Why I Am Not a Food Blogger

Food. We all eat it every day. At least, I hope we all do. And sometimes, when I’m really stuck in a rut and have absolutely no desire to eat Chinese food again because I simply cannot do more cabbage with eggs, I read food bloggers and salivate over all the delicious American food that I haven’t eaten in months. Roast beef with mashed potatoes? Bring it on, I say! (Or hamburgers, or bean burritos, or anything American that Chinese people don’t eat. It all sounds good.)

So today I’m here to show you how to cook one of my most boring meals: breakfast. This is my way of winnowing down who’s really my true friends–because if you’re still here after this most boring of blog posts, you are dedicated. Breakfast is boring for me because we always have eggs, and while eggs are fine, they get a little old after you have them every single day. But when you don’t want to eat gruel for breakfast (which is what the Chinese eat), you have to eat something. And eggs are acceptably American.

So, though I’m sure you know how to make a simple fried egg, here’s how to make eggs that you can eat every day for breakfast, even when you feel like you’ve become the most boring breakfaster on earth. And why someone would want to write a blog post about how boring their breakfast is beats me. I think I better give up my food blogger career already.

Anyways, to be a good food blogger, you have to take beautiful pictures of food that looks like something someone would want to eat. So here are my essentials: eggs and butter.

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See my lovely clean counter space with all the great natural lighting? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

What? You don’t nosh on eggs-in-the-shell? Especially not eggs-in-the-shell with some ancient honey and random junk in the background? But they’re so pretty and brown, and the butter’s nice and yellow!

Anyways,  before you start the eggs, it’s a good idea to start baking some bread at the same time so you can eat hot rolls with your breakfast, as it takes away the monotony a little. So pull your already-prepared bread dough out of the fridge where it’s been souring for the last couple days and plop it on the pan of your toaster oven. I know you’re super prepared like that.

Oh, and when you’re taking pictures of your food, you want it to be the center of attention. No giant white space in the background, now!

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Lovely little things, ain’t they!

And since of course you’re super prepared and starting breakfast an hour ahead of time (like I always am), you heat up your toaster oven and set the rolls on top to rise a little. And if you’re not super prepared, hockey pucks really aren’t bad. I know from experience.

Anyways, back to your eggs. Once you’re sure you have them (it’s always a good idea to check and see if you’re out), but some butter in a pan and heat it up.

Food photography tip number three: random yellow areas in the whiteness of your tile backsplash just bring out the beautiful yellow color of your eggs. Photoshop some in if you don’t have any.

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Don’t you just want to eat that, right there? 

Once you have your butter deliciously hot and bubbly, add in your eggs. And take a picture of  a giant blurry hand. Because nothing says “I want to eat that NOW” like a picture of a giant hand. Not even yellow caulk.

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Do you know just how hard it is to take a picture of yourself cracking an egg? Let’s just put it in the “impossible” category. So you can look at my blurry hand with a blurry egg.

Then you snuggle your eggs real close together so they don’t feel all lonely-like, and take a picture of them nestling themselves up in their cozy bed of butter.

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Now THAT’S better.

Then, because you were busy taking pictures, turn ’em over on to their little yellow bellies a little late so their yolks are already nearly cooked through. That way you don’t have to feel bad about leaving them too long on the other side because hey, they were already ruined.

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Oh, but I almost forgot. While you cook your eggs, don’t get so busy taking picture that you forget to throw your rolls into your toaster oven to start rising cooking.

Photography pro tip 5 (or is it 4? I lost count somewhere back there): take a blurry picture through your spotless oven door, because cameras only show the dirt worse. That way you might get a little incentive to clean that oven.

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And make sure the angle’s a little crooked. It adds interest to the picture.

Once you’ve finished all your multitasking of frantically rushing back and forth and making sure all the dirt is where it should be, turn off the heat (under the eggs, silly), and put some cheese on top of your eggs.

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Just like that.

Then cover them with your perfectly clean lid that you wash at least twice a day in warm soapy water, and let the residual heat work its magic.

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It’s magic, I tell you!

Just don’t let them sit too long or your carefully curated yolks that you forgot about earlier will be hard and nasty. Ask me how I know.

Anyhow, while your eggs are sitting and waiting and feeling lonely, your rolls probably need to be turned around so they’re not burnt on one side and raw on the other (the joys of cooking in a toaster oven!). So you take them out of the oven. This is another place where a giant hand picture is appropriate. Because it’d be weird to have rolls coming out of the oven on their own.

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Of course you use a hotpad! And make sure your hand looks like a claw in the pictures, too.

And you start the wrestling match, because toaster oven sheets are notoriously sticky.

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Fork vs. Roll. Roll usually wins.

Then, once you get tired of fruitlessly digging under the rolls while simultaneously trying not to burn yourself,  you throw them back in for another 2-3 minutes, until they’re nicely browned on all sides.

Then you dig in to your lovely delicious breakfast of eggs and rolls. On your perfectly clean, curated dining room table.

And to make sure your pictures turn out just stunning, you should add a little color to stand out, like some yellow pineapple. Brown rolls, brown/yellow eggs, yellow pineapple. Not too similar at all!

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I take such delicious looking pictures of food. I’m sure you want to dig in right now!

So there you have it–how to make everyone want to come over and eat your food. Take stunning pictures of it gorgeously arrayed in all its approachable glory, talk it up like it’s something unique that’s never been done before, and make sure you add a contrasting color. And voila–hordes of people just longing to take a bite will magically appear.

Have I convinced you? Or will you now resist any and every dinner invitation given by yours truly? (Jared’s comment: “I’m sure you’ll get lots of people seconding your title.”)

Christmas with Chopsticks

You wonder what it will be like to have Christmas in China. And then it comes, and it doesn’t feel very Christmas-y. It’s hard to celebrate without family.

You set up your Christmas tree a few days ahead of time, getting it decorated by Christmas eve.

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Who says stockings can’t hang over the Great Wall?

You get out your favorite Captain America sweater and put it on, trying to conjure up memories of home and see how American you can be.

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Actually, it was a gift from some of our fellow expats.

And when all that fails to summon the magical spirit of Christmas, you turn to the old tried-and-true: cooking.

Cinnamon rolls, Christmas cookies, apple pies–food always makes you feel festive!

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Mmmm . . .

But the best way you know to celebrate Christmas is with friends. So of course you stuff your tiny apartment with as many people as it can hold, and rejoice together over the sugar-cookie dough and the eggnog.

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And you find creative ways to make pretty cookies even without cookie cutters.

You find that working together with friends is one of the best ways to feel that sense of community that you generally find with family in the place you grew up, as talk and laughter fill your already full kitchen.

 

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Everybody loves Christmas cookies.

And then, when the cookies are done, and all the food’s ready, you sit down and eat together, and talk about everything you can think of together. But before you do that, you have to take the mandatory picture to document everyone who came and all the food you’re about to eat before it disappears.

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Not as much food as for Thanksgiving, but it was still good.
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And since you want a picture of your BEAUTIFUL hostess. . . (in which her head takes up half of the picture)

And after all this, you read the Christmas story and explain it to people who have possibly never heard it before. Then you sing Christmas carols and everyone knows “Silent Night,” and nobody knows “Joy to the World,” and of course they’re very happy when you play your violin for them.

And you decide that this may, after all, be one of the best ways to celebrate Christmas.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! (It’s still only the third or fourth day of Christmas, depending on where you are, so I’m justified in saying that).