Growing up, I battled with an inferiority complex that slowly ate me up, bit by bit. I don’t quite know how I came to develop the inferiority complex, but what I did know was that I never felt that I was good enough.
I often looked to others for approval and strove to please my friends and family, adhering to their opinions because I simply believed that mine didn’t matter.
As a result, I learnt to be politically correct and only expressed what I thought would be accepted by the rest. If I had even the faintest fear that what I thought would be rejected by others, I would never say it out in public.
I suffered from a terrible misconception that if people rejected my words or opinions, they were rejecting me, as a person. It’s horrible to believe something like that, but in my vulnerable teenage years – between adapting to physical changes due to puberty and trying to fit in at school – my self image was definitely not a pretty one.
I followed fashion trends to be part of the “in crowd”, mimicked jargon and copied behavior that was supposedly cool, but never did I feel accepted for who I was, and rightly so. I never allowed myself to simply be myself. If I was out at the movies with friends and the majority wanted to watch an action movie while I really wanted to watch that rom-com, I’d just agree with the rest. I didn’t want them to think I was lame or boring or whatever they would think.
You could say that I never felt comfortable in my own skin. Comparing myself with others had become such a familiar habit that I’d always feel that the other person was better than me, just because. There wasn’t much of a logic behind my thinking, but this never-ending race to meet society’s expectations and constant comparison made any inkling of my own personality fade away, little by little.
The only place where I could truly be myself and express what I felt was in my writing. I wrote in paper journals back then – small notebooks that I had at home. I poured out my fear of rejection and anger at the way I thought, and at the end of each writing session, I would feel a sense of relief to be able to finally be honest and truthful about my feelings.
Writing was my only escape and therapy in those difficult years, a period where I struggled with self-acceptance and understanding that it was ok to be myself, even if I was different from others.
As the years passed, I grew a little more confident, but I still lugged with me the nagging fear of rejection and not being good enough. At university, I never felt like I was pretty enough, or eloquent enough, or sporty enough. I chose to study finance and economics not because I loved it but because everyone said that was where the money was.
When I started working as an international graduate at an international bank, I was always comparing myself to my peers, and constantly feeling insecure of myself. In finance, where money is of utmost concern, our salaries became benchmarks of comparison and importance.
This chasing after the money was a tiring race, and two years into the bank, about the time when Juan and I were talking about where our long-distance relationship was leading us to, I decided to take a risk for love.
I arrived in Buenos Aires in the fall of 2010, and within three months managed to find a job doing stock analysis focusing on the exchange sector. I thought to myself, at least I’m still doing something related to finance, where the money is.
Yet I wasn’t happy. I still compared myself to my peers back home and this time, with an ever-increasing salary gap, I felt even more depressed. Each trip back home to Singapore was a constant realisation that my purchasing power was constantly shrinking and earning in Argentine pesos was not helping. I knew it was wrong to link my self-worth to my income, but I didn’t know what to do about it.
I only began shaking off this inferiority complex in the past few years, when I started giving more priority to writing, and in the process I began healing. Starting this blog and having a space to come to week after week gave me fresh strength and a new me emerged.
Cooking, which was something I’d always associated with housewives and women of the past, suddenly became my passion. I’d stay awake at night thinking of a recipe and get up early during the weekends to test it. I’d found a place where my writing co-existed with a new hobby that I actually loved.
At first, I was reluctant to tell my friends about the blog, for fear that they might think my writing wasn’t good, or that they would disagree with my ideas or beliefs. And for a while, I didn’t breathe a word to most of my immediate friends. I mean, I used to work in an international bank and now I’m writing a food blog? What would my finance friends think?
It was only after I began to feel at ease and comfortable in my own skin that I started realizing that my words and recipes had the power to impact others in a good way, and that I needed to share them. And so what if I’ve diverted from my original path and picked the road less travelled by? It doesn’t make my journey worth any less than if I’d stayed on course.
I’ve come a long way in the last 20 years in terms of character-building and personality-development, and I know that I’ve still got a long way to go. I still have layers to peel off and potential for growth, but for now, I’m acknowledging that it is ok to do and be what I believe I should do. And I’m celebrating this beautiful moment of my life.
Wherever I am today is exactly where I need to be.
It’s only befitting that I share this gluten-free vegan lemon cheesecake with you.
My friend Rosanna had brought me some lemons from her husband’s family ranch in the province of Buenos Aires, and I wanted to use the lemons in a recipe that would showcase their flavor. After googling the internet for lemon recipe ideas, I settled on making a lemon cheesecake that Juan could also eat. This meant that the cheesecake had to be gluten-free, egg-free and also dairy-free.
Don’t be put off by that though. This vegan lemon cheesecake is incredibly light, refreshing yet creamy with a crunchy base made with almonds and walnuts – perfect for a celebration anytime.
It was the first time I’d decided to attempt making a vegan cheesecake and I’m so glad I did. In fact, this cheesecake tastes so good that you wouldn’t even have guessed that it’s vegan and gluten-free!
Here’s how to make it. Grease and line a medium round springform pan with parchment paper. Begin with the crust by grinding almond and walnuts in your food processor or blender until you get a fine nut meal. Combine the ground walnuts and almonds with melted coconut oil and mix them all up.
Next, transfer the crust mixture to the prepared springform pan and use the back of a spoon to press down the mixture as firmly as possible. Then let the crust chill in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes while you prepare the filling.
For the filling, place soaked cashews in your food processor or blender together with almond milk, water, fresh lemon juice and blend well until you get a thick cream. Add in lemon zest and sugar and blend some more. Dissolve the agar agar powder in a bit of warm water and add it to the cashew cream mixture together with some melted coconut oil. Blend one last time until you get a thick but homogeneous mixture. Pour the filling on top of the crust (which should be firm by now) and freeze for at least two to three hours until firm.
That’s how easy it is to make this beautiful gluten-free, vegan lemon cheesecake. I’m sure you’re going to love it too. How about you make it and let me know what you think?
- 1 cup almonds
- 2 cups walnuts
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 cups cashews, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and drained
- ½ cup almond milk
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 teaspoons unflavored agar agar powder
- Grease and line a medium round springform pan with parchment paper (I lined both the bottom and the sides)
- Start off with the crust. Grind almond and walnuts in your food processor or blender until you get a fine nut meal.
- Combine ground almond and walnuts with melted coconut oil and mix very well.
- Transfer the almond-walnut-coconut oil mixture to the springfoam pan and use the back of a spoon to press down the crust mixture as firmly as possible. Let crust chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- As crust is chilling, place soaked cashews in your food processor or blender together with almond milk, water, fresh lemon juice, and blend until you get a thick cream. Add in lemon zest and sugar and blend some more. Dissolve agar agar powder in 1 tablespoon of warm water and add in to the mixture together with the melted coconut oil. Blend until you get a homogeneous mixture.
- Pour lemon cashew cream filling over the prepared crust (which should be extremely firm by now) and freeze for at least 2 to 3 hours until filling is firm before serving.
- Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving to soften slightly and top with blueberries and sliced lemon to serve.