Oh Shit. I’m not perfect and I never will be, but I’ve been letting the idea of perfection get in my way for a long time-too long in fact. Do yourself a favor and don’t do that.  I’ve been wanting to express myself for a while now, but I have been waiting to have the perfect website, but since I am trying to focus on what I am good at, and not what I suck at, I am putting this out there with faith that someone out there will be able to benefit from my beautiful imperfectness.

When it comes to cooking imperfection can be really appealing.  A lopsided homemade birthday cake, dumplings that have thumbprints all over them, an unusual weeknight salad tossed together from what is, are some of the most treasured dishes I’ve ever tasted.



Cooking is Magic

Ipswich clams in the raw

How did these clams end up looking like this:


and finally this:


There is a famous  poem by Wallace Stevens, called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at  a Blackbird”, which popped into my mind after pondering the various incarnations of the clams I cooked for dinner last night.  Now I have a very special relationship with clams.  Most people won’t admit that, but I will.  I grew up in New England, where in the summers my dad had us up to our bony little knees in mud, digging around the muck for Quahogs, the most famous larger than life clam from Rhode Island.  We would haul these large edible rocks back to our backyard grill and wait for them to spring open before chewing them down with a touch of Tabasco sauce.

Later on I lived in Boston for many years and fell in love with the famous Ipswich clam, unearthed from under the tidal mudflats on Boston’s North Shore.  These sweet, full bellied clams are enjoyed as “Steamers,” in chowders, and most notably fried in some secret, proprietary batter passed down from generation to generation.  They have aroused an inexplicable longing in me that is wrapped up in memory, a sense of place and time, that for right now, can only be conjured through the magic of cooking them for myself.

Now back to Wallace and his poem.  There are many ways of looking at an object, whether it be a blackbird, a clam, or a person you love.  Now I haven’t read this poem since I took a college poetry class in 1997.  But for some reason it popped into my head, then I discovered this analysis of the poem, which states:

Wallace Stevens is a man deeply involved with philosophical problems as they relate to man and his universe. He seems to be asking us to open our minds to the magic of everyday life, ie; the blackbird and nature, but also to reevaluate our mindset in relation to living in an ordinary, mundane world. I believe he is attempting to counsel us in using an open mind and creative visualisation in order to bring about a conscious bond between the causal and seemingly acausal relationships enjoyed by every object and living being involved in the dance of life.

This really got me going because I just bought a copy of the Tao Te Ching, and I’m sitting here feeling full of the synchronicity of the universe.  All of this because I decided to make some clams for dinner last night.

Cooking is truly a form of magic.  It is transformative in the literal sense, and on a greater plane.  If you want to make some changes in your life, whatever they might be, consider cooking as an activity that can help you tap into the your own power to transform and connect with the universe.

When I’m cooking for someone I visualize how I want them to feel after eating my meal.  For a friend who’s feeling under the weather, I picture them feeling warmed and comforted; for a party I envision festive conversation pieces that evoke lightheartedness and laughter; for a birthday I see someone with their eyes closed and making a wish that is deep within their heart.

Having a vision is important for achieving what you want in cooking and in life.  If you can’t see what you want, it will be difficult to make it happen.  This is especially true  if you are one of those multifaceted, talented individuals who can wear many different hats.  You go around doing what you’re told you’re good at, getting a pat on the back for it, but it still isn’t enough for you.

I created a “vision board” that hangs in front of my desk to remind me of things I want in my life.  It’s a great tool to help you on your journey to living from your true source.

Mission Possible

When I worked as a Marketing Director for a restaurant group I challenged the leaders of the organization to develop a mission statement that would incorporate its values and goals so that customers and employees could have an understanding of what we as a company were about.  It was a daunting task trying to get people to agree on what our mission was.  I did not realize how frustrating it would be to get people to reach a consensus.  Some people thought it was a complete waste of time.  After all, there was construction to oversee, employees to be trained, money to be raised and recipes to be tested.  In the end, that mission statement never saw the light of day, and eventually that restaurant group, for a number of reasons, folded.

The fact that writing that mission statement is so difficult for some people is evidence of its power.  It means that you’d have to stand for something and live up to it and alot of people are not ready to do that.  However, if you are seeking a better life in line with your authentic self, then you must be ready to write your own mission statement.  Let me tell you how I accidentally came up with mine.

This summer I auditioned to be a contestant on a television show called America’s Next Food Network Star.  The winner of this competition show wins their own cooking show on the Food Network.  I thought it was time for the Food Network to have a dynamic, female, Asian chef and that their audience would embrace someone with my unique culinary point of view.

I did not get a callback, but what I got from the experience was something so much greater.  In the process of filling out the lengthy 11-page application, I was forced to dig deep inside myself to understand who I am and why I would want to be on such a show.  I realized that I have a deep desire to help others through sharing my knowledge of food and that having my own cooking show would be completely in line with that.  This is the reason why I’ve taught cooking classes, published books and articles, blogged and twittered about food. This is the reason why I accost strangers in the grocery store to talk about recipes and ingredients: to help people by sharing what I know.  This is why I am constantly pursuing more food knowledge- to have more to share.

I am telling you, once you have a mission statement it will make your life so much easier!  You will have a reference point to help you make decisions with clarity.  For example, I have felt confused about the next steps that take in my career.  Often times I found myself reacting to opportunities instead of proactively working towards a goal.  When you are living a life that is reactionary it makes you feel restricted and powerless because you are always waiting for something to happen to you instead of creating what you want from your life.  Now that I have a mission statement it is so much easier to see what things fit into my life and what doesn’t.  I am feeling gratitude for the amazing life I have, and I’m getting rid of things that don’t serve me in order to make room for more of this abundant joy.

It’s time to step into your power and live out your mission.

You Are Here

You Are Here

This painting lived in my kitchen in Cambridge, MA, for 10 years, watching over me as I cooked many meals.  It was packed away in my parents’ basement, along with many other meaningful possessions, when I moved to California.

It was given to me by a very talented artist as a gift for letting him stay with me while he was homeless.  I don’t know whatever became of him, but his gift has served as a signpost reminding me of an essential truth—

Wherever we are is where we are in that moment and right now if you’re reading this page that means You Are Here and I thank you for your presence.

I started this blog because I believe food and cooking are powerful beyond measure.  We are connected to it biologically, emotionally, historically, economically, and spiritually.  It is specific, yet expansive; and in a constant state of flux.

My whole life I have had a keen awareness of food and unconsciously I have used it as a tool to cope with stresses, as a creative outlet, an emblem of love, a comfort for my grief, a career path, a cultural exploration, a connection to nature, and much more.

Cooking Up Your Life is dedicated to celebrating food and the art of cooking to inspire personal growth and to enhance the well being of all mankind.