I am the daughter of Assyrian-Iraqi immigrants. I was born in Chicago and raised with a strong ethnic and cultural influence that completely shaped the way I look at food. Food is something that brings people together and allows them to not only share food, but stories and experiences as well. My blog will, hopefully, add to the experience of culture and community through food.
Being raised in such a melting-pot of a city like Chicago gave me the unique ability to grow up constantly discovering new tastes and flavors. Homecooked meals consisted of things like traditional Iraqi stews, Biryani, kabobs, grilled Masgouf, and so on. But, I got so much more than that. After school, I would run to my neighbor’s house to study and her mom would serve up a big bowl of Cambodian food that I would just eat up while we watched Cambodian soap operas. Mireya’s mom would cook up fresh Mexican food while we danced to Selena in her room… Andrea’s mom would have a whole spread of fried chicken and collard greens. To this day, I can still hear the laughter and gossip. On Fridays, since we didn’t eat meat, my dad would bring home a big brown paper bag full of fried shrimp and catfish from The Fish Keg in Evanston, Il. In my highschool years, my friend Aimee invited me to her parent’s Israeli restaurant where we’d eat fresh falafel or couscous, my other friends would have Cuban Ropa Vieja or Philippine Lumpia waiting on the table for me to gobble up; Raymond would take me to Humboldt Park and we’d eat tacos al pastor made from scratch. I think, even then, I knew I had something special. The food was amazing, but more importantly, I got to learn, through food and stories, about my friends and their backgrounds, cultures, and what shaped them to become the incredible individuals they are today.
I think these experiences also shaped my love of cooking and my cooking style. I love melding different flavors and techniques to come up with something as unique and eclectic as how I grew up. I love developing recipes that have drawn inspiration from different cultures and countries to create something new for you to explore and share! I am sharing these recipes with you in hopes that you can pass along new flavors and stories too.
Food is a vehicle to get people to connect to each other. When you eat with people, differences become less important. You learn, discover, and teach. You become less distracted with biases and laugh a little more, love a little more. I think only food has this totally awesome capability. It’s probably why my deep and totally sincere love of Anthony Bourdain runs so far and wide. He opened a window to different worlds through food. You wanted to visit these places, eat with these people. I relate to that, as I’m sure so many of you do.
City Guides is a way for me to do, in some teeny, tiny way, what Bourdain did with his show. It will be a way for me to share with you my experiences around the globe and how they can benefit you if you ever find yourself in one of the cities I’ve explored. There will be a heavy focus on the food, of course. When you eat the local food of a place you visit, you will find it the best opportunity to truly get to know a place.
After visiting so many wonderful food cities, and learning from different chefs, home cooks, and mothers, I gained a few morsels of knowledge along the way. I learned that cooking the food is not just about the food. Cooking is intentional and should be done with love. Cooking is meant to be a shared experience. I absolutely love cooking, but I love sharing more.
I hope you enjoy my blog.
Mise en Place is a must - “everything in place” which means to organize and arrange ingredients and tools a cook will require to prepare a menu
Keep knives sharp - a dull knife is a dangerous knife
Safety is a must - keep hands clean, bacteria at bay, check temperature, etc
Mistakes are OK - mistakes make you step outside of your comfort zone which may lead to awesome new recipes or creations!
Be Mindful - cooking can be a form of meditation
Waste Not - conserve, compost, reuse, recycle whenever possible
Sometimes, I like to get right into the recipes. And sometimes, I have a story to tell. Either way, I hope you find it interesting and helpful. I also like to make food videos to share with you, visually, how the dish comes together so that you can be more successful in making my recipes!
Im pretty new to this blog game so if you ever feel the need to share something you’d like to see more of or have an idea I’ve inspired, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to drop me a line.
NOUN the Arabic word for finely ground mixture of spices
My typical Baharat Mix: Lebanese Baharat or “7 Spice Mix” consisting of Paprika, Pepper, Cumin, Clove, Coriander, Cardamom, and Nutmeg