! I voted for you! =)

    Good luck!

    Check out my PFB post : http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/503

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  53. I love learning more about you and I love that photo! You are too cute. Of course you got my vote!

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  54. you've got my vote, girlfriend! hugs!

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  55. Voted...And did I mention that I loved this :)

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  56. when I was about 6 i remember my mom calling her sister on thanksgiving morning, and one was saying, wait no mirchi, no that can't be right, okay just a little, all the while looking perplexedly at the turkey.

    good #pfb2010 post. glad i found your blog.

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  57. Very nice entry and adorable end photo. You've got one of my votes.

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  58. Aww you are so cute! I absolutely beamed my way through reading this. I love your message, I love your writing, I love that you successfully managed to convince your client that Led Zeppelin might not give a judge the right impression.

    And I voted for you!

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  59. thanks for your vote! i just voted for you too!

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  60. That pic is not nerdy! Laughing about the feather boa wearing client. We had a guy show up to an arbitration in a t-shirt that said "VIRGIN" with a multi-colored bomber jacket and jeans. Luckily, he was on the other side ;)

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  61. I found you through the PFB page and am so glad I did. I just love your entry, such a beautiful tribute to your family and heritage. I'm voting for you! Good luck!

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  62. Super cute, super personal post. Love how you've connected your family and culture to it all. You're going to go so far in this one!

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  63. Reading your post made me my day. Excited to see what's in store. It goes without saying that you've got our vote.

    Lick My Spoon

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  64. So cute! Of course you are going to be one of my top votes :-)

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  65. hey! this was such a great, great post... reminding us all about the emotional connect that we share with food and cooking :) think of all the good times and bad, and i'm sure what you ate or what ur mom cooked during that phase is going to be an integral part of your memory! so yes, totally love what u wrote :)
    am new on food buzz and still trying to find my footing, but vote i did for you! all the best!!!

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  66. Congratulations on making it through to challenge #2 of PFB2010! You're a star already in our eyes, anyway ;-)

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