Meet Ann, the incredibly talented, multi tasking author of Grubbs n Critters. She’s a wife, mother of two small kiddies, has a demanding full-time job, travels frequently and blogs regularly. Busy much? She came up with the idea of our Monthly Mystery Munchies, and for the past six months we’ve been challenging each other (and ourselves) to cook a mystery meal based on a theme we choose monthly. She’s passionate about cooking and intrigues me with her recipes. One of the things I love about blogging is how it brings people together, be it through poetry, humour, writing, photography, cooking… Ann seems adept at juggling it all. Amid the demands of a hectic life, she still finds time to cook. And I don’t mean throw a meal together, I mean plan one thoughtfully and then spend hours cooking it.
We live on opposite ends of the world – me in South Africa and her in Thailand, and hers is the first blog I check in the mornings. She frequently blogs about everything from food to humour, travelling to raising multi-cultural kids (Ann is Singaporean, her husband is Dutch and they live in Thailand). I really don’t know how she does it! We interviewed each other and here she discusses her culinary inspirations, how to balance a hectic life and still find time for blogging, its ups and downs, and how to plan posts.
What inspired you to start your blog?
An old buddy of mine by the name of Major Awesome got me started on a blog when I moved to Thailand. But, one of the main reasons I started blogging was the fact that I could not be bothered to email my friends and family to tell them what I’ve been up to. So, a blog became a very practical reason for them to get updates on what I’m doing without me telling 10 different people the same things over and over again. My rationale was, if they want to know, they could always read stuff on my blog!
When did you start cooking and why? Was it from necessity, ie you had to feed the kids, or was it something you grew up doing?
I grew up mostly with home-cooked food as my mom cooks A LOT! So I was always helping out in the kitchen doing the dirty job of peeling, washing, cutting and the works but apart from fried rice, boiling eggs and frying eggs, I never really cooked as my mom rules the kitchen. She’s always particular about how things are done in the kitchen, so I try to get out of her way. My dad was convinced that I can’t cook for nuts! I only started cooking for myself when I moved to Thailand and that was when I started experimenting because I was so sick of eating out and I was missing food from home. The rest is history!
You’re Asian, your husband is Dutch and you live in Thailand. How do these different cultures influence your cooking Do you have a favourite cuisine and do you do fusion?
Oh! So many variety of cuisines to experiment, I tell you! Frankly, apart from the great and delish deep-fried stuff of the Dutch cuisine which I love, I mostly found Dutch food to be quite boring, sometimes bland with the usual meat and vegetables combination. It’s a good thing that they have the Indonesian influence and that adds on to the variety and flavour of food. My favourite? That’s a tough one as I like variety. But if I have to choose, I’ll say the Indonesian and Indian cuisine top my list of favourites. And, Bitterballen. I love, love, love Bitterballen. And yes, I fusion! With the exception of baking, I never follow recipes to a T and I always modify.
What/who has been your greatest influence in the kitchen?
Gotta to be my mom. And no one else! OK. Maybe Nigella, and Jamie Oliver. I like that their cooking are always so simple, rustic and anything goes!
If you could ask one specific chef for a piece of advice, who would it be and what’s the question?
I’ll ask Jamie Oliver how the hell he’s able to use such a sharp knife at such great speed without cutting off his fingers! And how can I overcome the fear of big ass sharp knives as they scare the the crap out of me.
You have a very busy life – a hectic, demanding job, two young kids, a husband and a home to run. How do you balance all of this? Are there any secrets to it, and how to you stay motivated to blog with so much going on around you? Do you have advice for fellow bloggers?
Sometimes I wonder the same and I think it’s only because I’m not quite right in the head! Finding the balance is hard. Really hard and it’s something I struggle with everyday. It helps that my husband helps out quite a bit and picks up the slack when I have to do extra hours at the office. I don’t have any magic formula or any advice, really. My head seems to have a lot to say, so whenever I get a little inspiration, I jot down little notes and key points so I don’t forget. When I find the time, I’ll write them out – sometimes over several days.
Usually, I do a little writing during my lunch break. It helps that my kids go to bed before 7 pm and after that, I have a little time in the evening to write half a post (one whole post if I’m lucky) after dinner. When I have 3 hours at stretch, I usually try to write a few posts and then schedule them and space them out so in the event I get bogged down by other things, I don’t feel the pressure to have to write something everyday.
I think it is exactly the fact that I have so much going on around me that makes me feel motivated to write! or I’ll end up having inane conversations with myself! That would be baaad.
No matter how busy my week, the three blogs I regularly check are… because…
Apart from yours because your recipes are always mouth watering and easy to replicate and spark off ideas for me to figure out what to cook over the weekend. I love your Wednesday word crush too! (Awww, thank you so much!)
So the other 3 would be:
All in A Dad’s Work – I love reading his stories and honest account of parenting anecdotes. I like his writing.
All That’s Jas – Recipes! And her photography of her food is always so amazing!
Estelea’s Blog – She’s a good mommy friend of mine who left Bangkok and moved to the Philippines more than a year ago. She’s got a great writing style and mainly because I just want to know what she’s up to!
What are your three favourite cooking ingredients, and what are your three favourite cooking utensils?
Ingredients: Tumeric, sage and onions. I’ll add chillies if you allow four!
Cooking utensils: Does a blender count? Otherwise, it would have to be my Circulon non-stick pan, potato peeler and super blunt knives!
Since you started your blog, what’s the most rewarding thing about it, and what’s the biggest challenge?
The most rewarding (and surprising) is being able to build a community of followers who actually like the crap I write! And I’m always amused by that. Apart from that, it really is meeting and connecting with bloggers like yourself, and I love it when people take the time to comment on my annoyingly unfriendly comment box on a self-hosted site. It’s also always nice to get the occasional knocks on my door to be a guest blogger or get featured..it’s like a little pat on the back and one that motivates me to keep on going.
The challenge for me is having the luxury of time to sit down and write whenever I want, for as long as I want to. It doesn’t happen all that often. And the result of pushing myself to write because I really want to, is severe sleep deprivation.
If you could cook a meal for three people, famous or not, dead or alive, who would they be and what would you cook?
Hmmmm..I think I would be embarrassed to cook for famous people! They’d balk at the modification of the ingredients and method I use when I cook, they probably send me off to go to some culinary school. They’ll laugh at me when they see the knives I work with (they still cut, mind you! Just not my fingers) So I’ll stick to cooking grubs for my parents, my husband, my kids and my friends. If I have the chance (and time) though, I’d really like to do some volunteer cooking for the orphanage and the less fortunate.