It’s been almost 2 months since I've left Sydney and it’s amazing how quickly time has flown by and how much has happened, both in the months and collectively over the years.

A reflection on the past
Back in 2010, I decided to leave home.  The decision didn't come easy as the familiarity and steady paycheck from a previous job provided comfort, but there was an inkling that had been kicking me for awhile.  It’s called, the TRAVEL BUG.

So I took action: researching options of where I would go, how I was going to go about it, and I took a leap of faith.  Not everything was planned, in fact, not much was planned like the rest of my life (finish college/university, intern, travel, work for a few years, save, etc.) so the idea of having so much flexibility was novel and quite nice.  I ended up in Sydney, Australia and the next thing you know, 2.5 years passed and today, I sit here writing upon these reflections.

It wasn't always an easy, breezy journey – in fact, they were some of the most trialing times but it’s these experiences that add to your character and who you are in the present day.  With me are memories that I’ll never forget, the times that I've shared with friends and much more.

Before leaving Sydney, I thought to myself, “What will I miss about the city?  Is it the breathtaking view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House? Is it the beaches with the cliff-side walks?  Is it being able to take public transport: the trains, the buses, the trams and the ferries?”  While I do miss all these, I found myself busy with a “MUST EAT BEFORE LEAVING” list.  One of those places was a local bakery in the Surry Hills neighborhood called BOURKE STREET BAKERY and it was certainly going to be a place I missed.
Ever since trying it for the first time, I knew I was going to be trouble.  And so began my regular trips down Bourke Street….

A friend of mine had gifted the Bourke Street Bakery book to me (more like a bible) and I was in awe, mouth agape and everything.  The pictures were all so beautifully taken, the layout, the stories, the recipes, I couldn't help but give the book a big hug (yes, I give attention to inanimate objects).  Anyhow, before leaving Australia, an idea popped into my head: I was going to get the guys at BSB to sign my book.

I wrote a love letter of appreciation telling them how much I thoroughly enjoyed the fluffy and delightful carrot cake that forever changed my life and the amazing-ness of their pork and fennel sausage rolls (among the other savory pastries) and how it was a joy to experience it flaking off so easily.  Just talking about this makes my mouth just water (yes, I am a nerd).

My e-mail bounced back.

I tried again and it bounced back again so I let it go.  Then, I refused to let it go and tried again (this time, I changed the subject line) and VOILÁ!

Pressed under time, I began to think that I wasn't going to get it in time and would need to get it shipped out, but everyone there was so accommodating and made it work so that I got it before I left.  Can we say WHEW?! FTW (For The Win)!!!

So a HUGE THANKS to Bourke Street Bakery for making it possible that I went back home with a signed copy of the book and for all the delicious treats and memories that will remain intact.
This blog post is different from most.

It's not about going to food festivals, traveling around and discovering a country's cuisine, nor is it about shopping around the markets and showing beautiful pictures of the local produce and market vendors.  No, this is a personal story about my relationship with food.

I've been fascinated with food for many years and while I consider myself a "foodie," the term itself makes twitch a bit.  Mainly because the term has been so widespread and used for anyone who likes to eat.  As with most general terms, you can break it down even further and categorize it.  It forced me to think more in-depth of where I belonged, of which sub-sector I fit in best.

Sure, I love to eat and I remember the days of beating out a boy in high school in a pizza-eating contest well over 10 years ago, or how it's just impossible for me to say "no" to an offer for food, but times have change and I have evolved.  My relationship with food is not about quantity, it's about quality.

In this day and age, it's easy to get tempted by all the products that line the shelves.  There's no denying that it makes eating (sometimes) easier, convenient and that some of the foods actually do taste good.  But what scares me is wondering what all those preservatives are doing to our health, in the short-term and more so, in the long-term.  Remember that Breyer's ice-cream commercial back in the day?

Our diet, the way in which we eat (not to be mistaken for weight-loss), is an integral part of our health.  For the most part, I had always opted for the more healthy options.  If I am to put a label on what type of foodie I am, it would be a health-conscious foodie.  Fresh and local ingredients are my preferences and I'll do my best to keep it that way.  But even when you're eating healthy, it doesn't always agree with your health.

My lifestyle has, more or less, done a 180 here in Australia (for those who don't know what a 180 is, it means a complete change) but my eating habits have not shifted as much.  As my time here winds down and I prepare to move back to the States, I took a critical look and realized that my health had suffered, even when I was eating healthy.  My energy levels have been low and while all the stresses and changes that life throws at you can be a part of it, what you intake will also affect it.

By working with a naturopath, a form of alternative medicine, we looked at how much food can affect one's health.  The naturopath highly recommended that I take what's called a "food sensitivity test."  While a food allergy is more extreme and has a much quicker reaction time and more extreme reaction, a food sensitivity on the other hand is slower and a less noticeable reaction.

I fought in my head.  I didn't want to take it because if I had become sensitive to something, I wouldn't know how to deal because I love food so much and omitting something I currently eat would be tough.  Whether being vegan has become trendy or just more apparent, I could never do it.

I fought some more in my head and finally, after much resistance, decided to take the test.  If it's my health in hand, it's better to know earlier than later.  In addition, a food elimination method would take too long and would require attention I don't have at the moment.  I would just have to repeat to myself and remember that it was just to be used as a guide and that it's a sensitivity and not an allergy.

