In Singapore where I come from, most people live comfortably within the lines that define social norms. I used to be one of those people, happy to be just another face amongst the crowd instead of standing out.
For most of my life, I’ve been a structured person in every sense of the word. Coming from a conventional and traditional family also contributed to that, and most of my decisions were made based on how society would view it, or whether I would get approval from those whose opinions mattered to me (and trust me, I grew up looking for approval in every nook and cranny possible).
I’d always done what was expected of me; there was no inkling of any adventurous streak in me during my growing up years; and I believed that conforming to the expectations of society would make me happy.
I measured my words carefully and spoke diplomatically; I studied hard and signed a contract with a large international bank four months before graduating from university; I did everything that was supposed to be deemed right in the eyes of others.
Then one day, some one-and-a-half years into the long-distance relationship with Juan (whom I’d met during our university exchange semester in Mannheim, Germany), I decided that I wanted to go on an adventure and take a chance on love.
It was the first time I’d dare to do something so unexpected; so out-of-the-norm that many of my acquaintances advised me against it; and many of my loved ones kept asking me if I was sure this was the right thing to do.
What is the right thing anyway? What determines if the life we’re living is worth it or not? Or if the way we live our lives are letting people down?
In the end, I only knew the truth that I felt in my heart: I needed to do this, with or without the approval of those around me. I quit my job right after the bonus was announced that April of 2010, packed my things into two large brown Echolac luggages, boarded my Malaysian Airlines flight, and somehow found my way to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When I got off the plane and landed in the Ezeiza International Airport I was barely 24 years old, trembling with excitement and nervousness, carrying a heart filled with hope and fear. I didn’t know what the future would bring, but for the first time in my life, I’d made a choice for me, and no one else.
We’re in September 2016 today, and somehow I’m still here in Buenos Aires, more than six years on. I can safely assure you that the woman I am today is a tad wiser, much bolder and a lot less structured than the girl I used to be.
As I make my way step after step in this journey also known as life, I feel my structured-ness gently breaking down, and in its place is a new flexibility that I’m still getting acquainted with.
You see, we are a combination of where we’ve come from and the experiences that we’ve gone through.
Singapore, the beloved island nation where I lived for 24 of my 30 years taught me to stay safely within the confines of the norms in society; on the other hand, Argentina showed me quite the opposite.
During a chat with my friend Jane, she noted that I’ve become more relaxed and now “go with the flow“, as opposed to the me I was two years ago, when I was still more guarded and didn’t open up easily to people. Another friend, Isadora, also said something along those lines, all within two days o my conversation with Jane.
I’ve also begun noticing the changes in me.
I know that I am now less concerned about judgment from others and more focused on the work that I do and the influence it can potentially have. I’m also more intentional: I’ve learnt to say no when something is not adding real value to my life; and to dedicate time to the things that do.
I’ve also become more curious and experimental, and as I let myself learn about life without being uptight about it, I’ve grown in terms of personality as well as in my art – both as a writer and photographer.
As my brother wisely told me during my visit home in May, “Your art is a sum of your experiences in life. So go out there and live life as much as you can.”
My photography has changed over the years as well. It used to solely revolve around food, but in the past few months, I’ve felt a gentle tugging towards photographing people as well.
In the same way that I hope my words will convey a tale worth hearing; I dream of using light to tell stories about the subjects in my photos.
I desire to capture a special moment at an event, and encapsulate that millisecond with the snap of a camera; a moment that can be framed and treasured for a long time after. I yearn to share the intense joy or any other emotion felt during a certain time, and freeze it in a single shot.
It sounds like a big feat, but like I mentioned in an earlier post, everything begins with a single step. I took a step in that direction this week, and attended my first class on photography for weddings and social events. Our first class lasted four full hours, an entire 60 minutes longer than it was supposed to last, but I left the class filled with inspiration and excited about this new phase in my journey as a photographer.
I can feel it in my bones that I will get better at my craft, and that the work I produce will one day touch people’s hearts. There’s a long way to go, but I’m making my way there, one step at a time.
For now, I wanted to share this recipe for crispy graham crackers that are made with high-fibre sorghum flour, and these crackers are not only gluten-free but also vegan. I’d baked these crackers one Thursday a couple of weeks back, and they were so good that Juan finished them almost immediately.
I love the light brown color that the sorghum flour lends to the crackers, and the addition of maple syrup and ground cinnamon gives the crackers a nice, deep flavor. Best of all, you can make these cookies in just slightly more than half an hour, and before you know it, you have homemade graham crackers. How awesome is that?
To make these sorghum graham crackers, start off by pre-heating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius), and lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
In a large bowl, combine the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add in some softened coconut oil and then mix until the mixture is crumbly.
Next, stir in the maple syrup (or honey if you prefer), vanilla extract and one tablespoon of water and work the mixture well until you get a soft pliable dough.
A quick note: if the mixture is too wet, simply add an additional teaspoon of tapioca flour at a time; if the mixture is too dry, simply add an additional teaspoon of water at a time.)
Once the dough is ready, roll it out on a surface sprinkled with tapioca starch (or between two sheets of parchment paper) to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough into small rectangles and transfer the dough rectangles to the prepared baking sheet, before using a fork to prick three lines of holes in each rectangle. Bake the crackers for 14 to 15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.
Be sure to let the sorghum graham crackers cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack, and then bite into them and enjoy!
- 1¾ cup sorghum flour
- ¾ cup tapioca starch
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup (or liquid sweetener of choice)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of water + more as needed
- Pre-heat oven to 325 deg. Fahrenheit (160 deg. Celsius) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
- In a large bowl, combine sorghum flour, tapioca starch, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add in softened coconut oil and then mix until the mixture is crumbly.
- Stir in the maple syrup, vanilla and one tablespoon of water and work the mixture until you get a soft, pliable dough. (If the mixture is too wet, add an additional teaspoon of tapioca flour at a time; if the mixture if too dry, add an additional one teaspoon of water at a time).
- Roll dough out on a surface sprinkled with tapioca starch or between two sheets of parchment paper to ½-inch thickness.
- Cut dough into small rectangles and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Use a fork to prick three lines of holes in each rectangle of dough.
- Bake crackers for 14 to 15 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown.
- Let the sorghum graham crackers cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Store crackers in an airtight container for up to a week.