stwm 2014Hello,

My name is Jen. I live in Canada with my husband and 3 children.

There are many things I am passionate about, but I can say that food, travel, and design are some of the biggest influences in my life. I was born in the Philippines, where I was raised in a very traditional Chinese way by my very Chinese family. I looked up to my paternal grandmother (our matriarch – who passed away in 2009 at age 99), as I helped her prepare our daily meals in the kitchen and learned all the tricks to running a household. You can say that I was attached to her apron strings for a very long time.

My grandmother was a very good cook. She taught me regional Chinese cooking, particularly Fukien or Hokkien-style. However, what she knew in the kitchen did not come from a book or a handed-down recipe; they were from experiences she had as an orphan in poverty-stricken Amoy, China. As fate would have it, she was able to leave her village in search of greener pastures. She then landed in Manila, Philippines, where she went on to marry my Chinese grandfather. She bore him 9 children altogether, but she also took in my grandfather’s 2 sons from his first wife (who died early on). Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away right after the birth of their youngest child, who is my father. All of my grandmother’s life was spent caring for her 11 children. She cooked every meal they ate; washed and mended every clothing they wore; worked for every penny they’ve got. She never remarried, choosing to dedicate all her time to her children. Not only was she my hero; she was my loving amah.

Life in the Philippines was not always easy, especially for my father. We found ourselves packing our belongings to move here to Canada, in search of greener pastures. When I arrived in this country, I had long forgotten how to cook. As an angst-ridden teenager, I had abandoned the kitchen, replacing it with many of the usual young girls’ distractions. One day, in my 20’s, I became very hungry again and decided to venture into the land of pots and pans one more time. I had to re-learn many basic stuff: from boiling an egg to cooking rice. Coincidentally, I was still single then, so I had plenty of time to experiment, thus allowing me to make my mistakes in the kitchen (hello, burnt ceiling!) before I got my act together.

Today, I have resurrected my love for food and cooking. Needless to say, I have a collection of cook books to learn from. Pictures of delicious food have inspired me to pick up my camera and start photographing what I eat and make. Hence, I found myself starting a travel and food blog, Folie à Deux (now closed), with aspirations of becoming a travel and food writer / photographer.

This passion for travel began as a child, when my parents took me travelling a lot – which probably explains why I got the “itchy feet” syndrome. If there was one thing my parents really instilled in me (aside from their desire for me to go to Med school – didn’t happen!), it was the appreciation for travel and food. My early life was full of memories of both! From London to Hong Kong and Rome to Tokyo, we were always eating our way around!

Fast forward to this day, I find myself with 3 kids of my own, spending more time in the kitchen than in airplanes! So, I quietly set aside my dreams of vagabonding, replacing it with the reality of feeding 5 people, three times a day. Wanting the best for my kids naturally, I started to spend more time in the kitchen, adapting recipes and tweaking them to suit the varied tastes of our family. Yup, kids are hard to feed, but I learned quickly that if you make food pretty and interesting, you can sneak in all the good stuff for them to enjoy! After all, it’s been said that we eat with our eyes first! I pray that my kids learn to appreciate the loving process that goes into home cooking.

That is why I chronicle this journey in Tartine and Apron Strings…