After a bit of anticipation and some days later, results have come in:

I told you there weren't going to be any pretty pictures..
Definitely not what I wanted to see.  Dairy products (including my beloved cheese!), nuts (really?!?), beef (luckily, I don't eat much of it anyhow), wheat (oh my bread!), and chocolate ranked high on the list.  It's heartbreaking really, but what gets me by is that it's temporary.  After about 2 months, I'll be able to slowly reintroduce these foods and see how I react.  

Eating healthy is not only key but also eating the way that your body needs to is also important.  We're all built differently, inside and out, and one size doesn't fit all.  Though we may see a lot of commonalities cross over, we really are unique and our diets need to be reflective of that.  On the bright side of things, it'll give me the opportunity to research and play with different ingredients that I may not have yet tried to create more spectacular meals in my life and find more good eats around this world.
3 CommentsPost a comment

The Taste of Sydney food festival ran last week from Thursday, March 14 – Sunday, March 17, 2013.  I definitely attended to check out what they had and not only for one session, but for three sessions! Call me a bit crazy but there’s a reason behind it.  You see, I’d bought tickets about a month ago and then ended up getting some free tickets so hey, why not? It would be beneficial because then, I could “suss” it out the first time.

What I love about going to food festivals is the opportunity to DISCOVER.  Discover new restaurants, new chefs, new food, new ingredients, new spreads, new dips, new oils, new beer, new wine, new alcohol, etc.  Okay, sometimes they may not be new but they’re new to me so the novelty is there. 

With a plethora of different goods around, it’s easy to get intimidated when going to the store and buying a full pack of X.  Perhaps one may have no idea of what it taste like or even how to prepare or what it pairs with best.  Luckily, vendors at these food festivals are very happy to let you sample and taste the final product.  They’ve done the work of combining and testing out what they know to find the best match together and have it presented for you to try.

The cider tent! Ever thought of trying a "cider float?" I tried it with some frozen yogurt, definitely made for those who can handle the strong tart flavours.  This was a "secret menu" item concocted by a vendor at another tent :) 
Jackie M. cooking up some Malaysian Roti Canai
The Sustainable Living area :)
Some cheese? Don't mind if I do! Let me count the ways I love thee....
It’s no secret that I’m a big (HUGE) fan of gelato and one of THE places here in Sydney, Gelato Messina, has converted me into an addict.  One day, I’ll probably write up a love letter – whether it’s to the gelateria shop and/or to their flavours and/or the art and science behind it, it’ll happen.  Messina holds classes for those who are interested in finding out what goes behind the scenes and to show their raving popularity, all the classes for the rest of the year have been booked out for awhile now!

In any case, the best highlight for me during the Taste of Sydney was being able to watch head gelato chef Donato Toce from Gelato Messina prepare 2 of their popular gelato flavours: salted caramel and white chocolate, and tiramisu.  I learned fun facts like how they go through 1,000kg of sugar per week (mmm…sugar) or that the weekly specials are determined and tested 6 weeks in advanced! Overall, I was a happy camper with a full belly (as usual....).

With Donato Toce of Gelato Messina and with my gelato spoon ready in hand!

Once upon a time, my friend Ksenia had told me that she was going mushroom picking to which I enthusiastically responded, "mushroom picking?!? Tell me more!"  It sounded like a fun adventure and so when one of my friends here in Sydney told me she was going, I had to get in on the action.

Perhaps it's more of a Eastern European/Soviet Union activity as it seemed quite common to them, one being from Russia and the other from Ukraine, but the thought of going out for my own wild mushrooms hadn't really crossed my mind.

This past weekend, we went off to the Belanglo State Forest for a quick weekend getaway.  It was only on the way there that I had learned about the dangers and reputation it received but luckily, there was comfort in traveling in a large and well-traveled group of folks who knew what they were doing.

Fun team building games were organized to welcome us onto the campground and to get to know each other a bit more.  There was a bit of mushroom sighting but we saved it for the day after so as to pick and take them home at their freshest.

Frolicking through the forest in between trees and searching for mushrooms was exhilarating and each time we found the smaller ones (that are less common to come across), it was like finding treasure! 86 mushrooms later, I decided to call it a day for picking these Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms:

I even counted up to 86 in Russian!
Peek-a-boo! Mushroom eyes look like donuts...just sayin'
These beautiful Saffron Milk Cap wild mushrooms have such a beautiful and vibrant orange color.
An important note about mushroom picking: definitely do your research and go somewhere known for mushroom picking as there will be signs and pictures on the edible types of mushrooms.  "If in doubt, go without!" Also, don't forget to bring your knife and a bag or box to place your mushrooms in.
Where does the time go? Months pass by so quickly and lots has happened. Turns out that I had written a Byron Bay Part I post, which meant I still had more to share.  Perhaps I adopted some of this:
Just maybe, they'll be there
In any case, I went through and dug through my photos to see what else was remaining that was worthwhile:
Crystal Castle rainbow umbrellas, refreshing ice teas, fish n chips from Fish heads, sampling crackers with  Saghtar  spreads at the Bangalow Markets, and enjoying lunch outdoors
Nestled in between some wood fired pizzas
Freshly squeezed juice makes me jump!
Vibrant oranges fill the carts and boxes
Food signage
This man awaits you for some brekkie at Bayleaf Cafe
Let your sense of adventure take you to places you've never gone before