My Food Vision

A few principles I try to uphold while writing for this blog:

I am very committed to Amsterdam specifically and The Netherlands in general as sites of great food and quality. This is not just about consuming local ingredients (which I do) but also supporting local businesses that do not necessarily operate under local principles. Communities extend further than the city or country limits and I sometimes find it frustrating that in the quest for “local”, we forget that locality tends to erase racial and class lines in favor of a homogeneity that doesn’t always contemplate personal circumstances. “Eating Local” for someone hailing from Latin America, Asia, Africa, etc, can mean abandoning all roots and becoming something they (we) are not. So, in my daily life, I strive to find the right balance. I am local because I live here, but I am also the sum of my heritage and I will honor that while being mindful of displacement (of food, of people, of labor).

– With that said, I am also invested in what I would loosely define as Dutch terroir. One of the ways I feel connected to this place is through food and even though it is not necessarily a deeply explored topic in mainstream culinary media, there is such a thing as Dutch terroir. Terroir being the specific characteristics that the geography, geology climate and culture of a certain place express themselves in its agricultural products. Terroir can be translated as “a sense of place” which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of food. Terroir does not apply merely to wine or drinks but to many other agricultural products such as cheese, teas, chocolates, wheat and a variety of heirloom ingredients.

I want to capture seasonality not merely through food but also through the cycles of changes in my local environment, the neighborhood I live in and this city in general. I am interested in how food is part of nature not merely as a byproduct of nature but as an inextricable part of the environments where it is produced and consumed. We hear a lot about “eating seasonally” but living in an urban environment we tend to lose sight of what that means and how the seasons reflect the food that is available and that we consume. With each change in colors in the trees and plants around us, there is a direct change in the crops and products that are offered for sale. I am interested in reflecting how these changes occur in an urban setting.

I am interested in history and people, not just ingredients or commodities. I want to communicate and explore the history of Dutch food and ingredients because I see immense value in food as a way of connecting to a place. I believe The Netherlands has an undeserved reputation as a place of “bad food” and I hope to share the many ways in which this is an outdated stereotype that in no way reflects the evolution of this country and it’s food. It might be true that stereotypically Dutch food is bland but the days of stereotypically Dutch food have been over for a long time. Lots of interesting things happen here that defy these stereotypes and I am interested in how food evolves together with the communities that produce it.

This is NOT a “clean eating” blog. Moreover, I consciously and purposefully stand against concepts like “clean eating” because the implication is that anyone who doesn’t follow “clean eating” principles is, in fact, eating dirt or eating dirty. Who the fuck (pardon my jargon, those who know my writing know that I curse from time to time) came up with such a classist, alienating notion to label food and eating habits? Moreover, who determines what is clean and is unclean in this set up? And more importantly, which and whose histories (racial, gender, migration, colonial past, etc etc) were/ are taken into account when labeling food “clean” or “unclean”?! No, the mere fact that some people place themselves in the “clean camp” implies that others are impure, unclean, dirty and a whole other host of loaded categories. If anything, I am dirty, messy, improper, smutty, naughty and vulgar. Women have had centuries to deal with ingrained notions of lack of hygiene, impurity and sexualized dirt. My food is actually a stand against those ideas.

I consciously try to avoid labeling food as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. What is healthy for me can actually kill someone else who happens to be allergic to said “healthy food”. Also, I want to do away with labels that inadvertently promote a culture of uniformity, fads and ableism. To give one example: while it is true that if I eat lard by the spoonful I might eventually get sick, labeling lard as “unhealthy” also erases centuries of history of use behind this ingredient. I believe that only well informed individuals can determine what is healthy or unhealthy for them and in what amounts. While it is true that there is a science behind food that can aid in those determinations, I am no healthcare provider or nutritionist so I am in no position to promote those ideas. I’d rather leave them to professionals. I am an eater and a lover of food, first and foremost. Then I am a cook and an experimenter. Those are not credentials that can be used to promote health or healthcare. I am pro fat (in every sense of the word), pro butter, pro pleasure. If I ever make remarks about the health or lack thereof in an ingredient, it will be with the caveat that it is not a blanket statement.

Food is not a moral standpoint. People who eat similarly or differently than me are not moral successes or moral failures. Access to food, access to the funds to buy food, food preferences, food consumption, food choices none of these are a sign of moral superiority or inferiority. These are life circumstances that are forever intertwined with class, gender, race and a whole other host of historical issues. I strive to do away with moral judgements in how and what we eat mostly because this moral judgement is at the core of how we talk about people we perceive as “not like us”.

Religion or religious inspired ideas have no place in my food. My food is not “sinful” or “decadent” or “self indulgent”. A chocolate dessert is not a sign of personal failure and guilt has no place in how I approach food. I vehemently want to do away with notions of eating “guilt free” because those concepts are not a reflection of well being but ways to control pleasure. Again, this is deeply individual and if one is following a diet, I fully understand feelings of guilt but I refuse to label my food as “guilty free” when, instead, I prefer to examine the reasons why one should or should not eat something rather than allow certain political expressions to control our access to pleasure and nutrition. Some things are good or bad for you, as an individual with unique life circumstances. No need to feel guilty or sinful or decadent for straying. Mindfulness and awareness are much more useful than guilt.

I want to celebrate pleasure. We eat in order to, you know, not die. But there is so much more to eating than just survival. There is community and heritage and culture and a sense of belonging through food. I am aware that writing and thinking about food is a privilege when so many can barely put it on their tables. In that sense, I occupy a space that is, by its very definition, one of indulgence. However, I would like to have some hope: perhaps, if we think about what it means, we can actually work towards policies and initiatives that improve everyone’s access to food and its inherent pleasure. This much I can say: I do not merely want everyone to have access to food, I would like everyone to have access to the pleasure that it can bring as well. Some people might prefer not to exercise that access but I suspect many would if it was on the metaphorical table.