I come to food and travel writing from two different but complementary perspectives:
I have always been interested in the places where cultures meet and intersect. I am interested in the different food traditions of ethnic minority groups in southwestern China and how the territorial disputes between nations and empires have shaped their identities. I want to know more about how Native American communities in New Mexico have fused their cultural traditions with the Catholic holidays imposed on them by Spanish settlers to create unique festivals. I’m excited when a deep dive into the history of a tapioca and milk-based dessert from eastern Myanmar leads me to centuries’ old trade routes that brought ingredients and ideas from ancient Persia to India and then to Southeast Asia.
Early in my career, I discovered that food can serve as a very useful lens for looking at culture. It also offers a unique opportunity to connect with people: Meet up with a family in Suzhou to cook some local dishes, and you might hear about how the grandmother fled her hometown during WWII. Arrange a cooking lesson the Chinese–Burmese border, and you can learn a lot about the tensions between the some of China’s smallest minority groups. Attend a cookout at a church with a congregation made up of immigrants, and you might leave with a completely different perspective on your own home state.
But as a dedicated home cook (and now a busy working parent), I am also committed to helping cooks find easy ways to put meals on the table and improve their skills. I want food from all across the world to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or skill level.
I take a similar approach to my travel writing. I travel both to see the world’s wonders and also to learn about other ways of life. I think travel should create a dialog that helps both travelers and the people they visit develop a deeper understanding of the world beyond their town, country, and hemisphere. But I also want travelers to know that the world’s experiences are accessible with kids. Adventures in the Chinese countryside and luxury stays in Japanese onsens are just as possible with a family in tow as they are to solo travelers or couples. Sometimes, having kids along even leads to unique, unexpected, and wonderful experiences.
In sum, I want my work to help people see the nuance and possibility in the world—and to embrace the complexity and to grow through learning about the places, people, and foods around them.