Back in 2010 I started a non nonsense food blog. Just a place where I indexed recipes and wrote down the foods I was interested in. It was pretty basic and I tried to keep it focused on just the kind of stuff that I was either cooking or interested in cooking. I never intended for people to read this blog, it was more or less a precursor to how I use Evernote to index stuff now. Back then, I also had my main blog so this was a side project. My main blog took off and whenever I wrote about food, it was mostly in relation to food politics, not to food preparation. After all, food is so intimately intertwined to our lives that there was no way I could not write about its political side. But then I got sick, and blogging was out of the question.
For the past 18 months I’ve been very ill. I have been crawling my way out of it day by day and while I am not 100% recovered, I am both at the physical and mental space where I can think of writing publicly again. But one thing is certain: writing about the things I used to write, mostly immigration, racism or gender is very difficult right now. And while I had an incredible amount of support from a whole lot of loving and caring people, there is a mean, bullying aspect to blogging that I will never subject myself to again. That aspect, added to my health problems almost led me to not being alive anymore. Blogging about the things I cared meant a whole lot of people saw my ideas as a threat and blogging became a problem that compounded my severe health problems. Emails, tweets, Facebook posts, comments, I just couldn’t deal with that anymore and quite frankly, I didn’t see a reason to it either. Nothing ever changes to the point that my putting myself out there would be worth it. While I was healthy, I could take it in stride. When I got sick, it meant the difference between finding a reason to get better or giving in to the kind of hatred that preferred me gone. I chose to stop blogging and more importantly, I chose to disengage from social media entirely in order to focus inwards, on getting better.
I still write and I did so while I was ill, at least when I could. But I am firmly committed to writing from a different place right now. My ideas around gender, race, class, politics, etc have not changed one bit (or if they did, it’s been as a result of the usual changes that any political aware person goes through). My entire writing history on the internet is still there and it will remain so until whoever hosts it doesn’t anymore; I have no intention of erasing anything. I am very proud of some things I wrote. I don’t care about others (in a production as prolific as mine, that is bound to happen). But I cannot do it anymore in the ways I used to. The key to getting better, aside from all the medical treatments, has been to let go of some forms of engagement.
One of the things that helped me amid all the physical pain I’ve experienced for the past couple of years has been trying to connect to beauty and pleasure. In the pain, I forgot there was more than merely aching and I did my best to find beauty in my every day life. I had forgotten that I was surrounded by it and I slowly tried to re-capture those little things. I also realized, once again, why I love Amsterdam so much and why, in spite of all my political analysis, this is where I chose to live (and above all, my political analysis are borne out of a deep love for this place; through sickness, I started to see how I sometimes lose perspective of what matters to me).
I have also reconnected with things I had abandoned for more than a decade. Before I moved to The Netherlands, I used to be part of a clay and ceramics atelier. I did a lot of manual labor and worked with ceramics, pottery and earthenware. When I moved here, due to neither speaking the language nor knowing anyone, I never got back into it. Then a few months ago, I became a bit upset because my furniture looked bad. It needed renovations (and urgently so!). I tentatively went on to refinish my dining table and bam! it was like the world had opened up again. I recovered the joy of working with paint, pigments, wood, ceramic and all the materials used to refinish, repurpose and recycle furniture and household items. I’ve been going to flea markets and goodwill stores for years and I’ve been slowly collecting vintage and old furniture and household items. To make a long story short: when I took a step back from writing about politics, I finally found a way to recover that part of me that I thought was gone forever.
But why blog about food or eating or vintage furniture or household items now? The only answer that makes sense to me is that because, in a way, I am happy to go back to 2010 (metaphorically speaking!) and resume a project I abandoned in favor of my main writing pursuits. While I’ve written about food politics many times in the past, I’d prefer if that’s not the main focus right now, just a side dish in an overall different approach. Also, because throughout this past year, I have made every effort to recover a sense of pleasure and I hope that writing about it will bring this awareness of pleasure to others that might find it useful. The Netherlands has what is, to me, a rather undeserved reputation about bad food. I hope to be able to dispel those ideas a bit and, since I will always be a writer, I thought this is one thing I can work on while remaining true to my overall ideals. I love food, and all these months while I was sick, sometimes the prospect of a delicious meal made my day bearable. The furniture and vintage projects are now slowly becoming a business as well and I want a space where I can showcase what I do and share it with others. Mostly because I love the idea of recovering items that have been “discarded”. Just like I have the feeling I am getting another chance, so do these “old” items I refinish or repurpose.
Life is too short (and I was made aware of how short mine could be) and I would prefer, for now, to surround myself with little joys and some beauty. I will still be the same flamethrower I’ve always been but for now, I’d like to share pretty photos, hopefully some interesting tidbits and every now and then some incendiary (or should I say flambé?) commentary. That’s all I can do for now. And I hope it’s enough to start.